PriFest cancelled owing to lack of state support
by Vladan Petkovic
- The Prishtina International Film Festival loses 78% of Ministry of Culture funding one month before its seventh edition
The management of the Prishtina International Film Festival PriFest, which was scheduled to take place for the seventh time from 24 April – 1 May, has announced that it is cancelling the event owing to the fact that the Ministry of Culture informed them that the financial support has been cut by 78%.
The press release, signed by festival director Vjosa Berisha, states, “The financial support from the Ministry of Culture for PriFest traditionally, since the first edition, has been the core funding,” and points out the fact that the amount granted has not changed in seven years – that is until this decision made by the Ministry, now headed by the newly appointed Minister Kujtim Shala.
“This fact unfortunately leads us to the conclusion that this Minister (appointed just three months ago) doesn’t understand and doesn’t even want to try to understand the importance and the role that an international film festival like PriFest plays for a fragile film industry like the one in Kosovo, and also the importance that this festival has for the cultural diplomacy of a young country like Kosovo,” the text states.
Shala is also the Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, and the statement says, “He doesn’t want this event to happen in the capital of the country that he is governing. By informing us just one month before the event, in a very cynical way, he also makes it impossible for us to seek funding elsewhere and find a solution.”
Over the last seven years, PriFest has screened over 400 films and has hosted such guests as Vanessa Redgrave (who is also president of the Honorary Board of the festival), Stephen Frears, Samuel Maoz, Danis Tanovic, Eva Orner, Jasmila Zbanic, Joshua Marston and Cedomir Kolar. In addition, it has held a regional co-production platform, Prishtina Film Forum, and organised a programme dedicated to LGBT rights, in conjunction with Los Angeles’ Outfest – in a European country that is particularly infamous for its lack of tolerance of sexual minorities’ rights.
“The Prishtina Film Festival is not only the key film event in this undeservedly under-resourced part of Europe, but it is also an event that is using film as one of the tools for building a new society,” UK producer and European Film Academy deputy chairman Mike Downey declares to Cineuropa. “We the filmmakers are more than aware of its importance, which is why it has been supported by so many top people in the industry. By tackling the human rights element through screening films that raise awareness about all of the marginalised groups in society, including women, youth, the LGBT community, ethnic minorities and so on, Vjosa, Fatos [Berisha, director of Prishtina Film Forum] and their team have been playing a crucial role in rebuilding the cultural and social life of their country. To be summarily closed down like this is an act of cultural barbarism that should be immediately reversed.”
The festival will instead hold a no-budget event in Tirana, called “PriFest in Exile”, on 24 and 25 April.