Postcard from Kosovo
By Veton Nurkollari
As I am about to write this postcard from Kosovo I can not help but mention cinemas in Prizren, the second largest city in Kosovo. The long gone cinema Radnik, or the beautiful open air cinema Lumbardhi, whose future doesn’t look very bright either. Those were places I spent countless hours in, places I never ceased loving and ultimately places that inspired me to do something about my own city. But I am not going to lament over their fate because otherwise this would be another story about the dying of cinemas. Instead I’ll try to tell you the story of a city in Kosovo where lack of cinema paradoxically paved way to the birth of film festival.
Back in 2002 only few of us believed in idea of organizing film festival. In a country trying to recover from recent war and in the city where few remembered the day they last walked out of cinema, it never seemed an easy task. Not to mention the fact that there had never been a film festival in Kosovo before and that we had no idea how to do it. But we had an urge, something my friend Aliriza and a co-founder of the festival formulated as our mission: “To bring back the cinema, especially to those who never experienced it”. And indeed, back in 2002 there were generations that never saw a film on big screen.
We called the festival DokuFest, partly because our intention was to screen documentaries but also because it sounded so nice.
Seeing 500 people at the opening ceremony was like dream come true to all of us that initial year.
Fast forward to present day and you’ll find city of Prizren in August packed with film makers, producers, festival directors, visitors and hundreds of volunteers with DokuFest t-shirts running from one cinema to another. You’ll find open air cinema Lumbardhi packed each night but you’ll also find temporary reincarnation of Radnik cinema at its original place, just behind the magnificent Sinan Pasha’s Mosque with hundreds of cinema lovers there, too. Or hundred of kids hand in hand with their parents, waiting patiently to enter one of the DokuKids screenings. You can walk narrow streets of the old town, enjoy delicious local food but inevitably you’ll find yourself in front of the cinemas. All this creates that magical atmosphere during the second week of August, known in Kosovo as a week of DokuFest in DokuCity.
Last week I returned from Zagreb where I attended ZagrebDox festival. But unlike returning from other festivals this time it was different. A documentary from Kosovo Weddings and Diapers, which had its world premiere in DokuFest, walked away with main award in regional competition at ZagrebDox. It never happened before and I think I was as happy as the film makers itself.
I promised my postman a t-shirt. And a festival badge for his son. He says his son loves watching movies and that he has seen his first film on big screen at Dokufest.
So when I see my postman these days I feel very happy. Happy because every time I see him I know he has more films for us. There were 36 films in 2002. Last year he brought nearly 800. Among them films like Taxi to the Dark Side that went to pick up Oscar later on or one of my personal favorites Ghosts of Cite Soleil about the struggle of two brothers and gang leaders in the slums of Port-Au-Prince in Haiti who is running for newly established Cinema Eye award.. Or many others!
Sure there will be many good films this year, too.
Greetings from Kosovo,
Published in Ekran, 2008 (April/May)