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Sworn Virgin

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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.

By taking an irrevocable oath to live as a sworn virgin ("burnesha" in Albanian) in front of village or tribal elders, a woman can be elevated to the status of a man, thereby becoming entitled to all the rights and privileges of the male population. Besides taking a vow of lifelong celibacy, Burnesha women usually don the trappings of masculinity to underline their transition from male to female -- cutting their hair, wearing male clothing, and sometimes even changing their names. They often adopt male mannerisms and gestures so thoroughly that they became second nature.

In een klein Albanees dorpje in de bergen wordt Hana als jong meisje opgenomen in het gezin van Gjergj (Bruno Shllaku). Haar ouders zijn overleden, maar ze wordt liefdevol opgenomen door de familie. Dochter Lila wordt als een echte zus voor Hana. Tradities zijn nog alom aanwezig in de streek waar ze wonen en vrouwen hebben daarbij een echte minderheidspositie. Op latere leeftijd wordt Lila (Flonja Kodheli) verliefd op Stjefen (Luan Jaha), maar doordat ze niet met elkaar mogen trouwen vluchten ze naar Italië. Hana (Alba Rohrwacher) blijft achter in het dorp en besluit om als man verder door het leven te gaan, waarbij ze zich Mark laat noemen. De consequentie is dat ze dan een gezworen maagd moet blijven. Het ontheft haar wel van haar vrouwelijke verplichtingen. Na een aantal jaar besluit ze om Lila en Stjefen op te gaan zoeken in Italië. Dochter Jonida (Emily Ferratello) heeft al snel door dat Mark geen man is. Mark begint, in deze nieuwe omgeving, na te denken over het vrouw zijn.

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Hana Doda, still a girl, escapes from her destiny of being a wife and a servant, a future imposed on women in the harsh mountains of Albania. Following his uncle’s guide, she appeals to the old law of the Kanun, which gives women, taking an oath of eternal virginity, the chance to embrace a rifle and live free as men. For everybody Hana becomes Mark, a “sworn virgin”. But something alive pulses and frets under these new clothes. Her choice becomes her prison and those immense mountains seem so narrow now. Mark decides to set out on journey, too long put off. She leaves her land and arrives in Italy, where a new journey begins; a continuous and subtle path, crossing the line of two far away and different worlds: Albania and Italy, past and present, masculine and feminine.

Slowly Mark discovers her body again. She experiences the vertigo of touching other bodies and she finds caring, loving people life had denied her. She opens up tp an unexpected and prohibited love’s chance. Mark rediscovers Hana, finally piecing back together the two souls that for years have lived inside her body. She is reborn as a new, free and complete creature.
 
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Personal trainers Noémia Grot & Ginger Guttmann founders & owners of PT020 .