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SARAJEVO 2017 Competition

Daybreak: Between the ethical and the existential


- Albanian filmmaker Gentian Koçi's first feature is a film of psychological and emotional subtlety

Daybreak: Between the ethical and the existential
Ornela Kapetani (centre) in Daybreak

Albanian filmmaker Gentian Koçi tells us straight away what the heroine of his debut feature Daybreak [+see also:
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, which just world-premiered in Sarajevo Film Festival's competition, must take on in order to survive. As the film begins, young mother Leta (Ornela Kapetani) wakes up to feed her infant child, just minutes before the landlord of her tiny apartment on the outskirts of Tirana knocks on the door, demanding three months rent that is still outstanding. 

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Carrying her son, Leta trudges through the mud between dilapidated houses and abandoned construction sites, to the bus stop where she has to push her way through the crowd so she can get downtown to leave her child with a babysitter (who is also demanding payment), and then rush to meet her part-time employer. Ariana (Jonida Beqo) is a well-off woman married in France, and Leta takes care of her bedridden mother Sofia (Suzana Prifti).

Leta is more than well-equipped for the job, being a former nurse who got fired for providing illegal euthanasia. Sofia's painful condition will bring this matter back to the surface and into soft focus. The issue literally becomes existential for Leta when she is thrown out of her apartment by her landlord and must move to Sofia's place with her son without telling Ariana. Meanwhile the postman who delivers Sofia's retirement money slowly comes into the picture with increasing  significance. 

Leta is not only confronted by a poor and corrupt society, but she must also face her own ethical norms head-on. What is morality if you and your child have no roof over your head, and no food to put on the table? How can you end a person's pain if it means losing even more than your already uncertain material security? 

Daybreak is a film of psychological and emotional subtlety, and Koçi goes about the film’s issues with carefully measured steps. Most of the action takes place in indoors, and Sofia's apartment becomes a microcosm for Leta's struggles. Working with experienced Greek DoP Ilias Adamis (Correction, Chromium [+see also:
film review
interview: Bujar Alimani
film profile
), the director creates an elaborate mise-en-scène in which every little movement of the actors' faces is minutiously complemented by the lighting and camera distance, especially in scenes shared by the two marvellous actresses, Kapetani and Prifti. No exposition is required, and due to Sofia's poor health, she is often unable to speak or move. So when one day Leta finds her, surprisingly, sitting on a sofa with her small son in her arms, the scene is particularly impactful.

Daybreak is a strong debut from a filmmaker whose earlier credits include no less than nine different areas, from writer-director to cinematographer to location management. On this film he focused on writing, directing and producing, and obviously picked a more than solid crew to come up with an accomplished and subtly touching drama. 

The film was co-produced by Koçi's Tirana-based Artalb Film and the Greek company Graal Films. Wide Management has the international rights.

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