Shok: The kids with the bike are on their way to Hollywood
by Domenico La Porta
- The depth of emotion portrayed by a short film has not gone unnoticed by the Academy at this year’s Oscars
“This is not your country. Take your possessions. Leave and do not look back. If you look back we will kill you.” You don't have to have been born or have grown up in Pristina to understand the utter absurdity portrayed in this film, when a high-ranking officer from the Serbian army is tasked with throwing an Albanian family out of Kosovo one morning in 1998, while a war rages on and Kosovo is still ten years away from gaining independence.
Something you can clearly see when you consider that it was a Brit, Jamie Donaghue, who wrote and directed Shok, a British-Kosovar co-production and a film in the running for the 2016 Oscars, nominated in the category of Best Short Film (Live Action). The Academy’s recognition of this film marks a first in this small nation's history. Kosovo is celebrating a great victory; the fruit of a strategy proposed by the Kosovo Film Centre that is slowly managing to put this burgeoning film industry on the cinematographic map.
As they ride their bike, two children find themselves faced with themes of occupation, friendship, loyalty, courage and injustice. And thus we are presented with what this film seeks to address: a people's daily concerns, which, in a period of war, affect not only the adults. The children of 1998 are today's adults, both in Kosovo and its wider diaspora. They are celebrating this film’s recent worldwide success with a passionate outburst, reminding us of the role that a film, whether short or full-length, can have in the identity of a nation's culture.
Across the Atlantic, where they seem to be particularly fond of this film, audiences have been touched by this meta-lesson. Of the 16 festival prizes it has won, 13 are American, but the best may still be yet to come for Shok's crew. Jamie Donaghue will be officially representing Kosovo on the Oscars' red carpet this year. A small country, entered in a small category at this massive filmmaker's gathering, which is something that is similar to the success stories that the American film industry loves so much. Hardly a bold claim when you consider the quality of the direction and the emotion that pervades this film in just 21 minutes. The acting is not to be outdone, however, and it goes as far as to confirm the quality of young Kosovar talents, just a few months after the revelation of young Val Maloku in Visar Morina's Babai [+see also:
interview: Visar Morina
film profile]. And everyone believes it.
(Translated from French)