The film takes place in Albania in 1958, where a boy and a girl grow up together in the same village. They are best friends. Luana is the daughter of a highly respected man, Agimi the son of traitors who were banned from the city by the communists. Despite these unfavorable circumstances, the two maintain their friendship for 10 years. As a young woman, Luana experiences more and more that being a woman is a curse and she takes unusual actions, puts an end to her situation as a victim and gains the power to decide for herself.
In Albania, a “sworn virgin” is a biological female who has chosen to take on the social identity of a man for life. It’s a tradition dating back hundreds of years that still exists in the Albanian Alps, as well as to a lesser extent in other parts of the Western Balkans. The practice developed from the Kanun, an archaic patriarchal set of laws that began to be used mostly in southern Kosovo and northern Albania in the 15th century. This ancient codex states that women are the property of their husbands, which strips them of some basic rights and freedoms, such as being able to conduct business, earn money, smoke, wear a watch, or even swear out loud.
The tradition of sworn virgins in Albania developed out of the Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit (English: The Code of Lekë Dukagjini, or simply the Kanun), a set of codes and laws developed by Lekë Dukagjini and used mostly in northern Albania and Kosovo from the 15th century until the 20th century. The Kanun is not a religious document – many groups follow it, including Albanian Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims.
The Kanun dictates that families must be patrilineal (meaning wealth is inherited through a family’s men) and patrilocal (upon marriage, a woman moves into the household of her husband’s family). Women are treated like property of the family. Under the Kanun, women are stripped of many rights. They cannot smoke, wear a watch, or vote in local elections. They cannot buy land, and there are many jobs they are not permitted to hold. There are also establishments that they cannot enter.
The practice of sworn virginhood was first reported by missionaries, travelers, geographers and anthropologists, who visited the mountains of northern Albania in the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of them was Edith Durham, who took the photograph at right.
“The Albanian Virgin” is produced by Elsani & Neary Media, in co-production with Potemkino Port, 90 Production, Circle Production and ZDF/ARTE. The production was supported and funded by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Eurimages, Filmförderungsanstalt FFA, Deutscher Filmförderfonds, Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, Kosovo Cinematography Center, Albanian National Center of Cinematography, the Belgian Tax Shelter, the MEDIA Programme of the European Union, and RTSH
Directed by BUJAR ALIMANI, Screenplay by KATJA KITTENDORF Director of Photography/ BVK JÖRG WIDMER, Edited by/ BFS PHILIPP THOMAS
Music composed and produced by OLAF DIDOLFF, All vocal performances by EDA ZARI, Costume Design CHARLOTTE WILLEMS Production Design MERIJN SEP Art Directors MANOLITO GLAS EMIR TURKESHI GRAMO Hair & Makeup Design BIRGER LAUBE
Key Makeup CARMEN BOTERMANN Original Sound Recorder MICHAEL SCHLÖMER, Sound Design & Re-Recording Mixer / M.P.S.E SRDJAN KURPJEL