October 5, 2021 | Tuesday

Kosovo is a small country but with great stories – Samir Karahoda, author of the film “Displaced”

Despite the socio-economic difficulties, 2021 has been labelled as a golden year for Kosovo’s cinematography. Filmmakers from Kosovo managed to premiere their films and win prizes in the world’s most renowned film festivals. It all started in February 2021, when Blerta Basholli’s “Hive” made history by becoming the first foreign film that wins three main prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. The film won the Audience Award, Directing Award, and World Cinema Grand Jury Prize. “The Hill Where Lionesses Roar” by Luana Bajrami, was nominated at Cannes Film Festival, for best camera, while Norika Sefa’s film “Looking for Venera” was another success story, winning numerous awards at the Roterdam, Hong Kong, Venice and Sarajevo film festival. In September Kaltrina Krasniqi’s film “Vera Dreams of the Sea” was nominated at five categories and won two prizes at the Venice International Film Festival.

After having its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Samir Karahoda’s “Displaced” won Best Short Film award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and qualified directly to compete for Oscars 2022. To learn more about the film, we interviewed the author Samir Karahoda.

  •  What is the film “Displaced” about, and how did you get the idea to create such a film?

“Displaced” is based on the true story of the most successful ping-pong club in Kosovo, the ping-pong club “Lidhja e Prizrenit,” from Prizren. The film addresses a topic that I think should have been addressed earlier: how our athletes and children cope with the lack of space to develop their talent. So, through the sport of ping-pong, I, as an artist, send a message and at the same time try to raise awareness of this problem by extending it to other aspects and topics, such as neglect of athletes or migration, which is a problem that our society still faces nowadays.

I first encountered this barrier that our athletes faced in the years 2004-2005, and since then, nothing has changed in this club. On the contrary, even today, as we speak, athletes continue their exercises in abnormal conditions. So, their story, unfortunately, remains the same. 

  • The film was awarded the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival/TIFF. What were the comments you received?

The film has had and continues to have a magnificent and promising journey. Our latest award at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) is among the greatest recognition I have ever received. TIFF is recognized as the most outstanding public festival globally and one of the most important festivals in North America. Also, the festival ranks in the TOP 5 in the category of the most important festivals in the world. So, with this award, we have won the right to embark on the next important journey, the Oscars nomination. The film was mainly appreciated for the theme and the way I have covered the story. At the same time, both films are also appreciated for the photography as a key integral part of the narrative.

  • For you as the author of the film, how important is the award won at TIFF?

The TIFF Award is normally prestigious and extremely important, an award that opens up new opportunities, an award that is priceless but is an investment for the future. But I want to add that our participation in the Cannes Film Festival has probably been the most incredible thing we have had so far. So after the presentation of the film in Cannes, I received many offers, and I continue to receive offers from various countries of the world for cooperation and opportunities to support future projects, which I carefully consider and assess, and I do not want to do something that does not emotionally complete me. With the presence in Cannes, I understood much better how vital participation is and how much I can influence the transformation of an author where the doors and opportunities open for future projects.

  • What are your suggestions for young filmmakers?

Do not rush! Kosovo is a small country but has great stories. The fact that Kosovo is small does not mean that we are tiny. I have worked on both films with a 100% Kosovan team. This best proves that no matter what country we live in, under what conditions we work, when we get together, we are equal and maybe even stronger than many more developed countries; I’m talking from a cinema point of view. Work, work, work … hard work one day will definitely be appreciated. If not here, it will be appreciated somewhere else and will open new opportunities. I think we should not hold prejudice that living in Kosovo brings nothing! We are a democratic and open country. We should look for opportunities ourselves through, not through complaints! Hard work, dedication, consultation, and collaboration with colleagues are the ways I have always applied, and I think it has worked.

  • What are the expectations for the Oscars?

We should not be euphoric. At the same time, we are also a candidate for the European Film Academy, where the Cannes Film Festival nominated us as the best European film, known as the European Oscars. We are still evaluating and reviewing the strategy of whether to apply this year or next for the Oscars. Since the film had a highly successful journey through festivals and has not yet turned three months, we will be present at over 20 festivals selected by us, as we have received many invitations. By participating in the Oscars, we think we would shorten the life of the film. However, still, we have a little time left to decide, it is an important decision that I think we should get some more advice from people in the industry and similar experience. However, nomination from a festival like TIFF gives us hope because it is a significant festival, especially in the US, and it will indeed be perceived differently by the film academy members.

  • Plans for the future?

As I mentioned above, at the moment, I am considering some potential projects and ideas for development. Still, at the same time, I am under pressure with exciting offers coming from different countries that I am considering. However, life in Kosovo continues, as it has always been, and I always hope to be the same and proud to present myself as a Kosovan.