An Ominous Full Moon Morphing into a Hopeful Yellow Balloon

in 13th Prishtina International Film Festival

by Malik Berkati

The 13th edition of the Pristina Film Festival (August 24-29, 2021) was impacted, like all cultural events, by the pandemic afflicting the world for the past year and a half. Despite this, the two co-founders of the festival – Vjosa Berisha, festival director, and Fatos Berisha, artistic director – and their exceptional team, managed to put together a high-quality edition and a rich and varied global program. Among the seven productions selected in the Balkan Films Competition, Full Moon (Pun Mjesec, 2019) by Nermin Hamzagić leads us into the soft underbelly of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Despite a low budget, the Bosnian director offers a dizzying immersion into the topography of a society plagued by corruption and a lack of post-war perspective – a recurring theme in many films presented in this section.

In its unity of place and time, Full Moon takes us into the crazed night of Hamza (Alban Ukaj); he is worried about his wife, who is due to give birth but is facing complications. He cannot stay by her side, as the police manager has no one to replace him. The moon is full, like his wife’s belly; it will surreptitiously instill fantasy in the hyper-realism of this gloomy police station, with its dirty basements where Hamza brings the people arrested during the night to sordid cells.

The film is carried by the subtle, interior acting of Alban Ukaj, a Kosovar actor born in Prishtina, seen among others in Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020) and in The Marriage (2017), which represented Kosovo at the Oscars; or in The Silence of Lorna by the Dardenne Brothers in 2008. Hamza is not a hero; he is an ambivalent man who, in a kind of epiphany when he meets the little Tarik who pops out of nowhere in an empty corridor, tries to get out of a corrupted system from which he has, until now, benefited. Corruption at all levels, clientelism, lack of ethics – even among the doctors who do not give him news of his wife on the phone because he did not bribe them, physical and psychological violence exercised by state agents, but also within the community by individuals, are represented all night long through the encounters that Hamza makes in the corridors of the police station. There are very revealing incisions in the sluggish engine of society, such as the solitude of those whose children have emigrated, or war widows, who have had to raise their children alone. A lost generation emerges, which has only one dream: leaving the country or, when this is not possible, surviving at all costs regardless of others.

A simple man, Muhamed (Izudin Bajrovic), a balloon seller, is going to wake up this small world mired in this mafia universe by shouting: “I wish I were killed in 1993 not to see what we have become!”

The long corridors that Hamza walks all night concentrate on the situation in which the country finds itself. The screenplay, co-written by the director with Emina Omerović, in a holistic approach, sharply highlights the impact of politics on the citizen, the organic interweaving of the collective and the individual. The original European cinematic setting, in which Hamzagić is ensconced, allows us to enter the everyday lives of citizens of modest condition, with its many shadows and few bursts of light. Full Moon’s desaturated aesthetic visually provides a mirror to the pallid states in which the protagonists stand. This cinematographic strength, also carried by an often-subjective camera (the director of photography is Amel Ðikoli) and a rigorous editing of space and frames, is combined with powerful metaphors that illuminate the story with bright colors and endow it with a bit of hope.  The new life of Hazam’s son, with its delicate metaphor of a yellow balloon announcing a new generation ready to take flight, makes us believe in the reconstruction of a country and a society.

Malik Berkati