Facets Cinémathèque

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May 6–12, 2016

Chicago Theatrical

Sworn Virgin
(Vergine giurata)

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Film still: Sworn Virgin Film still: Sworn Virgin Film still: Sworn Virgin


New Directors Prize
& Golden Gate Award
San Francisco
Intl Film Fest
Golden Firebird Award
FIPRESCI Prize Hong Kong
Intl Film Fest
"[Alba] Rohrwacher gives a wonderfully tender, patient performance"
"[A] fascinatingly complex and eye-opening experience"
  —Slant Magazine
"In this hushed, prickling drama, [filmmaker] Laura Bispuri creates and erases binaries with every swivel of the camera, drawing out whole stories from soft glances, silences, shadows, and the loom of the northern Albanian mountains, the hard faces of men"
  —Village Voice
"Absorbing... Bispuri traces a journey of delicate interior shifts and reversals"
  —Los Angeles Times
4 stars "a wintry, hushed but observant drama set against a truly fascinating backdrop of unusual, ancient cultural Traditions"
Eye for Film
3 stars "Sensitive, deliberate "
  —Chicago Tribune

As a young woman living within the confines of a Northern Albanian village, Hana longs to escape the shackles of womanhood, and live her life as a man. To do so she must evoke an old law of the Kanun and take an oath to eternally remain a virgin. She cuts her hair, binds her breasts, and wears men's clothing but by his mid-30s, Mark is miserable. He flees the mountains and ends up on the doorstep of his adoptive sister, Lila, in Italy. Lila fled the same village years earlier to marry and have a daughter. With Lila's help, Mark/Hana embarks on a search for self, leading her to contemplate the possibility of undoing the vow she made so long ago.

Director Laura Bispuri's debut feature is an evocative and introspective film that brings light to the centuries-long Albanian tradition of the sworn virgin, or burrnesha. The practice allowed women to break out of their prescribed roles and avoid a life of domesticity by electing to take on another set of rigid gender roles. Bispuri delicately navigates Hana's story, giving particular attention to mood, and lead actress Alba Rohrwacher (The Wonders) delivers a nuanced and powerful performance as a woman whose gender is not as easily defined as the world expects it to be.

Directed by Laura Bispuri, 2015, Italy/Germany/Switzerland/Kosovo/Albania/France, 88 mins. In Albanian and Italian with English subtitles.


  • Fri., May 6 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., May 7 at 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., May 8 at 1, 3, 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., May 9–12 at 7 & 9 pm
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$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation