The fourth edition of the international film festival PriFest in Kosovo’s capital city of Prishtina, from Sept 24-Oct 1, was the right platform to survey the state of film scene in Europe’s youngest country.
PriFest features an industry segment called PriFilmFORUM, which had its third edition this year. It included a pitching workshop called Packing for the Future, a screenwriting workshop, film critics’ workshop PriCritic, and PriFest Co-production Forum.
The co-production forum is devised to introduce European industry professionals to their counterparts in region (which in PriFest’s case consists of Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia), and to present to regional film-makers the opportunities for access to European funds and co-production markets. In addition to producers, directors and representatives of film bodies from the region, the forum was attended by representatives of the MEDIA Programme, France’s CNC, Connecting Cottbus, the Berlinale, European Film Promotion and South Norwegian Film Fund (SORFOND).
The forum focused on how the film industry of Kosovo can develop with help from the rest of the continent. In 2010, Kosovo established a funding and promotion body, the Kosovo Cinematography Centre (KCC). But the legislative frame for funding and production in the territory is obsolete and rigid and KCC and the Ministry of Culture are working on improving it.
“The current law is quite complicated and not supportive, with many restrictions for local and international projects if they want to film in Kosovo,” commented Arben Zharku [pictured], Chairman of the Managing Board of KCC. “That’s why we have decided to change it, to make it more open more for co-productions and to support minority co-productions, to increase the percentage of support for films and to have the money donated, instead of having producers to pay back under strict rules. Also, we want to give more space to young filmmakers.”
Since 2010, the KCC has run two funding competitions for production and development, and supported 29 projects in all categories: features, shorts, documentaries, animation and script development. Out of these, one is a minority co-production with Albania, Gold by Bujar Alimani, whose last film Amnesty premiered at this year’s Berlinale Forum, and two are majority co-production projects with Germany: Isa Qosja’s Three Windows And A Hanging and Visar Morina’s Father.
While Qosja is a veteran director who made films during the former Yugoslavia, Morina is a first-time film-maker who grew up in Kosovo and now lives in Germany.
Morina’s project received €100,000 from the KCC, but with funding from Germany’s Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, he is confident that Father, a complex story taking place in Kosovo, Germany and Montenegro, will work out. “My greatest concern was how to organize shooting in Kosovo, because I know the infrastructure is not very strong,” said the director. “But the support from KCC is crucial, and it means we will get all the help we can.”
And the KCC itself also needs help. “Lack of experience in co-production, and difficulties of joining international organization makes a faster development more difficult,” explained Fatos Berisha, director of the KCC. “Also the situation regarding cinemas is dramatic. There is only one cinema with regular exhibition in all of Kosovo. But, despite all this, talents are emerging from the film schools, and by increasing the budget, we believe we will have increased quantity, and quality as well.”
This year during Cannes, KCC joined the European Film Promotion, but on the other hand, it could not be a part of the joint South-Eastern European pavilion at the Marche, as Serbia and Bosnia do not recognize Kosovo’s independence. So for the first time, Kosovo had its own stand at the Marche, as well as at the EFM at Berlinale.
“Due to political conflicts, national reservations and prejudices, the speed of coming-into-cooperation unfortunately is dramatically low - thus being a barrier to artistic and economic development,” commented Bernd Buder, head of Connecting Cottbus and Berlinale’s consultant for the countries of the former Yugoslavia. “But since last year, the film production landscape changed a lot - due to political and personal efforts, the funding system became transparent, and some short films running successfully at international film festivals showed that there is a creative potential within the Kosovar film scene.”
European funds, organisations and producers are interested in this new territory, as it offers a fresh perspective and can add an original colour to the continent’s production landscape.
“As an unexplored film territory with talented filmmakers who so far had not had have much chance of an international exposure, and open and eager for creating a functioning film industry and international collaboration, Kosovo has good chances to catch attention among foreign producers interested in exploring new options for their projects,” said Alexandra Strelkova, representative of the Slovak Film Institute in the European Film Promotion.
“Besides making quality films within the limits of the official film funding (low-budget films, strong stories and quality film craft), Kosovo should build a name and gather experience in co-productions within the Balkan region, involve in projects that are natural for collaboration, join the funds available in the region and step by step become known internationally.”
Having a strong film festival is also crucial for industry development. Kosovo has a couple of festivals, with Prizren’s Dokufest as one of the strongest documentary festivals in the region, and PriFest is gaining strength.
In PriFest’s international competition, Catherine Korsini’s Un Certain Regard title Three Worlds won the Golden Goddess awards for best film and best actress for Kosovo-born Arta Dobroshi, as well as the Media Award, provided by the Dritan Hoxha Foundation and chosen by a jury of local media professionals.
The Special Jury Award went Konstantin Bojanov’s Ave, and the Golden Goddess for best director was shared by Umut Dag for Kuma and Bence Fliegauf for Just The Wind. Asli Nabil won the best actor award for his role in Merzak Allouache’s The Repentant from Algeria. The House by Slovakia’s Zuzana Liova received a special mention.
In the Honey and Blood competition, the Red Goddess award for the best film went to Srdjan Dragojevic’s The Parade. In the Middle Length programme, the jury awarded Vast by Dutch director Rolf van Ejik.
Local director Agim Sopi’s Agnus Dei received the audience award.