Interview 14 Jun 17

Kosovo Film Ignites Controversy in Serbia

After right-wingers protested against a documentary about Kosovo, director Aleksandar Reljic said it showed that it remains a controversial topic - even though his film aims to promote dialogue and undermine stereotypes.

Maja Zivanovic BIRN Belgrade

Director Aleksandar Reljic walks past a protest against his film on Monday. Photo: Beta/Dragan Gojic.

After far-right activists protested in Novi Sad and tried to stop the showing of Aleksandar Reljic’s film about life in Kosovo, the director told BIRN he was surprised that it sparked such strong feelings even though he knew that Kosovo remains an emotive topic in Serbia.

“They [right-wing activists] are very sensitive about this Kosovo topic and every dialogue about Kosovo causes controversies because they can’t stand any kind of normality in Kosovo,” Reljic said.

Dozens of members of the far-right groups Zavetnici and Mlada Srpska Snaga (Young Serbian Power) rallied in Novi Sad on Monday evening in front of the offices of the co-producer of the film, the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, NDNV, where the screening of ‘Kosovo... Nazdravlje! Gezuar!’ was taking place.

Right-wing activists tried to enter the NDNV office and stop the screening; several of them managed to get inside the building but were rapidly escorted out by police.

“I remember 20 years ago, when we made a movie called ‘Kosovo Dialogue 98’ about Albanians and Serbian students in Pristina sitting at the same table and talking about everything while the war was [going on] outside, people similar to those from Monday protested against it when we were showing it at the Rex cinema in Belgrade. So I’m used to it,” Reljic recalled.

His documentary is described in its promotional material as a story about ordinary people who live in Kosovo now - “full of contradictions and passions, in which despair and hope are interwoven in life together”.

Reljic argued that the characters in the film do not fit people’s preconceptions about Kosovo.

“In this movie, one ordinary man is a Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, veteran. He’s not the stereotype of the picture of what the KLA is. He’s been trying since 2002 to send a message of peace and did some projects which were including reconciliation with Serbs and dealing with the past,” he explained.

He added that the film shows the former guerrilla with his friend, a Serbian Orthodox monk from the Decani monastery.

“We are talking about their friendship, how they met and when. So they now meet again in one of the taverns, as is traditional, and sit down to talk. And in one way this is a story that two sides, deeply divided, can sit at same table and talk,” Reljic said.

He added that the film also shows a joint business run by a Serb and an Albanian, owners of an animal shelter in Gracanica.

Reljic is a journalist with regional broadcaster Radio-Television of Vojvodina, and the director of several documentaries with war themes.

He’s also the winner of the NDNV’s annual award for best journalist in 2015.

The executive producer of BIRN’s ‘Life in Kosovo’ programme, Faik Ispahiu, is the co-producer of ‘Kosovo... Nazdravlje! Gezuar!’ as part of a media cooperation project between BIRN Kosovo and the NDVD.

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