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CANNES 2021 Directors’ Fortnight

Review: The Hill Where Lionesses Roar


- CANNES 2021: Luàna Bajrami delivers a fine first feature, fresh and full of punch, about three girls who metamorphose into a pack of thieves in order to escape the destiny already drawn out for them

Review: The Hill Where Lionesses Roar
Era Balaj, Uratë Shabani and Flaka Latifi in The Hill Where Lionesses Roar

"Oh hill, you saw my birth, you saw me grow up, and from your height you’ll see me die." There are some pretty remote places in the world which you get the feeling you’ll never be able to get away from and that collective destiny has allocated you a specific place and role, no matter how boring, for your entire existence. But young people don’t always see things this way and sometimes burst with the desire to find themselves elsewhere: such is the particularly determined intention of the highly endearing heroines of The Hill Where Lionesses Roar [+see also:
interview: Luana Bajrami
film profile
, the first feature film directed by French-Kosovar actress Luàna Bajrami, which was unveiled at the 53rd Directors’ Fortnight, as part of the 74th Cannes Film Festival.

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"Don’t worry, life has other plans for you". Qe (Flaka Latifi), Li (Era Balaj) and Jeta (Uratë Shabani) are inseparable friends. The brunette and two blonds impatiently await their university admission results, dreaming of moving to the big city and leaving behind the gossipy tendencies of their village, not to mention the mapped-out future which is already getting them down (taking over the family hairdressing salon for Qe, putting up with harassment at the hands of her uncle for orphaned Jeta, and wasting away through lack of stimulation or fun in the case of Li). As they wait, the trio kill time in the sun and in their gorgeous, natural surrounds. Their headquarters? An abandoned house. Their goal? To leave this country without prospects and head off "over there", towards their fabled Western Europe and, to this end, to earn themselves money to fund their departure by way of petty theft. Feeling increasingly trapped and suffocated by events as they unfold, and despite the subtle warnings meted out by a young woman living abroad (played by the director herself) who has come back to the village for a holiday and who reminds them just how young, carefree and united they are, Qe, Li and Jeta take things up a gear and (with the help of Li’s boyfriend Zem – Andi Bajgora) embark upon ever bolder and more dangerous burglaries…

Following in the wake of this gang of likeable (and perfectly cast) girls, the director offers up a very enjoyable film, judiciously alternating intimate scenes (often set against spectacular natural backdrops) with accelerated action (in the car, at night-time). It’s a blend which results in a charming group portrait, crossed with an original female-led thriller, but which also provides the keys for a nuanced analysis of Kosovar society, where young women’s right to choose their own futures is still far from being secured. But their drive is such that they’re prepared to risk it all in their attempts to overcome such obstacles.

The Hill Where Lionesses Roar is produced by Kosovar outfit OrëZanë Films and French firm Acajou Productions, in co-production with Vents Contraires (France) and Aeternum Artworks (USA). The film is sold worldwide by Loco Films.

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(Translated from French)

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