The first ever film festival in Kosovo was held in autumn 2009. It managed to attract a number of film artists from both the region and abroad. The Pri Film Fest took place in Pristina from Sept. 22 to 30, screening a total of twenty five movies and boasting a jury headed by British actress Vanessa Redgrave. The presence of this Academy Award and Golden Globe winner helped attract participants, and also led to media frenzy in Kosovo.
The festival's winning film - which garnered a "Golden Goddess" Award (Hyjnesha e art) - was "Snow" (2008) by director Aida Begić from Bosnia and Herzegovina. "East, West, East: The Final Sprint" (2009) by Albania's Gjergj Xhuvani took home the jury's Special Award. Afghani author Siddiq Barmak was named best director for "Opium War" (2008), while the Audience's Award went to Albanian director Fatmir Ko i's "Time of the Comet" (2008).
Most news about Kosovo that have reached the rest of the world have focused on political events, leaving local cultural and artistic developments marginalised. One of the goals of this international film festival was, thus, to bring attention to Kosovo's cultural activities.
Festival director Vjosa Berisha believes that the Pri Film Fest will gradually attract more and more well-known foreign artists, and that cooperative ties will also develop in due time.
"I think that the festival will gradually make Kosovo known and interesting in the art world. On the other hand, Kosovo's cinematography has many shortcomings due to low budgets and insufficient ties with foreign productions. We still don't have films to present us to the world. Festivals like this offer a good chance for institutions to help the further development of [Kosovo] cinematography. It also gives artists the opportunity to network with other art communities in the world, and opens the door to cooperation," said the festival director.
Berisha emphasised that the Pri Fest had many high-quality films for a first-time festival, and pointed out that the event opened with the world premier of Gjergj Xhuvani's "East-West-East”.
The festival programme consisted of a competition selection and a non-competition selection. The competition included works from Afghanistan, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Albania, the United Kingdom and Germany, while the non-competition category - entitled "Winners" - included several films nominated for the Academy Awards, and films that won prizes at the Berlin and Cannes film festivals.
Also shown were films made in Kosovo prior to and following the 1999 war.
Isa Qosja, a film director from Kosovo and member of the festival's jury, pointed out to the value of such events in an environment where few films are produced. "People might think that festivals are a kind of luxury. But they're not. I think that Kosovo truly needs a festival like the Pri Film Fest," Qosja says.
"Considering that it started well, that it has made a place for itself, that it is supported by [film] authors, at least those from the region, I believe this festival has to continue and that it will soon find itself on the agendas of important and prominent international festivals," Qosja concluded.
Festival director Berisha said she was pleased with the outcome of the first Pri Fest, especially given the limited budget the organisers had at their disposal.
"The festival has had good reviews from various foreigners that visited it. For instance, we are proud that someone like Vanessa Redgrave said in an interview: `There are A- and B-list festivals. The Pri Film Fest will be on the A list from now on.' So, the festival is considered successful. We are happy that artists received the festival fairly well and we also had a lot of viewers. All in all, the festival made Pristina look different for 10 days and brought a new life to it," Berisha concludes.
* Under UNSCR 1244/1999