International Feature Film Competition for Women Directors

We are all Petrunya


When Dortmund | Cologne IWFF launched the International Feature Film Competition in 2005 aimed at women directors who had gained recognition for their style, narrative form and stance, our key concern was to draw attention to and recognise their achievements. Because for decades, the number of female film-makers represented at international festivals – especially in the prestigious sections – was shockingly low. Thanks to numerous initiatives by colleagues all over the world and the tailwind of #metoo, we find ourselves in a different situation today. In many countries, statistics are now being collected on the participation of women in film and media production and the brutality of these facts is leading to an erosion of the status quo. According to the principle of ›name it and shame it‹, festival line-ups that marginalise women directors and fill board positions unequally trigger image-damaging shitstorms that no one wants to face today. Within just a few years, new opportunities have arisen. And the positive results of these developments are now reflected in the productions: The number of feature films that fulfilled the formal conditions for the Dortmund | Cologne IWFF competition in the last two years has risen significantly. More important than the quantity, however, is the diversity of the forms, themes and personalities that are testimony to women film-makers’ confidence in their approach to genres and narrative styles. This year’s selection ranges from strongly documentary-style narratives, as in Sembra mio figlio or Wajib, and the brutally grotesque (God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya), to science fiction (Ever After) and experimental dance film (The Beast in the Jungle). The films cover such issues as family structures, escape and identity, like the Brazilian entry Los Silencios, but also present a biting critique of religion and patriarchal society, such as Sundance prize-winner The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

It is a delight to see how much clout these films, even the quieter ones, possess. We have waited for a protagonist like the one in Teona Struga Mitevska’s God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya for a long time. The unemployed historian, played by Zorica Nusheva, could represent a radical change in casting politics with her large physique, handsome face and stoic perseverance. In Marie Kreutzer’s The Ground Beneath My Feet, Pia Hierzegger gives her character, the psychologically unstable Conny, a delightfully antineoliberal drive, allowing her to disrupt the organised life of her high-flying management consultant sister. Carolina Hellsgård also demonstrates astonishing boldness when she turns Weimar and Jena into the last places of human civilisation in her sci-fi zombie film Ever After, and thus makes an interesting comment on reunification.

What is now important is that we secure and build upon the opportunities that have opened up for women in the film industry. Will our festival films make it into cinemas and television programmes? How gender-sensitive are distributors, cinemas and film critics? Content and forms have to be developed. Which and whose stories will be told and how? Can women film-makers interpret themes beyond the white, heteronormative middle-class mainstream? These are the responsibilities of feminist film policy in the coming years.
_Stefanie Görtz

2021: Jasmila Žbanić mit Quo Vadis, Aida? (BA/AT/RO/DE/NL/PL/FR/NO 2020)
2019: Teona Strugar Mitevska for God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya (MK/BE/SI/HR/FR 2019)
2017: Delphine and Muriel Coulin for Voir Du Pays (FR 2016)
2015: Naomi Kawase for Still The Water (JP/ES/FR 2014)
2013: Małgorzata Szumowska for In The Name Of… (PL 2012)
2011: Athina Rachel Tsangari for Attenberg (GR 2010)
2009: Maren Ade for Everyone Else (DE 2009)
2007: Andrea Arnold for Red Road (UK 2006)
2005: Keren Yedaya for Or (My Treasure) (IL 2004)


Terri Ginsberg

Terri Ginsberg is assistant professor of film and director of the film programme at The American University in Cairo.
She received her doctorate in cinema studies from New York University and, before coming to AUC, taught film, media,
literary and cultural studies at Rutgers University, NYU, Dartmouth College, Ithaca College, SUNY-Purchase and the City University of New York. Her areas of scholarly expertise include Palestinian/Israeli cinema, German cinema, Holocaust film, critical theory, gender and sexuality studies and theories of academic pedagogy and institutions. In addition to scholarly
writing, she also blogs for Arabisto, ZNet, Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada, and is a film reviewer for Cineaste.

Sheri Hagen

Sheri Hagen was born in Lagos, Nigeria and grew up in Hamburg. She graduated from the Stage School of Dance and Drama, as well as from the Studio Theater an der Wien. Besides numerous film and TV films (The Life of Others, Baal, Tatort, a. o.), she has performed in diverse theater productions. In 2007 she realized her script for the children’s short film Stella and the Storks. Her debut film At Second Glance is the first German feature film production with a predominantly Afro-German cast. In 2015, she founded the production company Equality Film GmbH. Blue Window, her second feature film, was completed in 2016. Sheri Hagen is currently preparing her third feature Billie.

Films by Sheri Hagen
Simply Different (Short) 2015 | Stella und die Störche (Short) 2007

Edima Otuokon

Edima Otuokon is a Communications / Development / Policy Expert with a specific focus on improving the business environment for micro and small enterprises. For over two decades, Edima has worked in Nigeria and across Africa in the education sector, government policy consultation, eventing and entertainment. Her recent focus on the African film industry stems from her roles as workshop and training coordinator and conference and sidebar programme manager at the Zanzibar International Film Festival and DISCOP. These roles exposed her to the imbalances faced by women in film, TV and media, which led to Edima co-founding the Ladima Foundation, a Pan-African non-profit dedicated to the development and promotion of women in film, TV and media across Africa.

Ever After

Carolina Hellsgård

Feature Film

Two years ago, zombies took over the Earth. Thanks to a protective fence, Weimar and Jena are probably the only […]

God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya

Teona Strugar Mitevska

MK / BE / SI / HR / FR
Feature Film

»Petrunya, an everyday woman, has the force to change something, to make a change for all of us together.« – […]

Just Like My Son

Costanza Quatriglio

IT / HR / BE
Feature Film

Having fled the civil war in Afghanistan and the persecution of his people, the Hazara, by the Taliban, Ismail now […]

Los Silencios

Beatriz Seigner

BR / CO / FR
Feature Film

To escape the armed conflict in Colombia, Amparo and her children Nuria and Fabio move to an island in the […]

The Beast in the Jungle

Clara van Gool

Feature Film

»It was the truth, vivid and monstrous, that all the while he had waited, the wait was itself his portion.« […]

Feature Film

»Our capitalist society would no longer function if we didn’t feel this constant need to compare ourselves and as a […]

Feature Film

»The only mainstream queer female stories have been directed by men – it disgusts me.« – Desiree Akhavan After the […]


Annemarie Jacir

Feature Film

»Humans must fight tirelessly to protect their rights and limited resources, but they are an admirable species, humans, full of […]