Film festival brings the world to Kosovo

PRIZREN (Reuters): The medieval fortress overlooking the southern Kosovo town of Prizren is one of the striking venues for Dokufest, a film festival that has become one of the Balkan country’s biggest cultural events.

Screening international short films and documentaries since 2002, the event has become a window into the world for local young people who face difficulties travelling abroad.

Dokufest is known for its five open-air cinemas located between mosques and churches that testify to the town’s diverse cultural and religious heritage.

Two screens sit atop the Prizren fortress, another in a square near the 17th-century, Ottoman-era Sinan Pasha Mosque and another one on a platform rising from the shallow Lumbardhi River that cuts the town in two.

“Dokufest has brought the world here,” said Veton Nurkollari, the festival’s artistic director.

“In the absence of us not being able to travel abroad we brought the world here with people, films, possibilities, friendship.”

With their country still beset by ethnic tensions since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovars need visas to travel to EU countries. And with Kosovo only recognised by around 110 other countries, their passport is among the weakest in the world.

There are more than 200 documentaries and films in this year’s edition of Dokufest, including entries from Colombia, Tanzania, Britain, Canada and the United States.

The theme is artificial intelligence, and the question of whether AI or human intelligence is worst.

Jude Chehab is a Lebanese-American filmmaker who is participating in the festival with her film Q, which tells the story of the influence a secretive Lebanese religious order had on three generations of women in her family.

She says documentary film-makers may be safe for now from AI.

“We do something so real and on the ground and genuine like I make a personal film about my mother. The intimacy that I got no AI can take that away from us,” Chehab said.