NOTE TO THE AUDIENCE
GLASGOW DOCUMENT3 FESTIVAL, OCT 21-25, 2005
Imagine if someone promised you to watch a film, but you never got to watch a film.
Imagine you wanted your money back, but got beaten up instead.
Imagine if you wanted to get back home,but your home was destroyed.
Imagine if you wanted to scream out in protest, but got lynched for screaming out in Scottish.
Imagine if you wanted to run away from here, anywhere, anyhow, but could not get even leave this building, and had nowhere to go to anyways.
Imagine if you didn’t get to watch a film, got no money back, had no home to return to, no way to get out of here, no more language, no more history… and that on top of this, the whole world was convincing you that you were actually doing fine, and that you should be proud for contributing to the creation of a new, internationally sponsored frankenstan called “Kosova”…
I am sorry for not being here with you to celebrate the United Nations’ 60th birthday in some appropriate manner, but I wanted nonetheless to tell you some background info about this film.
It was shot all in one night, almost accidentally.
I didn’t want to spend yet another ecstatic New Year’s Eve in Belgrade, so I took my camera and went for an adrenalin-fix to Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo.
I wanted to record the new iconography of the city, as well as glimpses of the hypocritical atmosphere of New Year’s Eve celebrations, as some sort of video commentary of my five years of covering the post-war Kosovo chaos for a renowned international news agency.
In Prishtina, as you might or might not know, all Serbs and Gypsies have been expelled after the war ended, some 6 years ago, and this despite the presence of tens of thousands of Rambo peacekeepers.
Only one hundred brave and lost souls chose to stay inside one downtown building, naively believing the situation in the city would improve.
What actually happened is that this aparment block became a surreal one-building ghetto, from which these people couldn’t even walk out without getting harassed or attacked.
Belgrade saw them as distant heroes of Serbian resistance, while UN authorities branded them as saviours of much-desired multiethnicity and put protective checkpoints all around.
The residents couldn’t care less. They organized their life inside the building, and lived indoors for almost five years, stuck in time and hope.
I didn’t plan to film their story, because I knew very little about it at that time. But I had to leave my bags somewhere, so I sneaked my way inside the building, got friends with the kids and … spent the whole night filming them, as you will see.
It turned out to be my best New Year’s Eve ever, and a poignant metaphor of the disgusting hypocrisy of UN peacekeeping, which people recognized and identified with at festival screenings around the world.
The film is also a unique and important document, because of what happened at the end. The empty building is now freshly repainted in white, as if nobody ever lived there… After returning to Prishtina to shoot the epilogue scene, I definitely and irreversibly quit any kind of journalism, thank God, and I am now doing documentaries only, full time.
Sorry for the technical quality of the film — it was shot in utter darkness and in quite risky circumstances — but it is also very raw and very true, and that’s what most important.
Maybe a little too long at times, but then intentionally so — just think about how it feels for these people to remain stuck inside this grotesque universe not for a few minutes, but for several years…
Maybe a little disturbing also, but I am sure that in the end, you will be more than happy to get out of this theatre and return to your homes.
Keep watching docs, not news.
Aw Ra Best