Edition 20: 6-14 August, 2021

Balkan Dox

IMAGES FROM THE SIEGE - A NEWSREEL HISTORY OF COMMUNIST ALBANIA - I

Albania
— 61 min / Black and white

1

Synopsis

SHQIPËRIA (Albania) (1945) (27 min)
Dir. Roman Karmen
Made by the highly influential Russian cameraman, Roman Karmen, this documentary vividly features Albanian life immediately after the communists came to power in 1944. The film is especially memorable since it’s missing much of the heavy socialist realism that marked Albanian doc making. Shortly after he completed the film, Karmen set off for Berlin to shoot the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

URIME SHOKË STUDENTË! (Congratulations, Comrade Student!) (1956) (9 min)
Dir. Viktor Stradoberdha
The story of Viktor Stratoberdha (1921-1991) mirrors many of Albania’s tragedies. Stradoberdha’s humorous, buoyant style led him to be one of the country’s most promising filmmakers. But after being denounced in 1956, he was expelled from the Kinostudio and sent into internal exile. In 1967, Stratoberdha directed a local theater play in which the economic five year plan was placed in coffin. He was then jailed for the next two decades. Urime Shokë Studentë! is one of the surviving docs in Viktor Stratoberdha’s all too short career.

KINOREPORTAZH NR. 1 (Kino Report Numberi One) (1959) (8 min)
Dir. Endri Keko
This newsreel presents the one and only visit to Albania by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. But behind the bear hugs and airport kisses, Enver Hoxha bristled at Khrushchev’s suggestion that the Albanian leader attempt reforms and back off from the demigod status accorded to the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. Within a year, Albania would create shock waves in the communist universe after Hoxha denounced Khruschev at a 1960 Moscow party congress.

PING PONG (1971) (7 min)
In the 1960’s, after the break with the Soviet Union, Albania became an unlikely satellite of communist China (Newsweek referred to the alliance as ‘Mediterranean Maoists’). Enver Hoxha called the bond between the two countries as the ‘coming together of the 702 million’, China being the 700 million, Albania representing the two. In exchange for its chrome exports and introducing the 1971 resolution that got China into the United Nations, Albania received sustaining economic and military support. This short doc focuses on the Chinese table tennis team’s friendship visit which soon began to sour after US president Richard Nixon visited Beijing.

BEKIM FEHMIU NË SHQIPËRI (Bekim Fehmiu in Albania) (1971) (10 min)
Dir. Vitori Çeli
Albania and neighboring Yugoslavia officially broke ties in 1948. But in 1971, the Hoxha regime was honored to welcome the ethnic Albanian actor Bekim Fehmiu (1936-2010), at the time an international star in Yugoslav theater and film. Before his trip to Albania, Fehmiu had appeared in the popular Italian television smash The Odyssey (1968) and the Cannes-winning I Even Met Happy Gypsies (1967). Dokufest will also feature a photo exhibit of recently-discovered still images taken during Bekim Fehmiu’s Albanian visit.

Official Trailer