In small countries like Kosovo, Albania, and North Macedonia, forever haunted by the troubled historical past, the continuing unstable societal situation makes it difficult to fathom the popularization of creative freedom and expression, let alone to practice it. Not frequently, arts and culture are seen as a luxury rather than a necessary pathway to the very-much-needed catharsis and wound-healing to its people. While the older generation is somewhat skeptical about the use of artistic tools for social sensibility and activism, therefore forging a very isolated environment for creative fulfillment, the most common solution of young individuals is self-education or going abroad.

However, low financial and mental investments from both private and public entities in the respective countries do not prevent creative youth to speak loud and clear and ask for the recognition they deserve.

This year’s category of National competition is a heart-splitting outcry for bettering, thus redefining the concerns judged as primary from elders. With the simplicity that only thoughtfulness can redress, the National category is a manifesto and epitome of the young, spiritful rebellion fighting against difficult medical, educational, mentality-related, and personal conditions. Below you may find a few picks from the mentioned selection, consisting of a colorful palette of 11 pieces of work from talented individuals.

65 Roses (2019) – Murat Zherka’s heartfelt documentary centers around 14-year old Yllka Leti living in

Prishtina, Kosovo, suffering from the disorder of cystic fibrosis. Besides raising awareness while also sharing Yllka’s story, the film especially manages to get the viewer extremely affected by portraying the joyous spirit of the little girl. Despite difficulties, she manages to smile widely and paint as a way to brace her experience in the most intensive colors.

Salon (2019) – Zgjim Terziqi addresses a handful of essential topics while having as a starting point a very simple plot. Situated in a beauty salon, the ultimate meeting point for sharing and fighting against social injustice, the different customers exchange on a recent local incident, involving the murder of a man by his wife. What starts as a simple naive discussion, serves as a revelatory to one of the most sensitive Balkan issues, such as patriarchal structures affecting family environments and women’s condition. The closing note could be seen as a lighthearted irony in regards to the correlations between the places we exist in and our development as individuals.

She Asked Me Where I Was From (2020) – Aulona Fetahaj’s 25 minute-long screen recording, takes the viewer into a special discovery journey through satellite imagery, street views with the help of turn-by-turn navigation altogether with personal photos, constructing an original storytelling narrative. It is a simple yet effective questioning on the notions of “insider” as opposed to “outsider”, and a close study of how “foreign” and “home” change meaning due to the modern age of digitalization.

Where Are You Now? (2020) – Eneos Çarka follows the steps of Chantal Akerman’s “News from Home” in this animated short film, letting the viewer intrude into the personal voice messages that his father has left him during the world-wide isolation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the beautiful animation, reducing the outside world to the extent of an unattainable daydream, this film also touchingly documents the particular social conditions everyone unanimously went through. On a slightly different note, do not forget to call back your parents.

The films are available for viewing until the 15th of August.

By Enxhi Noni