REPORT: PriForum 2016
by David González
During PriFest, the Prishtina International Film Festival (read news), members from the film industry gathered at the PriForum. From 22-28 April, professionals from the Balkan countries (Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania) and the rest of Europe exchanged views, experiences and advice at Prishtina's Square 21 in order to get a handful of film projects up and running.
The event, which included conferences, debates, workshops and the Best Pitch Competition, kicked off with PriForum director Fatos Berisha and PriFest director Vjosa Berisha outlining the ever-difficult situation for the film industry in Kosovo to those present. The festival decided to take the opportunity to unveil a declaration by the country’s film industry, which wishes to stress that, due to its special situation because of different international recognition, Kosovo is the only country in Europe where filmmakers need special visas to travel to the rest of the continent, as well as it's status as a territory with no legal access to the Eurimages, Creative Europe and MEDIA funds. Hoping to improve the situation, the organisation and the participants backed the declaration right before kicking off the Best Pitch Competition for the Vanessa Redgrave Award.
The competition, hosted by experts Matthieu Darras (artistic director of the Torino Film Lab) and Joana Solecka (marketing and audience strategy development expert at the Torino Film Lab), presented a total of nine projects looking for international co-production partners, sales agents and distributors to a jury formed of film expert Linda Beath, Kean & Kolar Communications managing partner Deborah Kolar, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg advisor Brigitta Manthey and producer Cedomir Kolar. The jury then awarded the prize to The Witch Hunter at a special dinner.
An overview of the projects pitched:
Rasko Miljkovic’s The Witch Hunter (Serbia)
(Vanessa Redgrave Award for Best Pitch)
Serbian director Rasko Miljkovic presented his film The Witch Hunter, a project produced by Jovana Karaulic for Belgrade’s Akcija Produkcija. With its mix of reality and imagination, the film depicts the story of a 10-year-old born with mild cerebral paralysis who paints his everyday life through his imagination and inner world. The then lives his life in a whirlwind of mystery and fantasy through his newest friendship with a girl of the same age, yet its all very real: he connects his parents' divorce to a witch haunting them. The film – the original title of which, Zlogonje, refers to a “hunter of evil” in archaic Serbian – was written by Marko Manojlovic and Milos Kreckovic, is budgeted at €494,000 and already has one partner on board, co-producer Ognen Antov of Macedonia’s Dream Factory Ltd, as well as Film Center Serbia’s funding up to half the budget.
Florenc Papas’ Open Door (Albania/Italy)
A “very realistic, critical drama” is what's in store for Albanian director Florenc Papas' project, Open Door. The story follows two young sisters, one of whom returns from Italy after finding out she is pregnant, who set off on a long car trip to meet their strict and traditional father – who has made them want to find a man to replace the absent father in his parenting role. Eno Milkani is producing for Albania’s Bunker Film, alongside Daniele Baldacci, who is producing for Italy’s Blue Cinema TV (providing technical equipment and post-production support). The film, budgeted at €360,000, is also planned to be funded by the Albanian Film Center.
Jonid Jorgji’s Three Lions Heading to Venice (Albania)
Three Albanian filmmakers want to attend the Venice Film Festival with their homeland hit The Pleasure of Being Married. They start a journey from Bari to the festival, where they meet three young women, who just happen to be porn stars, leading to a new situation where sex starts to creep into their lives and they decide to make a porn film while they are on the road to Italy. Albania’s Jonid Jorgji has written and will direct the film, which he will also produce alongside Elkjana Gjipali, Gent Prizreni and Enxhi Mero for Albanian outfit Kino Studio Dardan. The “comedy road movie about freedom of love and sex,” according to the director, is budgeted at €250,000, is looking for funding from different institutions such as the Albanian Film Center and is looking for an Italian co-production partner.
