God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija – an interview with Marie Dubas

6 September, 2019

God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija is a powerful story about faith and tradition, about fighting for your rights while also trying to get by in the world. It’s a story about a woman who refuses to let herself be silenced no matter the cost.

Winner of Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Berlinale 2019, the film will have a special screening before its national premiere in cinemas, at Elvire Popesco Cinema on Friday, 6th of September, at 8:30pm, in the presence of Marie Dubas, co-producer.

Marie Dubas was also one of the guests of this year’s Pustnik screenwriting residency, and she agreed to answer a few of our questions about God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija.

God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija is based on a true story. Why was it important for you and the rest of the crew to turn this particular story into a film?

As the French minority co-producer of the film, I will express a more distant point of view than the one of the director’s or of the main producer. My most upfront answer would be that this particular true story was very good material for a fiction feature. There is a strong character depicted in the beginning, one that is facing issues that everyone, who ever felt like they were somehow belonging to a minority group, could relate to. She faces a unique situation, reacts impulsively and has to face the consequences. And rather than bowing down, she keeps her chin high. For the first time ever, she doesn’t comply with the state of things, she doesn’t accept the subordination that alienates her. She chooses pride and dignity over obedience and resignation. God exists, her name is Petrunija tells the birth of an activist. Petrunija understands that through her saying “no”, and thus challenging the status quo, she gets a lot of power. I think this was the main reason why we all wanted to make this film. For the Macedonian part of the crew, it was important to raise a discussion about the country’s history and the way this reflects in the way it is governed nowadays. Petrunija is an historian and everybody believes she’s useless. However, she might not have dared challenge the police and the church’s authority if she weren’t.

What was the best part of working on God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija?

As a minority producer, I mostly have a supporting role in the financial aspects of the filmmaking process. However, we took time to discuss the script quite extensively with Teona Mitevska, the director, and her producer Labina Mitevska, before the shooting, and this is a part of my profession that I like very much, where I learn to understand the director’s intention and where I detect what elements of it are crucial and need everybody’s special care. I was lucky that Teona and Labina were extremely attentive to my comments, and eager to being challenged. It becomes even more interesting during the editing process, when the film becomes real. Every co-producer was asked to comment the film and we tried to give the most constructive and detailed feedback to help Teona make her choices in full conscience. I feel like she managed to do exactly the film she wanted to, and I’m very happy about it. The last most magical moment is, of course, when you feel the audience in front of the film for the very first time – which happened in Berlin, last February. People were very attentive and laughed more than we expected to. We felt that they got the political dimension of the film while feeling entertained. That was an extremely rewarding feeling.

Petrunija faces a lot of hardship when looking for a job and a lot of it is because she is a woman. How is it to work as a woman in the film industry?

I would say that the film industry is probably not the fiercest one to work in when you are a woman, as people working here tend to value education, open-mindedness and progressiveness. However, being a producer is about dealing with power, and a lot of men tend to consider power to be a male thing, even though they are not aware of it and act as sheer progressivists. I’m happy it’s becoming easier to talk about it, and that most people – women and men – are getting more attentive to it.

A lot of people predict that in the future, most producers are going to be women, because it’s a job that has a lot to do with caring for the other and making sure everybody has what he or she needs. I hope that care and thoughtfulness are going to become qualities that we find equally in men and women, and that consequently, there won’t be a gender domination in this industry.

How did things evolve on this matter in the past years?

I think that this environment is somehow preserved because people are generally educated and mostly tend to consider gender equality as a predicate, at least in the fringe of the industry where I work – in France, around a crowd of people who value independent cinema, which is very specific. However, I believe that these people tend to also have misogynist impulses that they fail as identifying as such (and I believe that women are prone to that too, unfortunately). Especially when you’re dealing with power – no matter what, people tend to consider men more prone to aptly deal with power than women, and most women have integrated the idea somehow. I feel like the idea of gender equality in having power is progressing, and that the industry is more open to welcoming strong women: scriptwriters, producers, directors. But it all takes a lot of time for a new generation, with a new mentality, to impose its codes.

Finally, what advice would you have for women trying to make their way in the film industry?

Don’t even give any importance to the fact that you are a woman. You’re a singularity, not a gender. Find allies that think likewise and don’t hang out with people who expect you to be a pre-codified type of woman. Unless you fully agree with the implications and consequences. People like new faces, and the crave for new stories is inextinguishable. What matters is your point of view, your wit and your emotions. None of this has a gender.

Writer, photographer and videographer. For Films in Frame she writes news about the latest happenings in the film world and brings to the readers' attention the productions that can be seen at the cinema. When she's not writing articles, she's photographing people in a small studio or searching for new cake recipes.