From 5pm onwards three diverse films will be screening at the Dodona Theater: Watch Smajl for a microcosm of Kosovar history in one family, Ku Është Doni (Where is Doni) for nail-biting drama, and Brenda Ka Dritë (There is Light Inside) about using art to project a country’s future.
I have a lot of love for Smajl, a documentary created by filmmaker Philipp Majer and Zymryte Hoxhaj. The film tells the story the Hoxhaj family, a Kosovar family that moved to Germany in the 1970’s. The way Ismajl (Smajl) Hoxhaj tells it, he went to Germany to buy a tape recorder, but then got a loan for a car, a job in factory, his wife Hasime came, they had children (Ismail and Zymryte), and all of a sudden they’d spent almost forty years of their lives in Germany. The story is one that any member of the Albanian diaspora can understand: after years spent organizing and advocating for the national cause, Smajl decides that he wants to take a premature retirement and return to Kosovo. Hasime, who has lived in Germany since her 20’s, wants to be beside her children, but also doesn’t want to leave her husband alone. Their two children identify as Albanian, but have also fully integrated into German society.
Smajl’s determination to return home and his committed love for his country, despite its many problems, is touching in its purity. I can’t help but root for Hasime, the glue of the family unit and the bridge between her old-fashioned husband and her “Germanized” children. Zymryte, Smajl’s daughter and one of the creators of the film, serves as our narrative voice for a good chunk of the documentary and questions how “Albanianness” has been taught to her.
Ku Është Doni (Where is Doni)
More Raça’s short film about a woman and her son evokes a healthy dose of anxiety and dread. The film’s protagonist, a successful writer, is harassed with phone calls by someone who refuses to speak when she answers. We pick up various clues as to who this person could be, but it’s not clear whether this is a former partner or someone powerful who doesn’t like her writing. Whoever it is, we’re dealing with a menacing and potentially dangerous presence. The protagonist appears to be keeping it together, until her son disappears.
Brenda Ka Dritë (There is Light Inside)
Brenda Ka Dritë by Rea Surroi and Dardan Selimaj documents the work of Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj, the artist representing Kosovo for the first time at the Venice Biennale, one of the most important international art events in the world. With great sensitivity and beautiful visuals, Brenda Ka Dritë chronicles Halilaj’s amazing life story. His talent for art was discovered when he was a 13 year old living in a refugee camp in Kukës. His ability to draw simultaneously with two hands got attention in the camp, and with the help of various friends and mentors, Halilaj became a respected artist in his own right, working in installations, drawings and film. Halilaj’s work on the Kosovo Pavilion explores the ideas of home and memory, incorporating natural elements from his village of Kostërc in northwest Kosovo and personal items belonging to his mother. The story of the pavilion and Halilaj’s journey both serve as metaphors for the story of Kosovo: shaped through tragedy, seeped with longing, and irrepressibly hopeful for the future.