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Feature 01 Aug 17

Best Balkan Films to Watch This Summer

From light-hearted comedies to horrors and dramas that reveal the still visible legacy of the wars of the 1990s, Balkan cinematography has something for everyone this summer.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Scene from Oscar-nominated 'Shok' ('Friend'). Photo: shokshortfilm.com

Filmmakers from the Balkans have produced some notable movies in the last several years, impressing audiences and critics worldwide.

Movies from Kosovo, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Romania have been particularly successful internationally, winning accolades at several major festivals.

The Invocation of Enver Simaku (2017), Albania

This movie from Albania evokes the notorious events of 1997, when a bloody period of civil unrest happened following the collapse of Ponzi-style pyramid organisations.

Spanish Director and writer Marco Lledo Escartin has cast established Albanian actors in a horror movie centred in Vlora, the coastal city in the south of Albania.

Julien, the husband of a TV camerawoman killed during the 1997 riots, returns to Albania and finds himself surrounded by old Albanian superstitions and secrets. The movie was shot in Spain and in Albania.

THE INVOCATION OF ENVER SIMAKU - TEASER-TRAILER from Pegatum Transmedia on Vimeo.

The Waiting Room (2015), Bosnia and Herzegovina

Jasmin, once a successful actor in former Yugoslavia, dreams of returning to Sarajevo to continue his career, but fears losing his son, Daniel, if he follows through with his plan.

 

An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (2013), Bosnia and Herzegovina

Members of a Roma family from Bosnia play themselves as they reenact a real crisis that shook their lives. The mother, Senada, has a miscarriage and needs urgent surgery to survive, but the hospital refuses to treat her as she has no health insurance. The father, Nazif, who makes his living as a scrap dealer, tries to raise funds to pay for her care and the community rallies around him.

The movie won the Jury Grand Prix and Nazif Mujic won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival.

Glory (2016), Bulgaria

Released in 2016, Glory, by Bulgarian directors Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva has been shortlisted for the LUX Film Prize of the European Parliament in 2017.

It tells the story of the poor Bulgarian railway worker, Tsanko Petrov, who finds a large amount of money spilled on the tracks, but instead of taking it for himself, turns it over to the police. His noble act comes at the perfect time for a PR boss at the Transport Ministry, who decides to use his good deed to divert public attention from a large corruption scandal.

The state awards the new working class hero with a watch, which, however, turns out to be fake. Petrov starts an epic battle with the bureaucracy, struggling to recover his old watch as well as his dignity.

Godless (2016), Bulgaria

This drama by Bulgarian director Ralitza Petrova won the prestigious Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival in 2016, and grabbed the audience’s attention at a number of other film festivals, such as in Sarajevo, Reykjavik and Warsaw.

The main character is a nurse from a remote Bulgarian town, who looks after elderly people suffering from dementia and traffics their ID cards on the black market. Driven by her morphine addiction, nothing seems to shake her conscience, not even the murder of one her patients, which threatens to expose her crimes. But her life only changes when she meets a new patient whose documents she had sold. The empathy the nurse feels for the old man pushes her to make a change, but it comes at a price.

Shok (2016), Kosovo

This film looks at how the conflict with Serbian forces affects the lives of two 12-year-old boys and the strains it puts on their friendship. Only 21 minutes long, the movie is based on true stories from 1998 and is directed by British film-maker Jamie Donoughue. Shok was the first-ever Kosovo-made film to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Home (2016), Kosovo

A drama shot in Kosovo, the film is about a British family forced by war to become refugees. It won the best short film prize at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.

The movie was intended to deepen public understanding of the plight of people fleeing conflict zones amid the current refugee crisis.

Babai (2015), Kosovo

Ten-year-old Nori and his father Gezim roam the streets of Kosovo selling cigarettes and barely earning a living. Only a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gezim is lured to Germany, leaving his son searching for a new life. Feeling deserted and desperate to claim some sense of stability, Nori embarks on a dangerous journey to Germany in search of his father.

Graduation (2016), Romania

In this movie, a Romanian doctor takes matters into his own hands when an attack on his daughter jeopardizes her scholarship to a prestigious British university. Graduation (Bacalaureat) won the Cannes Best Director Award and was nominated for a slew of prestigious prizes.

Sieranevada (2016), Romania

A doctor and his wife are having a family meal in Bucharest to mark the passing of his father when an argument about September 11 terrorist attacks in the US breaks out and deteriorates into a settling of personal scores.

The Return (2017), Serbia

An American of Serbian origin, Steve, returns to his hometown in the north of Serbia after 40 years in the US, in an attempt to find peace after a tragedy struck his family. His American friends follow him in order to bring him back.

The movie is a directorial debut of Predrag Jaksic and the lead role is played by the veteran Canadian-Serbian actor Lazar Rockwood.

Next To Me (2015), Serbia

Olja is a high school history teacher, married to a painter whose latest exhibition has provoked violent reactions from Serbian nationalists. One night, a group of masked hooligans attacks her.

The next day Olja discovers that some of her students were responsible. She takes away their mobile phones and locks them in the school building, also disconnecting the school phones and the internet. In order to solve the problem together, the students begin to communicate. During that night, a generation that was written off before they were ever given a chance will learn more than they ever expected about themselves and their classmates.

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