God exists, Her Name is Petrunya is a satire about change, convention, male privilege and a woman’s place in Macedonian society. Photo: Berlin International Film Festival
A “modern day parable” about a young Macedonian woman who breaks church and patriarchal traditions has won the Ecumenical Jury prize at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival.
Directed by Teona Struga Mitevska, of North Macedonia, Gospod postoi, imeto i’ e Petrunija (God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya) won best film “for its daring portrayal of the transformation of a disempowered young woman into an outspoken defender of women’s rights,” the Ecumenical Jury said in a press release. It was also awarded best film by the German Film Guild at the 69th Berlinale.
The Ecumenical Jury, appointed by INTERFILM and SIGNIS, with the support of WACC, gives awards in the Competition, Forum and Panorama sections of the Berlinale. INTERFILM, a WACC partner, is the international network for dialogue between church, and SIGNIS is a global network of Catholic media professionals.
Gospod postoi, imeto i’ e Petrunija tells the story of Petrunya, a dispirited 32-year-old woman who lives with her parents as she struggles to find employment. Petrunya raises a furore after she spontaneously joins an Orthodox Church Epiphany ritual for young men who compete in catching a cross hurled into the river by a priest. Petrunya catches the cross and holds on to it despite mounting anger from the crowd who insist women are not allowed to participate in the traditional rite. The incident sparks a debate about change, convention, male privilege and a woman’s place in Macedonian society.
The jury also awarded Buoyancy, by Australian director Rodd Rathjen, in the Panorama section of the Berlinale.
“The film is an interrogation of modern-day slavery and a uniquely harrowing coming-of-age tale,” the jury said. “Rodd Rathjen’s exquisitely crafted debut feature follows a 14-year-old rural Cambodian boy as he sets off to escape his family’s poverty, but is enslaved aboard a Thai fishing trawler. Squalor and cruelty threaten to crush his spirit, yet he finds the self-preserving courage to break the chains.”
Buoyancy “sheds light on much-overlooked human rights abuses at the heart of our global economy,” said the jury.
In the Forum section of the Berlinale, the Ecumenical Jury awarded its prize to Erde (Earth), by Austrian documentary filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter, “for its depiction of the devastation of our planet by human intervention – an issue of urgent concern today.”
Erde is about “landscape change,” notes The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “Geyrhalter’s film is alerting us to the vast changes to terrain and geology that are being made with large-scale mining and construction, industries that are gouging out the Earth’s contents, hollowing out whole areas, flattening and moving mountains.”
The lamentation for Mother Earth spoken by an Indigenous woman from Canada at the conclusion of the film is “an invitation to reflect on our responsibility,” said the jury.
The jury also awarded a commendation to Midnight Traveler, in the Panorama entry. Directed by Afghan director Hassan Fazili, was cited for its “singular depiction of the refugee experience.” The film chronicles – through footage from three mobile phones – how Fazili, his wife and two young daughters are forced to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban puts a bounty on his head.
“Fazili’s film adds urgency and immediacy to the worldwide migration crisis,” said the jury. “His raw and endearing images, deepened by his wife and daughters’ determined spirits, reveal hopeful humanity and enduring love in the midst of constant motion.”