By Valmir Mehmetaj / Kosovo 2.0
Tonight sees the first films being screened in the popular National category, always one of the most eagerly anticipated programs at DokuFest. This year is no exception with twelve films making up the slate, including short fictions, documentaries and an animation.
Films in the National category must be in the Albanian language and/or by filmmakers from Kosovo or Albania, or they must be made in co-production with companies from these countries.
Screenings of the National category films are spread across three consecutive days, with all being shown in DokuKino Pllato.
Monday, August 8
“A Drop of Blood” gets the program underway tonight as one of four short films being shown from 20:00. The 10-minute fiction is directed by Bekim Guri, an actor, writer and director, known for “Not My Day,” “Heshtje” and “The First Tunnel.” The film, shot in Prishtina, explores the confrontation of a society torn between the traditional and the modern through three protagonists played by Majlinda Kosumovic, Ilire Vinca and Fitore Broqi.
Next up tonight is the premiere of 16-minute fiction “A Performance.” Director Dritero Mehmetaj, who has just finished Film Studies at the University of Prishtina, made his first documentary in 2015 and has since collaborated and directed a number of other documentaries, fictions and commercials. “A Performance” portrays two actresses and the challenges they face in the industry of visual art festivals.
“Is It Clear for Your Ear” is a 30-minute short about the history, evolution and impact of music. From archaic instruments to modern technologically savvy sounds, “Is It Clear for Your Ear” depicts the influence of music on the emancipation of societies and the inspiration brought to music lovers. The film was made by TV cameraman Adi Beqiri, camera work teaching assistant at AAB University, Ylli Selmani and Kohavision (KTV) journalist, Ridvan Hamza.
“Mimi” is the debut documentary film by University of Tirana arts student, Eneos Carka. The 15-minute short depicts the ordinary life of an elderly man in the Albania’s capital, who happens to be his grandfather.
Tuesday, August 9
On Tuesday the National competition sees the screening of five films, starting from the later time of 22:00.
“I Kissed Your Kiss on Your Girlfriend’s Cheek, It Was Still Wet” is a Swiss/Kosovar co-production by independent filmmaker and video artist, Samuel Weniger. The nine-minute short is a combination of documentary and fiction about the relationship between a poet and a filmmaker; the film is the manifestation of the filmmaker’s imagination when hearing the poet’s words.
“Machinima Film” is an 18-minute film directed by filmmaker, editor and producer Lum Citaku, who is also a creative director for new media and video game design. The film delves into questions about the new gaming subculture and the purpose of the online world, through exploring the experiences and feelings of Oso, Lis and Edvin while they play online video games, and Alban who programs.
“Think Twice” is a Kosovo/UK co-production directed by Naser Shillova, a professional in the field of film production, including screenwriting, cinematography and film directing. He has contributed to many short films, music videos and adverts. “Think Twice” is an eight-minute animation that deals with the oldest human nature, the fight for power and position, through three animated friends who sing, roll and happily play together until a chair appears on the horizon. Two of the friends slide happily on but the third wants it all for himself.
“Toka” is a 25-minute film by Macedonian director Ibrahim Deari, dealing with a mentality conflict between two brothers who inherit their father’s land. The older brother, Bardhi, lives in the village but after the death of their father Lisi returns from living in the West for eight years with the intention of selling the land in order to pay his liabilities to some criminals.
“Train,” directed by Australian filmmaker Selmon Beha, is set during the Kosovo war. The 15-minute film follows the story of Jeton, who finds himself in a train with a group of other refugees. Afraid by all the deaths happening around them, the passengers are forced to make hard moral choices when, in an instant, the train stops and a mother asks to open the door for some fresh air because her baby is suffocating. Fearing for their lives, the passengers face the choice of opening the door and saving the baby or keeping it shut and saving themselves.
Wednesday, August 10
On Wednesday the last three films in the competition will be screened from 20:00: “Drande,” “Ferdonija,” and “My Grandmother.”
“Drande” is a 17-minute short film made by Blerta Berisha and Felix Hergert. Berisha is a filmmaker from Prishtina whilst her fellow filmmaker Hegert lives and works in Zurich. “Drande” addresses the slowly disappearing phenomenon of the burrnesha in northern Albania. A burrneshe or ‘sworn virgin’ is a female that takes on the role of a male in the absence of one in the family, changing her behaviour, looks, and social perception. The film’s protagonist is Drande, a woman who has made the choice to lead an independent life as a burrneshe. The film examines the consequences of this choice.
“Ferdonija” is a 30-minute film directed by Gazmend Bajri, a director, cameraman and editor. It deals with the emotionally sensitive topic of people who are still missing after the war in Kosovo. The film portrays the struggles of a group of mothers from Gjakova who seek to discover what has happened to their children and husbands a decade and a half after the war. By themselves they have gathered little proof and evidence but persist in protesting and requesting assistance despite being consistently ignored and treated in often inhuman ways.
“My Grandmother” is a 30-minute documentary made by Jurgen Agushi from Albania. The film follows Valentina Buci, a 77-year-old Russian woman, while she recounts her life in communist Albania to her grandson.
The National category jury is comprised of three experts in the field of visual arts; Blerta Basholli, Christoffer Olofsson, and Eriola Pira.
Basholli was born in Kosovo and has written and directed a number of short films and documentaries. Her short film “Gjakova 726” and documentary “Mirror, Mirror…” have been screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Busho Film Festival, DokuFest, the Sarajevo Film Festival, the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival and the Berlin Film Festival, amongst others.
Christoffer Oloffson has now been the Programme Director at the Uppsala International Short Film Festival in Sweden for 15 years. He is a freelance film critic and curator, and a member of the nomination committee for the Swedish National Film Awards.
Eriola Pira is the curator, writer and director of the Young Visual Artists Awards Program in New York. She has curated exhibitions, produced public programs and given lectures in New York, Bratislava, Prishtina and Tirana. Her work as editor and freelance writer has been published in Guernica Magazine, Bomb Magazine, the Huffington Post and Kosovo 2.0.
The award ceremony for the National competition will be held at Kino Lumbardhi on Saturday, August 13, starting at 20:00 while the winning film will be shown at Kino Ne Lum at the same time, 20.00 Saturday night.
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