8 Albanian films you should watch now
In the 90s, Albanian cinema came to a halt. As with much else, the very understanding of film needed to be figured out and seen as something else rather than exclusively a political tool. In the past decade however, we are seeing an increase in Albanian films and a growing interest both from viewers and from artists. This increased activity within the industry is excellent news and a promising start. We are still holding on to films that describe the village life and the success stories of emigrants, as these are definitely part of the Albanian reality and deliver complex narratives that make very intriguing plot lines. However, the focus is already diversifying and exploring more aspects of the Albanian society. Perhaps soon the urban reality of a woman in the working space? A coming of age story of a talented dancer? The underground world of a tattoo artist? Some excellent films have been produced during the last few years, and if this is only the beginning, the future looks fantastic.
While we wait and see the metamorphosis of Albanian cinema, here is a compilation of pictures you should definitely watch in the meantime. It is a combination of communist period and non-communist period films, Albanian and non-Albanian productions, but they’re a pleasant watch and should give you a good picture of where this cinema industry has been and is going.
1. Përrallë nga e kaluara (A tale from the past)
Made in 1987, this film follows a 14 year old boy, Gjino, and a grown woman, Marigo, as they’re forced into an arranged marriage. That means that Gjino will have to stop chasing birds, and Marigo will have to deny herself a life of happiness with the man she loves. As they try to find a way of escape under the pressure of parents and society, the film unfolds a good load of humour, traditions and customs, and the social dynamics of a small village. In the spring of 2015, “Përrallë nga e kaluara” was restored and subtitled.
Bota means ‘the world’. Bota is also the name of a cafe in an isolated village run by Juli, Nora and Ben. This cafe is their life and their relic of memories, but one day they find out that a construction crew is coming to widen the main village road. That will mean a lot of disruption for the quiet villagers, and most importantly, confrontation with a world that lies outside of the little cafe. As Juli falls for the highway engineer, Nora and Ben cook up some mysterious affair, and a world of secrets and haunting pasts unfolds.
A mute mother of two has already lost two husbands and needs to find a way to keep fighting and raise her sons. So she falls in love again. Her son navigates between jealousy and puberty, and finds work in an illegal chromium mine. The family finds itself in the most unlikely situation where one’s frustrations start before the other’s end. In the midst of it all comes along a school teacher who helps the young man walk into manhood.
4. Kapedani (The Captain)
If, for some reason you understand Albanian, don’t let this one go by. The story sees Xha Sulo, (the funny old man in the clip) as he experiences the emancipation of women. While he dreams of being king and ruler, he sees that in reality women around him are leading state enterprises, are becoming doctors and even worse…ballerinas. He, representative of an ancient mentality and good old patriarchy, is in utter shock and does not know how to move around in the society around him anymore as the younger generations wash past him. The clash of generations and genders is portrayed in brilliant humour and the punchlines of this film cause mad laughter to this day.
Branko, a young man returns to Albania after completing his studies in the US. He now runs a pharmacy, falls in love with Sara the nurse, faces himself and the dominating presence of his father. In a mixture of melancholia and Hitchcockism, boy explores girl, girl explores boy, boy’s father is disturbingly creepy and might be involved with the girl? The film has solid photography and an attractive rawness to it, and is ultimately a story about the search for truth, about the fight against society and about facing one’s own fears.
6. Koncert ne vitin 36 (Concert in 1936)
Set in the time of the monarchy, the film shows two Albanian musicians visiting a highly conservative town. Their performance and presence shakes and shocks the inhabitants and serves to point out the consequences and flaws of the monarchical system at the time. While today the characters and the dialogues provoke laughter and nostalgia, the film is in fact highly politicised and criticised for how it was made. A direct product of the communist regime, the film was part of the anti-monarchy propaganda.
7. Der Albaner (The Albanian)
A German production, and a generally accurate and holistic take on the misfortunes and adventures of an illegal immigrant. Arben flees his village, leaves his love and family behind and manages to sneak into Germany with hopes of making enough to be able to come back and give to his people. Hardships and crime on a foreign territory, fear and pressure from the motherland, and a young man that tries to tread on both. If you understand German and Albanian, ‘Der Albaner’ will have you glued to the screen.
8. Parrullat (Slogans)
A franco-albanian production, exploring communist regime practices. Children in a school were taught to learn the slogans by heart and them write them up on actual mountains by stacking white stones together. In the bitter humour of it all unfolds a love story between two of the teachers who attempt to help the children throughout. Trailer can be found here.