by Joe Biglin Film

God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya | Teona Strugar Mitrevska

February 19, 2019

God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya operates as a harsh critique of a deeply misogynist world. Teona Strugar Mitrevska’s understated Macedonian satire — often more brutal than humorous — is made up of cleverly crafted scenarios which demonstrate personally-mediated, internalized, and systemic abuses of women. Petrunya herself (Zorica Nusheva) recalls another exploited character from a different political satire: Laura Dern’s titular character from 1996’s Citizen Ruth. Both women have simple objectives that leave them wedged between warring factions. Petrunya only wishes for vindication, but when she impulsively enters, and surprisingly wins, a local diving contest hosted by her church, everyone loses their shit: The male divers feel emasculated and Petrunya is detained by police for interrogation. “Am I under arrest?” she continually asks. “You broke the rules” respond the chief of police, the archbishop, and various other men.

Petrunya, an unemployed 32 year-old with a degree in history (deemed “useless”), has no supporters: not her mother, who cruelly beats her for her winning dive; not female journalist Slavica (Labina Mitevska), who only seeks to milk the ruckus around Petrunya for sensationalism; and not even herself, who she views as fat, ugly, and unworthy of love. But Petrunya does do herself one service: She refuses demands to return the crucifix that she won from the diving competition, instead sticking up for her morals and repelling cowardice. Whether it’s that this trophy brings her luck, or that Petrunya (unlike everyone else in her life) has a strong internal sense of justice, this refusal serves to push-back against bigoted impunity, against men who feel entitled to claim things that aren’t theirs. The film opens with Petruyna at a job interview, whereupon she denies a manager sex, and he in turn says she’s “too ugly for him to fuck” and that he “never wanted to, anyway.” Mitrevsta’s film is infuriating, if also perfectly appropriate, in its view of our time — in its understanding that people can be shown indexical proof of their abuse and still choose to deny it, instead gaslighting their victims and bending the rules to suit their own whims and wills.

Published as part of Berlin International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 2.