News 04 Jun 15

Festival Aims to Rebuild Serbia-Kosovo Relations

A festival in Belgrade of Kosovo Albanian films, exhibitions, concerts and debates about the 1990s conflict is aimed at restoring personal contacts between Serbs and their neighbours.

Ivana Nikolic
BIRN
Belgrade
Maja Stojanovic of Civic Initiatives, one of the organisers.

The five-day festival, entitled Miredita, Dobar Dan!, which means ‘good day’ in Albanian and Serbian, opens on Thursday in Belgrade and aims to build bridges between ordinary people divided by politics and conflict.

The festival is a cultural parallel to the negotiations between political leaders from Belgrade and Pristina after the so-called Brussels Agreement to normalise relations.

“We think that it [the Brussels Agreement] is a process between political elites and that it won’t actually contribute to bringing people [from Kosovo and Serbia] together,” said one of the festival organisers, Maja Stojanovic from Belgrade-based NGO Civic Initiatives.

“The agreement represents the normalisation of relations on the surface. If we don’t work on our relations, any problematic event can again spark hatred and nationalism,” she said.

The festival will open with a screening of the 2014 film by Isa Qosja, ‘Three Windows and a Hanging’, the story of a woman thrown out of her village after being raped during the Kosovo war.

“In a specific way, this film is connected to post-war Belgrade-Pristina relations because it speaks about the consequences of the war and explains how war affects ordinary men,” said Stojanovic.

During the festival, which is also organised by the Belgrade-based Policy Centre and Pristina-based Integra NGOs, there will also be plays, concerts, exhibitions and a debate about missing persons from the 1998-99 conflict, which will be attended by both Kosovo Albanian and Serbian war victims.

“It is important that people come and hear what they all went through. People should know what happened as it would give more chance of reconciliation,” Stojanovic said.

She said that the symbol and inspiration of the festival is Bekim Fehmiu, a Kosovo Albanian who was one of the most important Yugoslav actors and also achieved international renown.

Fehmiu, who was born in Sarajevo and educated in Belgrade, retired in protest against the Yugoslav authorities’ anti-Albanian actions in the late 1980s.

He is also known for his memoirs, ‘Blistavo i Strasno’ (‘Shiny and Frightful’), in which he explores the relations between Serbia and Kosovo. He committed suicide in 2010.

“The festival will always be held in June, as Fehmiu was born on June 1 and committed suicide on June 15. June is the month when we commemorate both the tragedy and the potential of the relations between Serbia and Kosovo,” Stojanovic said.

After the festival in Belgrade, the organisers will hold a series of events presenting the Serbian cultural scene in Pristina from September until June.

They will begin with a series of Fehmiu’s films, which have never been showcased in Kosovo before and first need to be redubbed from Serbian into Albanian.

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