“God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya,” a satirical drama by Macedonian director Teona Strugar Mitevska, has won the inaugural Arab Critics’ Award for European Films. The film, which positions itself as “a feminist cry against a patriarchal Macedonia in the grips of bullying machismo and hidebound religion,” according to its review in Variety, was selected by 42 Arab film critics from 24 nominations submitted by national film institutions from across Europe.

European Film Promotion, an agency that boosts the global profile of European cinema, and the Arab Cinema Center revealed the winner on Saturday at the Cairo Intl. Film Festival.

The aim of the award is to promote European cinema in the Arab world, and raise the interest of Middle Eastern distributors and other industry players in European films, as well as putting a spotlight on the work of film critics from Arab countries in bridging cultural differences and introducing audiences to new forms of cinema.

During an event at Cairo festival, EFP’s managing director Sonja Heinen, Alaa Karkouti and Maher Diab, co-founders of the Arab Cinema Center, and Cairo festival director Mohamed Hefzy presented the award to Labina Mitevska, the film’s producer, one of its lead actresses, and the director’s sister.

In a joint statement, the Mitevska sisters said: “This award shows that culture is universal and that cinema can speak across continents. We believe in the power of cinema to exchange ideas and change minds, but, most importantly, to dare to say the unspeakable and the undesirable and, by doing this, start many uneasy, but necessary conversations.”

EFP’s president and head of the Czech Filmcenter, Markéta Santrochová, said of the film: “Its strong message demanding equal rights for women is universal. The film’s heroine, a level-headed everywoman, doesn’t budge an inch to male dominancy and argues her case with clear-sighted common sense.”

Pictured: Sabine Mitevska, Sonja Heinen and Alaa Karkouti.