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News 12 Sep 16

Albania Villagers Fear Lazarat Movie Will Stereotype Them

Residents of the village that became notorious as a hub for cannabis production fear a new movie, 'Lazarat Burning', will make them famous again for all the wrong reasons.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Movie poster

Villagers in Lazarat in southern Albania fear they are going to be prejudged and stereotyped in a new movie by the Canadian movie company Mercury Films, which is due for release in June 2017.

The small village gained worldwide notoriety for the large-scale of production of cannabis for almost a decade, during which time it was virtually off-limits to Albanian police.

This lawless period ended in in June 2014, when more than 500 heavily armed police descended on the village from air and by land and burned down the marijuana plantations.

They also destroyed the drugs stocks, raided houses, seized all the weapons and ammunition they could find and arrested dozens of local men.

Now Lazarat is going to be under the spotlight once again for drugs and fights with the police, in a movie titled "Lazarat Burning".

Produced by Issa Zaroui, Salim Zaroui, Marco Balsamo and Mark Crawford, the lead star will be the Italian actor Gabriel Garko while actors from US, Russia, and Albania will also join the cast.

On Thursday, after a press conference in Tirana held to launch the movie, Garko told the media that he will play the role of a boy from Lazarat whose parent are killed while being involved in the drug business - and who then takes revenges after becoming a policeman.

"The movie brings to attention courage and hope for the fight against crime and corruption," he said.

However, one local from Lazarat who did not want to be named told BIRN that villagers feared the movie could further worsen existing stereotypes about the people of Lazarat.

"We fear our village could be featured as a ghetto and the villagers as criminals with heavy guns in their hands roaming Lazarat. I have heard that the movie will talk about prostitution and murders, when, as far as as I know, no one in our village has ever been proven to have taken part in any such crimes," he said.

He told BIRN that locals in Lazarat would like to see the producers of the film come to the village and talk to the people - and even shoot scenes there.

"Up to now, we have seen anybody from the movie come and talk to us, or shoot here. It could give the film a real perspective, and bring it nearer to reality. Otherwise, it will be just an action movie, and judgmental without any basis in reality," he said.

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