By Liza Bear
New York,, April 18--A notable film seen at Tribeca FF this year is Sworn Virgin, the first feature by Italian director Laura Bispuri, starring Alba Rohrwacher as Hana/Mark in the nuanced, subtly expressive performance that her gender fluid role requires. Bispuri co-wrote the screenplay with Francesca Manieri. No, this is not an Albanian version of Orlando. .A loose adaptation of the contemporary ,novel by Elvira Dones, who is Albanian but writes in Italian, the story is initially set in a toothily ragged mountain region of Albania, a country just a ferry ride across the Adriatic from Italy, and in a remote community whose arcane mores you won't believe.
This highly patriarchal society still subscribes to a Bronze Age code of behaviour known as the Kanun, or canon, among whose principal tenets is the subservience of women in every respect. In order to escape the strictures of female existence in such a society, and as permitted by the Kanun. in exchange for an oath of perpetual celibacy and remaining a virgin, Hana renames herself Mark and for fourteen years iives life as a man, coralling goats, riding horses and shooting rifles, until a signal event makes her question her assumed manhood and escape to Italy.
The following interview with Laura Bispuri was done within the strictures of allotted time; and Bow-Tie proximity. Michael F. Moore interpreted the Italian: film stills courtesy various: thank you. A European co-production by Albania, Germany, Italy, Kosovo and Switzerland. Strand Releasing will distribute domestically after the festival.
Liza Bear produces Cherchez La Femme on Youtube. She also writes for Bomb Magazine. Liza is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle.