Watching your own life on the big screen
On Monday night (Aug. 7), DokuFest hosted the premiere of brand new Kosovar film, “Me Dasht, Me Dasht, Me Dasht,” at the outdoor cinema at Lumbardhi. The artistic director of the festival, Veton Nurkollari, was full of praise for the film, describing it as the most beautiful film about love he has seen from a local director since the inception of DokuFest, 16 years ago.
Nurkollari’s enthusiasm seems well placed. Love, relationships, fear and the limitations placed on today’s youth in Kosovo are rarely portrayed on film, and almost never with the honesty of “Me Dasht, Me Dasht, Me Dasht.” The film does not set unrealistic expectations, nor does it strive for an idyllic romance, nor is it a heartbreaking story of sacrifice, loss or departure. It is a much simpler story, made all the more real due to the protagonists speaking in their natural voices, a typically Kosovar mash up of Albanian, German and English.
The film came as a result of an art performance project by Baushtelle in 2015, where participants were required to express themselves artistically in reaction to the question: “What do you believe in?” Ilir Hasanaj, the director of “Me Dasht, Me Dasht, Me Dasht,” was also involved in the project and was asked by one of its leaders, Tobias Bienz to make a film about the process.
Recording started in 2014. It then took Hasanaj seven months of preparations, four months of intensive recordings, half a year of seeking finances, another year of editing with Isabella Kohl, and three months of sound design before voila!: Around three days before the premiere, the film was ready.
Photo courtesy of Mrine Godanca.
Kohl told K2.0 that with the amount of material in their possession, the film had the potential to be about almost anything; the collaboration between different nationalities, or the difficult logistics of the project, or its abstract themes. But in the end they decided for something resembling a love story, and from the many characters selected three protagonists in Arber, Edona and Genc. Arber and Edona were going through a breakup, and finding ways to cope while working alongside each other. Genc, Hasanaj’s little brother, is a more introverted character, usually loathe to leave his house and engage with the world.
When Kohl became involved in the project, her and Hasanaj reviewed all the material again. “We made storylines of all three protagonists and their development, how they start the project and how they are feeling,” Kohl revealed. “Ilir made interviews parallel to the performance project so we could always see their mood.”
Being in control of all the aspects of their life, Kohl and Hasanaj could see how their characters were evolving, and the developments in their mindset throughout the project. “We always had a connection with what they are doing for the project, and what are they thinking.”
The project itself is mostly documented through Edona’s artistic input to the exhibitions. Kohl believes that it is clear her performances and installations exploring the topic of monogamy and polygamy can be related to what is happening between her and Arber. “You can see that what she is doing with her art is what is inside her at that moment.”
Many of the people depicted in the film were in Prizren to watch their lives back on the cinema screen, and field questions from the audience. Photo courtesy of Mrine Godanca.
Love stories tend to be more at home in feature films, but this rare love-story-documentary allowed its characters to see themselves back in the future, able to reflect on their struggles, thoughts, emotions and actions, either behind or in front of the camera. For some it was viewed through spectacles of emotion, for some of epiphany, wonder or melancholy.
Director Hasanaj, who through his documentary wanted to demonstrate love as being “as natural as the earth revolving,” feels that the film reveals a lot about himself. “I feel like I have found myself as someone that likes to be in a situation when emotions happen.”
For lead character Edona, watching her past self in the cinema was an affirming experience that allowed her to see her evolution as a person. “Now I process things differently, and I see the process of love in a very different way,” she told K2.0. “You can not ask for someone to love only you, instead they should be free and only like that can [relationships] work.”
She finds it amusing that she found life so complicated back due to such a simple dichotomy — “either you’re together, or you’re not,” she stated bluntly. Despite this, she says that her feelings then were true, and the film was fair in its depiction of them. “Like Veton [Nurkollari] said, filming love can easily become cheesy, yet in this film there was no cheesiness, it was very real.”
Rina Kika, who was leading the art project and is one of the film’s producers and major characters says it is never easy watching herself back on film. “I don’t like seeing myself, and I feel that I would never hang out with myself,” she told K2.0, before excusing some of her more authoritative behaviour in the film by insisting she had to be like that because of her role in the project. Kika spoke highly of the film, praising how it managed to merge a vast strand of realities together, and portray the relationship between people and what is most important to them.
Arber was unable to attend the premiere as he is currently participating in another artistic project with Documenta, but K2.0 caught up with him in Kassel via email. He also confirmed the genuine nature of the film: “Personally I always try to let things happen, and the Baustelle project required absolute honesty in everything,” he wrote. “Everything you see in the movie has happened.” Arber has also seen the finished product, and enjoyed the process of watching it back: “It is interesting to see the perspective of another eye on your life.”
“Me dasht, me dasht, me dasht” is being screened again at 22:00 on both Thursday night at Kino Plato and Friday night at Kino N’Lum.
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.