Ivan Bakrac’s After the Winter (Montenegro/Serbia/Macedonia)
In his film After the Winter, Montenegrin director-writer Ivan Bakrac plans to tell the story of five childhood friends in their late twenties scattered all across the former Yugoslavia. They see their youth ending and so they decide to look for answers about how they can go on with their lives. The film, “a humorous and nostalgic ode to friendship and youth” inspired by the styles of Louis Malle and Mike Leigh, according to its director, is planned to be shot in Kotor, Novi Sad and Belgrade, with the characters driving from place to place. Ivan Djurovic is producing for Montenegro’s Artikulacija Production, while Milan Stojanovic co-produces for Serbia’s Sense Production and Vladimir Blazevski for Macedonia’s Punk Film. The film is budgeted at €450,000 and has already won the first prize for funding from Montenegro’s Ministry of Culture.
Valon Jakupaj’s Pledge (Kosovo)
Kosovo’s Valon Jakupaj directs and produces Pledge, a film written by Dituri Neziraj, which follows two characters, a 65-year-old grandfather and his 12-year-old granddaughter. Their story unfolds as the granddaughter decides to look for a new woman for him, after his wife (her grandmother) passes away. According to the filmmaker, the film is “a coming-of-age social drama with a twist of comedy, which tries to show the differences between the old and new generations in Kosovo.” The film, budgeted at €160,000, has its cast set and is produced for Gegnia Film.
Marko Crnogorski’s Broken (Macedonia)
Macedonian project Broken, written and directed by Marko Crnogorski and Jana Paunoska, gives the account of an illicit gay love affair between two Macedonian men spanning several decades, from their youth in the 1960s to their old age in the present day. The lead characters go from their first secret kiss and intercourse, to getting married to cover it up and then dealing with time passing. “A story about fear, but also about breaking the chains and being free, as the issue still remains controversial everywhere especially in this region,” added Paunoska. The film, budgeted at €738,000, is produced by Vladimir Stojcevski and Goran Stojilkovic for Award Film & Video.
Ilja Piperkoski’s Grandfather and his Grandson (Macedonia/Romania)
In Grandfather and his Grandson, Macedonian director-screenwriter Ilja Piperkoski portrays the story of a grandfather, who lives a peaceful and lonely life in a small village by a lake, and whose daily routine is suddenly disrupted by the arrival of his only grandson, whom he hasn’t seen in years. The strong consequences of the past then intertwine with the present, which tackle critical issues from both their lives. In the words of Piperkoski, the story is “about how even hard lives can be worthy and beautiful” and will be approached in a minimalistic, Romanian new wave-esque, style. Ognen Antov is producing for Macedonia’s Dream Factory Ltd. and Iuliana Tarnovetchi is co-producing for Romania’s Alien Film. The film, budgeted at €435,500, has already got half of the budget, including funding from the Macedonian Film Center.
Kastriot Abdyli’s Perhaps… (Macedonia)
The film Perhaps…, directed by Macedonia’s Kastriot Abdyli and written by fellow countryman Simeon Damevski, is labelled as film noir, a story about two women whose dreams are destroyed by the brutal men they are connected to and their quest for liberation. A story in the same vein as Thelma and Louise that goes from Skopje’s Old Bazar to out of the Balkans, following the style of Body Heat and elegantly showing the consequences of violence, not the outbursts themselves. Both Abdyli and Damevski are producing the film for their outfit Dardania Film, with a budget of €1,024,000, and a plan to get funding from the Macedonian Film Agency, the Kosovo Cinematography Center through a co-production partner, as well as further international investment.
Kaltrina Krasniqi’s Vera Dreams of the Sea (Kosovo)
Kosovar project Vera Dreams of the Sea is written by Doruntina Basha, directed by Kaltrina Krasniqi, and produced by actor Shkumbin Istrefi. The character-based drama tells the story of a 64-year-old woman who fights against not only her family, but also the patriarchal law and society, in order to guarantee the rights of her 30-year-old daughter, disowned by her husband because of her extramarital child. The project has already won the Best Project prize at the Czech Republic’s Midpoint. Istrefi’s Isstra Creative Factory is handling the production, with a projected budget of up to €648,250, and a clear plan to look for potential co-producers in the region (Albania and Macedonia), as well as Germany and France.