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IFFK 2019 | This Macedonian film resonates Sabarimala women entry

December 10, 2019 01:04 am | Updated 11:01 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

‘God Exists, Her name is Petruniya’ is based on a real incident.

‘God Exists, Her name is Petruniya’ is based on a real incident.

When you see burning social issues similar to those from your own land in a film from a little country thousands of kilometres away, you are bound to be taken by surprise.

The late night audience at Nishagandhi on Sunday reacted to the Macedonian film ‘God Exists, Her Name is Petruniya’ with resounding applause for every other scene, for it just seemed to be a rerun of the host of issues surrounding women and patriarchal religious traditions in contemporary Kerala.

Directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska, the film is based on a recent controversy in Macedonia related to the annual festival at an Orthodox Church. As part of the ritual, the priest throws a cross into a river. Groups of men jump into the river to retrieve the cross. The one who retrieves it, gets to keep it through the year.

Controversy erupted after a woman jumped into the river and caught the cross, yet the men were in no mood to concede her victory, for tradition did not permit women to participate. Here, we have 32-year-old Petrunya, an unemployed history graduate, at the centre of the story. She is low on confidence, with her mother judging her for everything. After yet another failed interview, Petrunya ends up at a river bank, where the cross-throwing festival is taking place. As the cross floats down, she jumps in on an impulse and catches it.

The events that follow are reminiscent of the scenes in Kerala following the Supreme Court’s verdict regarding entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala. Men surround her, threaten her, and attack her, claiming women have no right to participate in the competition.

Police intervenes, yet is helpless. Petrunya, who is not religious, uses plain logic to corner the police and the priest. The one journalist, who is interested in the story, takes a progressive view of the situation. Director Mitevska treats the stand-off in a light manner, leading to several crowd-pleasing scenes. Maybe, after Macedonia, it is perhaps in Kerala that the film has got such a wild reception.

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