Starting tonight, Kosovo’s biggest film festival stares into the great unknown.
Over the next 10 days or so, Kosovo’s cultural spotlight will once again shine on Prizren as the 16th edition of DokuFest hits town until August 12.
In an era when the time ahead of us is becoming ever more uncertain and perplexing, the festival this year has appropriately selected ‘The Future’ as its theme. DokuFest’s artistic director, Veton Nurkollari, tells K2.0 that the theme reflects the organizers’ “concerns and hopes, but above all belief that a better future is possible, and that it is coming.”
The festival kicks off tonight (Aug. 4) with six simultaneous screenings, including Academy Award-winning director Laura Poitras’ “Risk,” which documents the life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a period of six years, and Jonathan Demme’s classic Talking Heads concert film, “Stop Making Sense.”
All together there will be 254 films from 63 different countries featured in this year’s festival participating either in one of the six competition categories (Balkan Dox, International Dox, Human Rights Dox, Green Dox, International Shorts, and National) or one of the 14 special programs. Three non competitive special programs have been specifically curated for this year’s event: ‘Future My Love,’ ‘Fake it so Real,’ and ‘VR Experience.’
“It was wonderful to search for and find films with themes of the future, or films bordering between fiction and nonfiction,” says Nurkollari, reserving a special mention for the VR Experience, a short program catered to giving audiences a taste of virtual reality, which, Nurkollari adds, “many argue is the future of cinema.”
In experimental film “Manifesto,” Cate Blanchett plays 13 characters including a newsreader, a school teacher, a factory worker, a choreographer, a punk, a scientist, a puppeteer, a widow, and a homeless man.
The Future My Love program features master Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”, a sci-fi film telling the story of three people’s journey to find ‘the Zone,’ a place containing a room where someone’s innermost wishes can be granted. The film from which the program takes its name meanwhile, is a visible representation of the visions of futurist Jacques Fresco, who passed away in May this year. The program also includes Cate Blanchett playing 13 different personas in “Manifesto” and cinematic musings on the past, present and future from Terrence Malick and Adam Curtis, alongside other forward looking films.
The Fake it So Real program features a series of hybrid films like “DRIB,” the story a failed marketing scheme by an energy drink company, and “Stranger in Paradise,” in which an actor tries to show newly arrived refugees about the harsh realities of their status in Europe. The program focuses on films that incorporate staged and scripted elements to documentary filmmaking, as the audience are taken into the conversation on fake news.
Other notable entries at the festival include satirical martial arts short film “Kung Fury” by David Sandberg, “Last Man in Aleppo,” a documentary about a group of volunteers in Aleppo who chose to stay behind in the city to rescue lives as the war in Syria rages into its sixth year, and Sergei Loznitsa’s “Austerlitz” which deals with memories of the Holocaust through visitors to Nazi concentration camps.
After the Iso-Polyphonic choir’s performance at last year’s festival, this year DokuFest has invited pianist Robert Bisha to collaborate with the choir. Photo: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.
But of course, DokuFest isn’t just about cinema, with an eclectic array of musicians also coming to Prizren for their legendary DokuNights series. This year has Kosovar hip hop from Buta and Crown, house and techno DJs from Belgrade, Munich and Sweden, a pan-global Zagreb based collective playing afrobeat and one of the most confrontational contemporary performers in rap in Princess Nokia.
Two concerts will also be held at sunset at the newly renovated castle: a unique collaboration between pianist Robert Bisha and Albanian Iso-Polyphonic Choir on Saturday (Aug. 5), and Vincent Moon and Priscilla Telmon’s “new form of trans-cinema” accompanied by live singing by Agona Shporta on Aug. 11.
Fans of still pictures at DokuFest will be able to enjoy historical photos of Albania in the late 19th and early 20th century, courtesy of the Marubi National Museum of Photography in Shkoder as part of DokuPhoto. A selection from the museum’s extensive collection of 500,000 glass negatives documenting the lives of three generations of Albanian photographers will be presented through various activities throughout the festival, including a street art workshop and exhibition, a masterclass with the museum director, Lucjan Bedeni, a fanzine workshop and a video-mapping exhibition.
Marubi’s images document unique social and cultural events in Albania as well as exploring a more artistic form of expression.
This year’s DokuTech technology festival meanwhile is themed “Fear, Hope and Everything in Between,” and takes place on Saturday (Aug. 5) at Lumbardhi Kino. A host of talks and masterclasses led by leading young entrepreneurs and innovators will be open to participants. This year’s line-up includes two of Forbes’ ‘30 under-30’ list and the co-founders of Modcloth; Susan Gregg and Eric Koger. Also appearing will be a strategist for 18F (a division of the U.S government no less), Lane Becker, and award-winning designer Courtney Scott among many other impressive forward-thinkers.
As usual, K2.0 will be across the whole festival, bringing you the sights, sounds and virtual reality experiences of DokuFest. Look out for Q&As with directors, actors and producers, recommendations from the film program, reports from DokuFest’s numerous incarnations and other visions of the future from Prizren.
Author: Hoi Mun Yee.
This article was produced by Kosovo 2.0, DokuFest’s official media partner. For features, Q&As, blogs and much more from across the festival, follow K2.0 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.