Kosovo’s nascent film industry has produced a string of films dealing with the bloody war that tore through the country less than 20 years ago. For many of the people involved in making them, they are a cathartic experience
“War happens at your doorstep,” is a line that is spoken in a virtual reality world called This War of Mine, created by 11 Bit Studios in 2014. Designed as an “empathy” game, the player moves through a war-torn landscape rendered from the siege of Sarajevo in which the player can hear, see, and feel what it might have been like. When I discovered it recently, it made me think of the small troupe of Kosovar actors who play characters like themselves (or their parents and grandparents) in films dealing with the 1998-99 Kosovo War. Those same actors also play the roles of their (mainly Serbian) oppressors in the Yugoslav National Army. I think about how painful that must be, but also how much catharsis that could provide.
Krasniqi is now preparing to shoot her first feature film, Vera e andrron detin (Vera Dreams of the Sea), which will begin principal photography at the beginning of 2017. Written by Doruntina Basha, an award-winning playwright and a childhood friend of Krasniqi’s, it is based on the story of a 60-year-old woman who, like most women of her generation, has lived within the suffocating space between a violent marriage and a society in continuous transition. “Kosovo is a small country with a very complex past and it isn’t just the war. … Everyone here has been affected differently depending where they’ve stood politically,” says Krasniqi. “I feel that internationally we have introduced just a small portion of stories that are ‘hidden’ here.”
It is mostly the women who carry the heaviest burden since many were gang-raped as de facto casualties of war, and then forced to witness the deaths of their fathers, husbands, and sons. “In Kosovo, there’s a new war every 50 years,” says the main protagonist in Gazmend Bajri and Shkurte Dauti’s 30-minute black-and-white filmFerdonija (2016). Ferdonije Qerkezi, in a luminous performance, recounts the story of losing her husband and all four of their sons in the Kosovo War. Only two of the sons’ remains have been found and were given a proper burial in 2005. This film, more documentary than fiction, portrays the aural and visual testimony of someone recollecting and re-emerging through palimpsests of memory. This successful realisation of cinematic nonfiction is perhaps a sign that a corner has been turned.