By Tevfik Rada
I was drinking beer and eating peanuts in front of the Lumbardhi River when I saw my very best friend Ele approaching me with hard and strong steps. Without her agitations and help I couldn’t watch a movie or write anything. She came and sat next to me. She doesn’t enjoy beers from the bottle but water from the river. She drinks and puts the water to her trunk with her two-meter nose. After that she makes a big noise, which is how she shows her love. Do I need to say that she is an elephant? Coming from the Punjab, we met with her in Italy while she successfully stepped the North Mediterranian lands, passing the sea with an immigrant circus boat. She worked in Italy as a barman (should I say barelephant?) in illegal casinos. Now I am surprised to see her here in Prizren.
So she will accompany me to watch and talk about films. The first film we wanted to watch (and also my workshop tutor’s suggestion) was in Kino Kalaja. Kino Kalaja is situated on the top of a small mountain in the center of the city (mountain in the center of the city hmmm!). But unfortunately Ele cannot climb to the Kino Kalaja since she is an elephant. I asked to Dokufest administration what can they do about her and they said that they will try to arrange a big crane or another mechanism (for lifting her up to the castle). So we decided to go to Kino Ne Lum together.
Kino Ne Lum is a cinema situated on the river of Prizren. It is a temporary open cinema for Dokufest. We went inside and sat at one of the front seats. Everything was perfect until we heard a shout behind us. People were annoyed to see a big trunk in front of them instead of a cinema screen. They were right of course! So we went out of the stage and tried to watch the film from behind the audience.
The first one was a documentary from Croatia called Autofocus. Boris Poljak is the director. It’s not possible to begin writing about this documentary with the words like “the documentary is about….”. Because its not a documentary telling a story.
It shoots a small church in Croatia called St. Nicolas. The church is situated on the top of a hill and no other buildings are around but only some trees. Tourists come to the church and take photos of it (and also of themselves). People gather in front of it and try to see what is inside but the door is closed. On the door they read “property of ministry of culture”. These images are repeated several times with different people. The people who go to visit it have to do some other activity there since the church is closed: Having a small picnic, sliding down from the hill, taking photos of the church and themselves (selfie shots), trying to ride a bike, peeing on the bushes….
We do not know what is that church, where is its location, why it is closed, what is there inside, who these people are, how they came here etc. This means that this particular documentary’s aim is not to give us information about these conventional questions. My friend Ele tells me that the closedness and prohibition to enter the church and finding immediate temporary solutions like taking photos with the facade, biking around the hill, peeing on the bushes… creates an ironic tension. Whatever the director’s aim was (maybe his aim can be a local protest against the ban of entering there – though I hope not) I also think that this ironic tension is the main image that we can see.
At the end of the film while I was thinking how lonely and melancholic the church building looks I heard a big noise and a wind after that. It was Ele sneezing. We had to go back to the streets before she accidentally destroyed something.