Struggling still due to social and health turmoil of recent months, uncertain times remain part of everyday life. Conscious regarding the difficulties of a face-to-face rendezvous with the audience, but unwavering in its love for documentary and short film, the team of one of the most beloved festivals in the Balkans decides to knock virtually on the door of every well-meaning individual. Thus, virtual reality is no longer just one of the must-do programs from the festivals’ diverse cultural agenda, as it has been the case in past editions. The experience in question, one of the DokuFest’s most talked-about in collaboration with Gjirafa Video since 2017, is now more immersive than ever.

Beyond any obvious facts, DokuFest’s admirers are generally divided into two main groups: the first consists on those who continually plan to dedicate to Prizren some days in August for years now, and the second which consists on the curious first-timers who immediately join the first group as soon as they set foot in the Shadervan square. In this nineteenth year of the festival’s existence, many are asking (and rightly so): How can we think of DokuFest outside of the city and the country in which it takes place? One way or another, remembering the experience of past editions means one will inevitably dwell in sadness. From having the morning coffee with the indecision of which movies to watch during the day, and then continuing with the never-ending running from one cinema hall to another under the heatwave of Prizren, the enjoyment of the local atmosphere which differs radically from other days of the year, to the constant wait for DokuNights as a way to begin everything the next day, virtual reality may seem little comforting.

The question of whether or not Castle and River Cinema, as the two most special outdoor cinemas best combining the natural landscape with magic of film that communicates candidly, are the heart and the essence of the festival, is best answered by the visual identity of this edition: Transmission as a form of transformation. Although transmission can be understood directly in relation to current events, one cannot ignore how transmission waves (whether of a radio, song, or sensation) have given a new form, amongst others, to human connection. On the one hand, transmission becomes a strong witness to the functioning mechanisms of the times in which we are living. On the other hand, transmission can be seen as a challenge to the individual and the social space in which one exists.

Thus, although many things have changed, DokuFest continues to be all about the future and culture, and especially about the people. Above all, the festival fulfills its mission by enabling young and independent artists to present themselves to the international film environment, by caring about the truth and the necessary, by engaging local communities with the values of cooperation, tolerance, and dialogue, and above all by highlighting visual communication as an antidote for difficult days. Nonetheless, it does not make them any less special.

By Enxhi Noni