Petrunya (Zorica Nusheva) is 32 and unemployed, her degree in history useless on the Macedonian job market. She’s living with her parents again, where she is constantly taunted by her mother for her current situation – for being useless, fat and single. Following the protagonist through her day, the camera offers eloquent insight into the small town, Štip, in which the events take place: worn-down concrete buildings, desolation and decay dominate these striking images, through which Petrunya walks with sullen defiance.
She is one of seemingly only a handful women in town: dominant is a procession of men in traditional orthodox garb, singing religious songs, and others who traverse the streets with exposed torsos. Petrunya gets pushed aside, groped and accosted without putting up much of a defence.
When she gets caught up in the yearly ritual that serves as a catalyst for the film’s events, it is by chance, rather than a wilful act of rebellion; but she is there, and dives into the river to catch the cross which is supposed to bring the winner of this competition good fortune for the year to come. Tradition, however, dictates that only men can take part, and director Teona Strugar Mitevska does not shy away from displaying their increasing rage and violence towards Petrunya who, quite inadvertently, becomes a symbol of feminist revolt against the patriarchal structures of her country. Yet despite the serious nature of these issues, there is humour in the film as well, and in the end, Petrunya emerges triumphant after a night spent at the local police station.
The strength of God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya lies clearly in the empathetic and nuanced script and performances, particularly from Nusheva, whose face communicates her character’s development expertly. It is a film made by women who understand the necessity of individual acts of resistance in the name of feminism.
CAST: Zorica Nusheva, Labina Mitevska, Simeon Moni Damevski
DIRECTOR: Teona Strugar Mitevska
WRITERS: Elma Tataragic, Teona Strugar Mitevska
SYNOPSIS: A Macedonian woman throws herself into a traditionally men-only ceremony, kicking up a ruckus and standing her ground.