Opening 19 Sep 2019
Writing credits: Robert Budina, Sabina Kodra
Principal actors: Osman Ahmeti, Arben Bajraktaraj, Suela Bako, Estela Pysqyli, Irena Cahani
Besnik (Arben Bajraktaraj) lives with his extended family in an isolated village high in the mountains of Albania. He herds his sheep and, in his free time, sculpts beautiful artwork. Unusual is that Besnik comes from mixed religions: his deceased mother was Catholic and his father is Muslim, which gives him an extended family from both religions. In the mosque, during prayers, he happens to peel off a bit from the wall, where he finds an unusual painting. It is a holy, sacred, Catholic image. The Muslims are shocked to find this in their mosque. Soon the community must face the truth: In 1470 this was a church, which the Catholics generously shared with the Muslims, until they were pushed out and the church became a mosque. Besnik, with his dual-religious background, finds it logical to return to this former custom: share again. While the villagers argue, Besnik has his own personal conflict at home. His brother Alban (Osman Ahmeti), who moved out years ago, has returned with plans to stay and, according to his forceful personality, take over as head of the family. This disruption leads to the family dividing the house, eating dinner on opposites of a wall.
Here, divisions are the topic – both within a family and within a community. Director Robert Budina said that he learned a true story from the 1400s about different religions sharing one House of God in Shkodra, Albania. Originally known as the Church of the Holy Stephanus, it became a mosque with the arrival of Sultan Mehmet Fatih and the change-over to the Ottoman Empire. Six days a week the Muslims prayed and one day it was open to the Christians. Budina said he did not make a film about religion or history, nor about the role of Communism (and its influence on religion) in Albania, but “I wanted to make a personal, intimate, subjective film about the personal relationships of a single person to his community, family, love, religion, God and nature.” Nature! See the film for the gorgeous photography of beautifully isolated areas, and naturally for the talented Albanian actors, as well as the interesting music which fits well into this Albanian agricultural society. (Becky Tan)