Vjosa Berisha, the popular founder and director of Kosovo’s PriFest film festival, died yesterday (June 23) aged 50.

Berisha, who was also a producer through her company B2, died at University College Hospital in London, according to her husband and collaborator Fatos Berisha.

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Vjosa was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2021. She had since spoken regularly in interviews and posted on social media about her life with the illness, and was still working at the start of this month.

Alongside Fatos, Vjosa founded Prishtina International Film Festival (PriFest) following Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, with the first edition held in the country’s capital the following year. It featured UK actress and friend of the festival Vanessa Redgrave, who returned for the 10th anniversary in 2018.

The competitive festival runs an annual basis, typically in July – although earlier this year the 2022 festival was moved to August 23-28. PriFest plays a mixture of world premieres predominantly from the Balkan region, and major titles from the festival circuit.

PriFest also launched an industry strand, PriForum, at its second edition in 2010, which now features a co-production market, pitching awards, and a Kosovo Rising Stars initiative.

The Berisha duo also co-founded film production and PR firm B2 in 2003, with offices in Kosovo and Albania. The company made 2019 drama Cirku Fluturues, about four actors on an illegal mission across Balkan borders, in search of Michael Palin. Fatos wrote and directed the film, with Vjosa producing it.

A well-known figure in Kosovar society and in the wider Balkan region, Vjosa was a graduate of the UK’s University of Westminster, and worked as a PR executive for film and political campaigns. Her major successes included the management and implementation of the awareness campaigns that led to her country’s declaration of independence.

She was a member of the European Film Academy from 2013 onwards.

Tributes have been paid to Vjosa on social media, including from Kosovo’s DokuFest, UN entity UN Women Kosovo, and the UK ambassador and French embassy in the country.

Berisha leaves behind her husband Fatos, and the couple’s son, Leke.