Anita Elsani: Albania 1958: A boy and girl grow up together in the same village. They are the best of friends. LUANA is the daughter of a well-respected man, AGIM the son of traitors who were banned from the city by the communists. Despite these adverse circumstances, the two maintain their friendship over 10 years. As a young woman Luana experiences more and more to be a woman is a curse and takes unusal actions end her situation as a victim and gain power to decide for herself.
In your production, all the departments were foreign, very carefully interview, costly, up to Mr. Widmer-DOP (director of photography) who worked with the most prominent directors in Hollywood and Polanski’s film “The Pianist”, deserved an Oscar.
What was the reason that at the head of all this crusade, the director Bujar Alimani was elected?
Bujar Alimani is one of the few internationally renowned directors in Albania. His film Amnestia is one of the most interesting Albanian films and since we wanted someone from the country where the story takes place, we approached him. He himself is experienced the communist regime in the first 22 years of his life and could relate to the time in the story. It was a good teamwork and we trusted him with this script, very important for me and the writer Katja Kittendorf.
How did it feel when Bujar Alimani, the film director, climbed the stage of the Warsaw Film Festival twice to win the two important awards that were awarded to him?
I was not attending the award ceremony, but we were together the evening before in Tirana and were very excited and joyful, when we received the message.
My parents are from Kosovo and we went in the 80ties on vacation every summer. You grow up with two cultures. In addition, especially as a girl, you notice how the freedom of choice decreases as soon as you enter your teenage years… However, many positive and joyful memories were also made at that time. The water game with the bottles that we played for hours, the big family – the sense of community and the overwhelming nature around us….
For me, this project was a way to reconnect with my origins, the roots of my family, to get closer to them. In the 90s, we were cut off from our relatives by the war in the former Yugoslavia and it was 15 years later and especially through this project, that I found my way back. That’s why the award in Warsaw means a lot to me.
There is no market for the sale of film in Albania. Despite all this, Albanian directors are present in many International Film Festivals.
How do you explain this gap between the quality level and the impossibility of film circulation, mainly in the Albanian market and beyond?
The Albanian market for Albanian Films is running through mainly the digital platform. When we speak of an Albanian Market, we talk about a few tv channels and a handful of cinemas in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. I think that the platforms soon will realize this gap and at least close it on their platforms.
In the production of the film “The Albanian Virgin”, what was your, emotional world of quaint?
When I traveled through Albania with the writer Katja Kittendorf, for the research to the screenplay, we met two Albanian virgins who told us about their lives, their experiences. On the one hand, this tradition seems very odd in such a patriarchal country. On the other hand, I found this choice of becoming the head of the family as a man very impressive and even progressive in some way. A person changes her/his gender in the community and the whole village accepts it. Receives particularly much of respect taking that decision. As a woman you suddenly experiences great freedom, but at the same time also a great loneliness. She/He will never have his own family or a partner.
But overall it is not only about the Burrnesha or changing gender in this film, but also about the rules of the Kanun, the role of women in this region. The portrait of an unusual life. If you try to follow all the rules and try to do everything right, you can lose everything… as a woman.
What Is Your Purpose in Life?
This is one of the most important questions of mankind for centuries, isn’t it? Let me just say one thing, that I love to tell stories and want to convey a message or at least a feeling to the world. THE ALBANIAN VIRGIN is the most personal film I have produced. When I read an article in the New York Times in 2009, I had an inner urge to tell the story of these women in Albania. With writer Katja Kittendorf we developed this extraordinary script and over a long period of time Luana’s story was brought to life. Katja is brave and trusted me 100% to get involved with a culture she didn’t know and yet hit everything precisely. Sometimes the view from the outside helps to see things even more clearly and to recognize the truth. I want to tell extraordinary stories that reach a wide audience and leave something with the viewer.
You want to keep reinventing yourself?
Who wouldn’t want that? The older you get, the more challenging it is … But I think you have to open yourself up and keep breaking new ground.
Your message for the utopian world?
Keep telling stories that are close to you. The definition of success can be varied and it is often forgotten that it is already a great success to have completed a project. This can not be taken away from you. The film will remain even if we are long gone…