Kosovo goes to the Oscars
Albanians all over are getting excited: Kosovo received its first ever Oscar nomination! The court métrage “Shok” is a Kosovan-British co-production set in the 1998 – 1999 war for independence. Written and directed by James Donoghue, the story traces the changes in the lives of two young boys as war stretches across their village. Apart from the Oscar nomination, “Shok” has already won eleven awards including three Aspens!
This 20 minute drama is a boyhood flashback based on the real wartime story of Eshref Durmishi. The story follows two young boys, Petrit and his friend Oki. Petrit settles a secret cigarette-rolling deal with the Serbian soldiers stationed in his village, but it’s only a matter of time until an innocent deal is taken one step too far and the story becomes a matter of betrayal, honour, and life and death.
Durmishi, who also co-produced the film, plays a Serbian soldier, one that he remembers from when he was living through the events. “The character was based on a real soldier, a soldier who I remember as a 14 or 15 year-old boy when i was going to school at the peak of the war in Kosovo”, he told AFP. “Being in a film nominated for an Oscar is an extraordinary honour. The honour is five times greater when the film is about your country and your experience as a young boy. ”
Jamie Donoghue’s interest for Kosovo was triggered from an incident five years ago when he was stranded for five in the country due to volcanic eruptions in Iceland. He took the time to get to know the people, the country and inevitably, its war history:
“And I just — I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what happened over here, and this was fifteen years ago in Europe … I just felt the duty to tell these stories. So that’s basically where the film came from. However, I was really conscious that I didn’t want to be an international just coming over and telling these stories. So I needed to really understand the people, the culture, and the history of the area. So I spent the next four years visiting and researching as much I could and learning the language and everything until I thought I was ready to tell these stories and do the people of Kosovo justice.” he said during an interview with Screenpicks.
One of the people he met was in fact Durmishi, and the idea for a short film was born. “[What] a lot of people don’t realize is the scene at the bus stop — Eshref was that boy in real life. And he had that happen to him by the soldiers,” explains Donoghue. “And when I wrote the script, I asked him whether he would consider playing this soldier that in real life had done that to him, which I think was a bit of a shock for him at first. [But] in a way, he said it was something he needed to do, to bring him closure […] ”
The success is a big step for Kosovo’s nascent film industry, bringing the small country’s cinematic talent to the international limelight. You can watch the trailer here, and follow the Oscar’s on the 28th of February to find out whether “Shok” will bring a golden statuette to Kosovo!