For anyone who grew up in a small town with limited opportunities, there’s a relatable rawness to “The Hill Where Lionesses Roar,” a perceptive film about a trio of girl friends in a rural village in Kosovo. It captures the feeling of being trapped in a life you never asked for, wanting so desperately to get yourself out of it, but realizing that you’re probably stuck there for good.
Qe (Flaka Latifi), Li (Era Balaj), and Jeta (Urate Shabani) are three young women with not-so-bright futures. Full of hope and ambition, these best friends have never been given many opportunities to succeed in life. Each is dealing with their own personal struggles, be it a misogynist father, a sexually abusive uncle, or living without a home at all. They’re somehow still full of hope, dreaming of getting out of their respective bad situations. One thing they can count on is each other, and their mutual reliance has created a strong bond within their makeshift family. When they feel their options have been exhausted, the girls decide to form a gang. They begin behaving very badly because they feel like they will never escape their metaphorical prison anyway, so a life of crime is the next step.
It’s a coming-of-age story with a fresh take on the female experience. This is the first feature film from 20 year old writer, director and actor Luàna Bajrami, and the story offers a genuine look at what it’s like to be this age. It takes a young woman to make such an accurate film about young women because she fully understands the experience. This, and watching these best friends take control to earn their own liberation, gives “The Hill Where Lionesses Roar” a power that’s irresistible.
This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
By: Louisa Moore