Sworn Virgin
Vergine giurata

DIRECTOR: Laura Bispuri

Mark arrives in Milan at the doorstep of his estranged stepsister Lila, who reluctantly lets him inside, prompting a series of carefully orchestrated flashbacks that reveal his story. Born as a girl and named Hana, but growing up extremely tomboyish in an Albanian mountain village where very strict ideas about gender roles and womanhood persist, she agrees to live and work as a man. Years later, questioning his choice, Mark relocates to Italy, a place where greater gender fluidity is possible, and finds a newfound freedom in crafting an authentic gender expression.

Notions of gender, culture, and sexuality swirl potently throughout Laura Bispuri’s visually splendid and moving debut film. Adapting an acclaimed novel by Elvira Dones, director Bispuri sensitively charts Mark’s reacquaintance with a body and mind suppressed, particularly through trips to a local pool, where he is confronted by physiques of all kinds in various stages of undress. His relationship with Lila undergoes a similar recalibration as fraught family history and tension between the two begin to resurface. Alba Rohrwacher (Tilda Swinton’s daughter in I Am Love), who is swiftly becoming one of Italian cinema’s brightest lights, masterfully conveys the conflicting feelings, sexual curiosity, and emotional resourcefulness of the main character, while Bispuri, who spent over three years traveling to remote, scenically stunning locations in Albania to work on the film, vividly conveys her protagonist’s reabsorption into the world and full self-expression.

— Rod Armstrong

In Albanian, Italian with English subtitles.
AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: F134

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