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The Movie


Living as a Man.

A Documentary by Anabela Angelovska


Hakie is 71 years old and lives a self-sufficient life in a hamlet in the Albanian alps. Everyday life in this rural remoteness is shaped by an archaic separation between the roles of men and women. Following the parents’ death, Hakie has inherited the house and farm and since then has lived alone, working in the home, meadow and the fields. A way of life that women are normally prohibited from leading, were it not for a religious prophecy.

Is Hakie a man or a woman? Hakie is a »Burrnesha«, a sworn virgin. They are biological women who have sworn to remain virgins in order to live in society as men. Hakie lives »the life of a man« with great resolve, with all its freedoms and restrictions. Although Hakie is in no way inferior to men of that age, the consequences of the decision to change the gender role are hard-hitting. For, whilst the men around Hakie are cared for by their offspring, Hakie has to master her harsh routine alone. She carries this out with a strength which leaves a great impression.

The film accompanies Hakie in her daily life and lays bare just how constructed identity and gender roles are.

Dokumentary Film, 29 min, 2015, Germany

The protagonist Hakie

As we meet Hakie the first time, Hakie is sitting in the shade o f a tree, smoking. When Hakie opens the gate to the extensive farm, it is not without a certain grumpiness. Guests are seldom.

Hakie grew up in a 30-member family on this farm, and in its house. They all lived together. One by one, the siblings moved out. The sisters got married and the brothers took up jobs in the city. Upon the death of the parents, Hakie inherits the house and the farm.

Hakie has worked the fields alone ever since. The neighbors help each other only during critical tasks, such as grain harvest. Hakie has no source of income, so no money, and lives in self-subsistance here in the mountains. Whatever farming surpluses there may be go to the family of the youngest brother. In exchange, they supply Hakie with whatever essentials is needed from the city.

Hakie’s appearance carries the marks of life-long work in the fields. The face is parched from the sun, the gaze is clear and piercing, the hands are rough, the gray hair is short. Hakie’s clothes are adapted to the living and working conditions, and are clearly functional. Hakie mostly wears dark and robust pants or jeans, jackets, wool coats, and heavy boots. Out on the farm, Hakie’s body, clothes, gestures and facial expressions are indistinguishable from those of men of the same age and status. The heavy smoking and deep voice also lend to

this impression. Yet in the house we see softer looks cross Hakie’s face, and these confuse the attempt at pat categorization. This confusion extends to the le vel of language: during our film takes, the translator had constantly shifted articles (»she is another brother, he says«). Hakie, on other hand, constantly uses the term »we« in reference to herself and all other sworn virgins.

Of all the sworn virgins I have encountered, Hakie embodies the social role of a man in the most consequent way. Perhaps because the decision did not stem from social necessity but instead, as Hakie says, from premonition. Resistance and vulnerability are also quite apparent, leading one to infer that Hakie’s life – without children and left to herself – was strongly shaped by outside forces.

The film is carried by the atmosphere of the Albanian Alps and the palpable adversities which challenge survival here. Yet it is our protagonist who asserts herself in captivating the viewers.

Cast und Credits:

With Hakie, Bora und Hamdi, Naim und Hatigja

Director and Script — Anabela Angelovska
DOP — Simone Friedel
Sound — Reard Gjermani
Editing — Imke Koseck

Set-Translation — Besnik Isufi
Filmtranslation Albanian — Sibeta Çanga, Franc Luci, Juli Ndoci, Erida Shkembi
Filmtranslation English — Michel Chevalier

Proofreading Albanian — Erida Shkembi
Proofreading German — Barbara Schmidt
Research in Albania — Anabela Angelovska, Matthias Schmidt

Sounddesign and Mixing — Freudenhammer Tonstudios, Roman Vehlken
Subtitles — Yonder Broadcast Systems

Digital Postproduction — Optical Art, Inhouse Producer Benjamin Wüpper
Color Grading — Optical Art, Jochen Hinrichs-Stöldt
Motion Graphics — Hottest Idea GbR
Mastering — Optical Art, Alessandro Forotti, Thomas Diesselhorst

Corporate Design — Regularblack, Matthias Schmidt
Production — Anabela Angelovska

© Anabela Angelovska 2015