Don’t miss a chance to see one of the best films in the last few years.
Flonja Kodheli, who plays Lila in Laura Bispuri’s ‘Sworn Virgin’ (Vergine Giurata) and actually comes from Albania, the film’s location, gave me the insider’s point of view:
“Sworn virgins were like a legend for me when I was growing up, a story our mothers told us. I didn’t know that they really existed.”
The story of the sworn virgin, a woman who, for many reasons, decides to renounce her sexuality and live as a man fascinated audiences at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Many wanted to know, “Are they cross dressers? Lesbians?” And they may be those things too, but the custom, particular to a very remote, mountainous part of Northern Albania, has its practical advantages for women who need to work (men’s jobs are forbidden to women), for families without boys, when fathers have died, or for women who are simply more comfortable in this role.
For the director, Laura Bispuri, this isn’t really the point anyway. I got the chance to sit down and talk with her, stars Alba Rohrwacher and Flonja Kodheli, and producer Marta Donzelli about their film, Sworn Virgin, one that has been garnering awards from film festivals all over the world. What might have been a movie about women’s’ rights is more a film about human rights, Laura told me, and though the film portrays very severe life and limited opportunities for women, she tells the story entirely without adjudication.
“The beauty of the film is that it is without judgment”, said Rohrwacher. “It’s reality with a delicate touch, and it doesn’t demonize this reality. It looks at the phenomenon in a very loving way,” and she pointed to part of the film in which the mother, played by Ilire Vinca Celaj, gently tells the girls what is expected of them in life. “It is not good to have a man’s job. It is not good to drink or smoke. It is not good to choose your own husband.”
Rohrwacher, an ethereal beauty straight out of a Botticelli painting, is one of Italy’s most sought after and dynamic actresses, and is never afraid to push herself to the limit in a film.
“I’m not afraid when I have a director like Laura”, she said. “I trust her. She make things that seem harsh very easy. I took my body to a place that is so far from what my body really is, and Laura gave me the courage to go to these extremes.”
She went on, “If you have a director who doesn’t know how to contain that you risk falling and getting hurt.”
Bispuri says that her favorite part of the film is when Mark, the sworn virgin played by Rohrwacher, leaves Albania and takes one last look at her homeland.
“It was sad”, I said.
“Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean happiness”, said Flonja with bittersweet tenderness.
Here are the first dates and cities announced; stay tuned for more.
04/22/16 Village East Cinema New York, NY
04/29/16 Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre Beverly Hills, CA
04/29/16 Sie Film Center Denver, CO
05/06/16 Facets Multimedia Chicago, IL
05/13/16 Clinton Street Theater Portland, OR