I got a chance to sit down with director Laura Bispuri, stars Alba Rohrwacher, Flonja Kodheli and producer Marta Donzelli and ask them everything I wanted to know in the 15 minutes allotted to me, and you’ll have your chance to ask your questions during our Twitter Chat with Laura next weekend.
Here’s the top 10 things I found out and you need to know about Vergine Giurata (Sworn Virgin):
1)The film, the story of the sworn virgin, a woman who, for many reasons, decides to renounce her sexuality and live as a man premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015. Many in the audience wanted to know, “Are they cross dressers? Lesbians?” And they may be, 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), families without boys, or women who are more comfortable in this role.
2) Flonja Kodheli, who plays Lila in ‘Sworn Virgin’ (Vergine Giurata) and actually comes from Albania, the film’s location, and she told me, “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.”
3) Alba Rohrwacher stars as Mark/Hana, the sworn virgin in the film and she’s arguably Italy’s top actress. She’s also starred in Marco Bellocchio’s Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty), Paolo Genovese’s Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers), Luca Guadagnino’s Io Sono L’ Amore (I Am Love), and dozens of other major motion pictures that we love. Someone in the audience at Tribeca asked why Laura didn’t choose an Albanian actress for the role, and I have the answer for that one: If you can get Alba Rohrwacher for your movie, you are very lucky.
4) The part of Mark/Hana is a brave one, requiring Alba to act completely outside the box, playing the part of a woman living as a man, and I asked her how difficult that had been. She told me, “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.”
5) Laura told me that her favorite part of the film is the end, and I don’t want to give too much away, but I remember telling her that I’d found it so sad, and that I’d cried.
6) Flonja knew the answer to that one, “Freedom doesn’t always mean happiness,” she told me, and this is still probably my favorite quote from any interview I’ve ever done.
7) I asked Laura to tell me what it was like to be one of Italy’s most innovative directors, one that is changing the landscape of Italian filmmaking. The secret to Laura’s success?
“I just do what I love,” she told me. And it’s hard to believe that the answer is so simple, but this film is, clearly, a labor or love.