I met BAFTA Award winning director Daniel Mulloy in Prishtina in early 2015.
Being deeply concerned by the refugee crisis, Daniel wanted to make a movie that would speak to the West.
As a refugee myself who returned home with help from the international community I shared Daniel’s passion. We decided to create a piece of art that would ask for dignity for the world’s displaced individuals, and the short film Home was born.
From the beginning, we set two goals:
- To promote the rights of refugees and migrants, and
- To show Kosovo as a place with resources to do such movies with relatively low costs.
We were able to galvanize much support in a short period of time. The UN Kosovo Team started the financing, and we fundraised the rest, receiving around US$1 million in in-kind contributions.
Eventually, everything was set: More than 25 different entities and 500 staff, actors, crew, and extras were locked in; the scenes were ready. Now we were just missing military personnel and armoured vehicles.
We decided to talk with the Kosovo Security Force – an entity run by Kosovo authorities – and the Minister promised all the help we needed. But everyone recognized the political difficulties this would bring. The war scenes would be filmed in ethnically diverse areas where many Serb, Albanian, Roma and Croatian communities live. Armed conflict is still fresh in their memory, and we were especially concerned that KSF might be associated with the majority community.
We were worried the film could raise interethnic tensions, ironically the very same the film was trying to prevent.
In order to avoid confusion, fear, or misunderstandings, we talked with the community and municipal officials. We brought the deputy Prime Minister who represents the Kosovo Serb community to the field site before filming. The Graçanicë/Gračanica deputy mayor would escort us during the filming of these scenes.
The curious residents came out to observe. Little by little, they started talking to the crew and KSF personnel, later exchanging cigarettes, food, and drinks. As the day went on, families offered the crew and KSF personnel use of their toilets instead of the public latrines installed by the film crew. I heard individuals cracking jokes and laughing.
People who would most likely avoid talking to each other on the street had become friendly.
For me, this moment represented reconciliation at its best.
People wanted to participate in the telling of this humanitarian story and felt proud that such a production was taking place in their neighbourhood.
Those who became involved in the production process – Kosovans from different ethnic backgrounds, walks of life, and politics, Kosovo Police, Emergency Services and Firefighters, politicians, actors, artists and crew seemed to only care about the production and the message it would send. People of Kosovo, facing many difficulties of their own in the past and present, wanted to tell the story, share the humanitarian message and prove themselves artistically.
That day, I realized the power art holds.
The most effective method of reconciliation is to not mention the word reconciliation at all.
When you provide people the chance to work together, interesting things can happen regardless of ethnicity or any other social label.
Short film Home won the main award in the Palm Springs International ShortsFest 2016, thus qualifying for the Academy Awards.
October 5, 2016 by Shpend Qamili
This blog was originally published at the Regional UNDP website blog section link