by Vittoria Scarpa
- Edmond Budina returns six years after releasing Balkan Bazar with a merciless portrait of modern-day Albania, devastated by political corruption, toxic waste and broken emotional bonds
From a dictatorship to uninhibited liberalism, Albania has undergone a radical transformation in the last twenty years, causing the progressive loss of the country’s values and identity. The Albania of today is almost unrecognisable to the older generations, dominated by ferocious corruption and a breakdown in emotional ties. It’s these themes that Edmond Budina dramatises in Broken [+see also:
film profile], his new feature film, screened as part of a special event at the 19th Lecce European Film Festival. Shot in just three and a half weeks in Italy, Albania and Macedonia, the third film by the Albanian director – who has been living in Italy for many years – is presented as a warning sign about the state of a country in disarray, where politicians are only concerned with their own personal gain, workers have no rights and the environment is being poisoned by toxic waste.
The two Albanias, the old and the new, are embodied by a father and son: sixty-year-old Jani, played by Budina himself, and Andi, played by Laert Vasili. After serving a prison sentence (potentially unjust) in Ancona in Italy, Jani boards the ferry back to his home country of Albania after many years. Back in Tirana, his life is unrecognisable. His wife has died, his house has been sold, and his son, who never attempted to look for him while he was in prison, has become an influential politician and is acts with complete indifference towards him. The only one of Jani's friends left is Marko (Nikolla Llambro). After refusing "charity" from Andi, who is quick to offer him somewhere to live and some money for food (as long as his ex-convict father doesn’t damage his public image), Jani decides to leave the city and return to his home town, accompanied by Marko. What he finds there isn't much better: a place in complete ruin – full of rubbish heaps – where children are forced to breathe in toxic air.
"In Albania, no one talks about the country's problems. We’ve used this film to try and make ourselves heard, in own small way," says Budina, who as well as working as a director and actor, also co-founded the Albanian Democratic Party ("our dream was to overthrow the dictatorship and create a democratic and beautiful world where everyone could be happy," he remembers). One of the film's most bitter moments is when Jani, determined to denounce the wrongdoing in his village, meets with a group of journalists who pretend to listen to him before mercilessly taking the mickey. Jani is completely alone in his struggle against the immorality of his old friends and his son, who is the main culprit of the toxic rubbish heaps. This is a hopeless portrait of Albania by Budina, in which there is no consolation, just some occasional relief thanks to irony surrounding a group of elderly gentlemen who amuse themselves with chaste stripteases and are put in their place by Gladiola Harizaj who plays a single mother with a dark past, and who Jani welcomes into his ruins. An intense drama, shot entirely using natural light, and enhanced by painful and glacial performances from Budina and Vasili respectively, as well as framed shots that are anything but banal.
Broken is an Albania/Italy/Macedonia co-production by A.B.Film, Revolver and KTFilm&Media with the support of the cultural ministries in all three countries. The film, which has already premiered at Tirana, is due to be released in Italian cinemas in May.
(Translated from Italian)
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