PriFest is engaged in true cultural diplomacy for a new country like Kosovo
Since its beginning, PriFest has offered its audience the newest films from Europe, the Balkans, and the world, in order to rebuild a cinema culture after many years of repression and war. In addition, the festival presents special programs promoting human rights, tolerance and acceptance for marginalized groups in society.
It should be recalled that due to drastic funding cuts by the newly appointed Minister of Culture in 2015, Prishtina International Film Festival was cancelled. This provoked its management to rebel and protest by taking the festival into exile in Tirana, Albania, where they held a special edition without any budget. The echoes of this action spread widely and gained the festival great support from regional, European and worldwide film industries.
Prishtina International Film Festival came back home last year with a very strong edition. PriFest's has brought this year to Prishtina more than 70 films including 7 world premieres, many international, regional and Kosovo premieres.The mix included four competition programs: the European film competition, the Balkan film competition (also known as Honey and Blood Cinema), the mid-length competition (comprised of 25-60 min length films) and as of this year, the documentary film program. This last category specifically promotes documentaries treating subjects related to human rights and the environment.
Awareness of the environment is topic which is raised in the section called Green Film Project and is supported by Bechtel-Enka. This project achieves its objectives through a target group of youth aged 15-30 years old, inviting them to produce short films (15 sec - 3 min) which elaborate on an environmentally-related topic of their choice. Projects selected by PriFest then compete for the Green Goddess award and a professional camera. Winner of Green Film Project award 2017 was Arian Bytyçi for LET US BREATH.
The Specials program promotes winners of prestigious festivals like Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and Venice, as well as Academy Award winners, to give Kosovar audiences the opportunity to follow the most prominent films from these global events. Meanwhile, the Focus program, which promotes the films of a specific country or director, and the Let It Be program, which is a result of cooperation with Outfest LA, try to raise awareness and promote tolerance by offering more knowledge, information and understanding through cinema and feature films.
PriFest is not the only festival in the Balkans with a special LGBT-themed program (produced in partnership with Outfest in Los Angeles), but it does provide opportunities for young filmmakers from Kosovo, who have significant limitations to free travel in Europe and elsewhere, to meet filmmakers and experts from the region and throughout Europe. This also increases their chances for networking and locating coproducers for their films.
That's why PriFest offers training, lectures, and master classes by distinguished guests such as Vanessa Redgrave (British actress) who is also the President of their Honorary Board; Stephen Frears (British director), and Danis Tanovic (Bosnian director). All this effort allows the festival organizers to think that "PriFest is a true cultural diplomacy tool for a new country like Kosovo to present itself to the world in the best possible light."
Prishtina International Film Festival also pays great attention to the film industry. PriFORUM is the festival's regional film industry development platform that consists of a number of industry events which serve to gather filmmakers from the Balkans and Europe in Kosovo. PriFORUM partners with many organizations and networks from the region and across Europe. A series of workshops, master classes and lectures are held for students, audiences and young filmmakers.
In order to give a chance for participants to articulate their ideas and stories in ‘speed date’ style / one-on- one meetings, Prishtina Rendezvous aims to bring together talented people from the Balkan region to offer them a chance to meet with international distributors and sales agents. Over 200 producers, distributors, representatives of film markets, sales companies, film funds, film professionals from Europe and the region, as well as representatives of film festivals attended this year’s edition.
PriForum Days is also a gathering of filmmakers, comprised of panel discussions and presentations by international experts on different subjects related to the film industry, such as distribution, international sales, coproduction, and financing. It also includes workshops for actors and students.
Four Kosovo film projects in the post-production phase got the opportunity to present parts of their films in front of salespeople, distributors and agents, as well as other international film festival selectors.
"Best Pitch" is a 4-day program designed to present the projects of first or second feature films of directors in the development and funding process. PriFest offers them pitching courses, particularly in the fields of screenplay, audience and financing. HIVE by Blerta Basholli, Kosovo, was the winner of PostProduction award at Best Pitch 2017. This prize consists of 80,000 euros in services. Second Place went to SIRIN by Senad Sahmanovic from Montenegro.
In addition to screenings, PriFest's newest program, Kosovo’s Rising Stars, showcases the work of 10 local artists before film industry guests. Artists being considered as assets for the country, PriFest tries to takes a real part in their career by showing this potential during the event.
In cooperation with the Sarajevo Film Academy (SFA), PriFest offers two scholarships for students who want to study Film Directing in this academy. PriFest offers this opportunity to support high school graduates and university undergraduates. SFA is the most renowned film academy in the Balkan region.
Last but not the least is the organization of two opening and closing ceremonies : one in the National Theater, and the other, at the 'Zahir Pajaziti' square, in the Open Air cinema.
All the gatherings take place in front of the stairs of the National Theater without any barriers to the street. Therefore all walkers and wanderers can see everybody and take part in the musical programs.
One hopes that all these efforts can help to reconnect the people of Kosovo with the cinema and achieve the desired cultural diplomacy for this country.
Edited by Michael Sicinski
© FIPRESCI 2017