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Interview 20 Jul 17

Prizren Docufest Transforming Kosovo Film, Director Says

Ahead of Kosovo biggest cultural event, Dokufest director Veton Nurkollari told BIRN that the Prizren film festival was raising the game for Kosovo cinematography.

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The director of Dokufest, Veton Nurkollari working on last technical stuff before the festival starts | Photo: BIRN

The 16th International Documentary and Short Films Festival in Prizren, Dokufest, will screen a total of 253 films in the southern city of Kosovo from August 4 to 12 under the slogans, “Future is my love” and “Future is not dead”.

Some 102 of these films will be in six competition sections, representing 50 countries, including two world premieres, two international premieres and a number of European and regional premieres.

Eight films from Kosovo’s national competition will also see their world premieres at the festival.

“This year’s theme is the future, and we are optimistic that the future is beautiful, so we aim to transmit this through the movie program, the music program, talks and campaigns,” Veton Nurkollari, director of Dokufest, told BIRN.

The most important cultural event in Kosovo has grown each year, he noted, and as it does so, more and more top directors are applying to screen their films there, some as world premieres.

Many of the films to be screened in Prizren, according to Nurkollari, are new and come straight from major international festivals.

“We have the winning film of the critics of the Cannes festival, and the winners of the Berlinale, Sundance and Tribeca film festivals and most other important festivals. A large part of the best movies of the year will be in Dokufest.”

He added that it has become a tradition that at least four or five movies screened at Dokufest later enter competitions for top international prizes such as the Oscars.

Those who benefit most from the festival’s program, according to Nurkollari, are Kosovo’s own citizens and filmmakers especially.

“We will be hosting a retrospective of two master filmmakers, British director John Smith and the American director Travis Wilkerson, who will have master classes and this is an extraordinary opportunity especially for young filmmakers to learn from the masters of cinema,” Nurkollari said.

Through such master classes and other programs in Kosovo film festivals, according to Nurkollari, the quality of filmmaking in Kosovo has greatly improved.

“The quality of our films is incomparable with what it was 16 years ago. The number of movies being produced now is also incomparable with the number of movies produced then, so there is good reason to be satisfied,” Nurkollari added.

While the main topic of post-war films in Kosovo has been the independence war, the consequences of the war or social topics, Nurkollari detects a shift now towards “a small doorway towards experimental film.

“It is very interesting and encouraging for me that Kosovo filmmakers are trying to experiment with both, form and genre. I see the capacity of new filmmakers who with open eyes are able to follow trends and turn them into movies,” he said.

Nurkollari says cinematography in Kosovo is getting better every year, and festivals are one of the factors that have helped.

“We started cinematography from nothing, as Kosovo has no film school; we cannot pretend to go to the Champions League’s final when we do not have football ground, so it is the same with film,” he said.

However, “do not forget that Kosovo films have been nominated for Oscars, have won at BAFTA, and have won at Sundance,” he added.

Last year, “Shok”, made by the British director Jamie Donoughue, became the first Kosovo-made film to be nominated for an Academy Award, although it failed to win the Oscar.

Another successful UK-Kosovo cinematic cooperation was Daniel Mulloy’s 20-minute film “Home, which won the BAFTA Best Short Film award in February. In 2012, The Return” by Blerta Zeqiri, won the top prize at the Sundance Festival in the Best World Short Film category.

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