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Sworn Virgins 2007

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
Produced by Dones Media Production
Directed by Elvira Dones
DVD, color, 51 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Gender Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 10/15/2008

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO

In a mountainous region of northern Albania an ancient tribal law allows some women to take an oath of chastity in front of their clan. These women announce their intention to remain a virgin for the rest of their life. What would make a girl take such a drastic step? In a society where women can’t buy or sell property, choose their own husband, or participate in politics, the only option to achieve any independence is to take on the role of a man. “Sworn Virgins”, as they are called, are treated and respected as men. They resemble men in the way they talk, dress, act, drink, and shoot guns. Villagers accept them as men and they are able to participate in politics, run the family when their parents die, work—just as any man would do. While they will never marry or have children of their own, what they prize is their freedom to manage their own lives, living and working as they choose. This documentary looks at several “sworn virgins” who tell their own stories. Some take on the boy’s role in order to care for their parents, but all speak about how they like being able to make family decisions, the ability to vote and to carry a gun. As they see it, men have all the power and marriage is slavery.

Video and audio qualities are good. Subtitles are used where needed for translation. The beautiful Albanian countryside enhances this film. The musical score features haunting vocals which further add to the Middle Eastern atmosphere.

This documentary would be suitable for high school and college classrooms and will further discussions about other cultures and the oppression of women. Highly recommended.

  • Best Documentary, Baltimore Women’s Festival, 2007