“Conscience before tradition”
by Vladan Petkovic
- Kosovan director Isa Qosja has won the Cineuropa Award at the Sarajevo Film Festival with Three Windows and a Hanging
Kosovan director Isa Qosja has returned to the Sarajevo competition with Three Windows and a Hanging [+see also:
interview: Arben Zharku
interview: Isa Qosja
film profile], nine years after winning the Special Jury Prize for Kukumi. He spoke to Cineuropa about the controversial subject matter of his film, filmmaking in Kosovo and the significance of the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Cineuropa: The theme your film deals with is common to patriarchal, closed-off societies around the world. How much is this issue talked about in Kosovo?
Isa Qosja: That is exactly why I made this film: why are we not talking about it? Is it because we are a traditional and patriarchal society? Is the lack of openness and dialogue about this problem within society an additional issue that makes it even worse? One of these questions is also at the end of the film: is the husband going to forgive his wife for this misfortune or not?
There has been no discussion or dialogue or almost any mention of this problem in Kosovo so far. According to the available data, about 20,000 women were raped, and only one spoke openly about it in the last 14 years. Here, rape is still perceived as something shameful for a woman, instead of being taken as a tragedy. This is very hard on the families who live under enormous pressure from the community. They can only peek through bars on the windows, just like in this film. It is a taboo issue, and I believe this film will have at least some effect on people, so that they start to understand that conscience is more important than tradition.
You made films during the Yugoslav era. How did you adapt to the new system and can you compare the experience you had with Kukumi with the present situation? Have things got better for you as a director?
I made four feature films - two before the war, and two after it. It turns out I made a film every nine years. I tried many more times, but it did not work out. In some cases, the circumstances were wrong; in other cases, there was no money, and sometimes the themes I was interested in just weren't acceptable in particular regimes. But I was never interested in the system; I am interested in the lives and experiences of people in this region.
As for Kukumi, it happened more easily. It was a different subject, other kinds of characters, and I was a bit different myself then.
Three Windows and a Hanging has a very tough theme, and was much harder to realise. The characters are more psychologically complex, always on the edge of certain emotions. I did not want to make a film that was hard to watch, but I still didn't want to avoid the drama and relations between the characters.
As for the last part of the question, nothing has got better in Kosovan cinema since Kukumi. Kosovo has set aside about €250,000 a year for feature films, and there are many filmmakers. I hear there's more money this year, but still not enough to be able to work continually.
Besides the lack of funding, what is the biggest problem for film production in Kosovo, and what was the hardest part of making Three Windows and a Hanging?
Besides funding, we also lack equipment and experienced professionals in all departments. As for this film, one of the obstacles was the setting. The house we were shooting in was a private property which we rented and had a contract for, but the owner kept coming and saying he did not like what we were doing and that we should get out. And we had already started shooting. I was constantly under stress, never knowing if we were going to be able to finish that part.
You are back in the Sarajevo competition after nine years. What does the festival mean to you and to Kosovan cinema?
My first experience at SFF was unforgettable because of the people, the festival and the city itself. Sarajevo has a special place in my heart.
The SFF is the biggest film event in the region, and it discovers new works and filmmakers every year. It motivates me more than any other festival. For me, achieving success at this festival is what keeps me going as a filmmaker. I believe it is the same for Kosovan cinema in general.