From Cannes: “The hill where the lionesses roar” is a breathless cry of freedom | Arts
Although many try, few films manage to capture truly moving portrayals of the young woman. In a global film industry still predominantly male-led, even less can be distinguished for the authenticity of the female relationships they portray on screen. Luàna Bajrami’s first director, “Luaneshat E Kodrës”, or “The hill where the lionesses roar”, is one of these privileged few. The film premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight series and was directed by Bajrami (who previously starred in the 2019 Cannes film, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” ) when she was only 18 years old. The Kosovo-born French actress and director also wrote the screenplay.
A refreshing – and sometimes breathless – portrayal of freedom, femininity and the pain of stagnation, the film follows three young women – Jeta (Urate Shabani), Li (Era Balaj) and Qe (Flaka Latifi) – coming of age as they struggle to cope with the reality of living in a city where, according to Qe, all they can do is “wait”. With wacky dreams of going to college in a city where most women work in services or stay at home (at a family reunion, Qe’s relatives explain how she would make a good tea waitress ), the three women hatch a bizarre plan to secure the freedom they so desperately seek. In the process, they meet a young French student (Bajrami) who inspires their trip.
While a quest for freedom – and freedom from teenage boredom, in particular – isn’t the least bit unheard of in coming-of-age films, Bajrami’s take on the theme s ‘extends far beyond the typical sleeping indie hit. She digs compelling contradictions into a story that is often told in the most superficial fashion – small town friends seek opportunity, but not for any apparent reason other than hunger for an opaque sense of “freedom.” The “lionesses” in this film are different. Their central desire is not simply to live in a city or escape their families (however busy, dysfunctional and even dangerous their home life is), but to find the freedom they need to be more than what they are allowed to be.
The film, in turn, is about the freedom of femininity when femininity means that people don’t think of women. Bajrami’s self-denial with Lena cleverly sets up this struggle between a life weighed down with seemingly endless opportunities, like Lena’s, and a life deprived of the very possibility of choosing a future, like that of the lionesses. . In both scenarios, Bajrami argues that women’s agitation stems in part from the boredom expected of the young adult (a boredom arguably aggravated for lionesses) but also from the futility of believing that any choice will save women from the ways. in which their femininity will be rejected and exploited. Just as Jeta and Qe, for example, suffer from an outwardly oppressive patriarchy, they too will continue unless they avoid making any choices for their future and simply disappear. Bajrami seems to be asserting by the film’s whirlwind ending that this reality will not change for any of the four women.
Bajrami’s attention to detail and representation is exquisite; the feminine gaze is evident in the way she establishes the complex and growing relationships between Qe, Li and Jeta through intimate close-ups of touch and subtle gazes. And the pace of the film – from the slowness of its exposure to a quickly entropic end, much like the frantic pace of the young adult – is intoxicating to euphoria. Judging from “The Hill Where Lionesses Roar”, it’s clear that Bajrami’s career as a shameless artist will only grow from here on out.
– Editor-in-chief Sofia Andrade can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @BySofiaAndrade.