Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Kosovo’s First Oscar Nominee: Shok (Friend)
Americans would be hard pressed to distinguish an Albanian from a Serbian, but
it is not a problem for the residents of a small Kosovar village. However, it
will become pretty clear for most viewers of Kosovo’s first Oscar nominated
film, simply through dramatic context. Two young Albanian boys will witness war
crimes and ethnic cleansing first hand during the Kosovo War in Jamie Donoughue’s
Shok (trailer here), which is currently
screening as part of the Academy Award nominated short film package now playing
at the IFC Center.
sight of an abandoned bicycle in the middle of the mountain highway brings it
all back for the adult Petrit. Through hard work and saving, his best friend
and fellow Albanian Oki has just bought a bike. Hoping to similarly purchase
two-wheeled mobility, Petrit has begun dealing with the Serbian paramilitaries
stationed outside of town. Petrit believes he can forge a profitable
relationship with Dragan, the commander, but Oki instinctively understands the
dangers inherent when one deals with the devil. Alas, his fears will be
vindicated when Dragan insists on appropriating Oki’s bike for his nephew.
what we might expect, Shok does not
abruptly end with the seizure of the prized bicycle. Instead, it launches a chain
of events that will greatly complicate the boys’ relationship, cutting far
deeper than any mere coming of age story. Innocence will not be the only thing
that dies in this memory play.
young Oki and Petrit, Andi Bajgora and Lum Veseli give extraordinarily poised
and disciplined performances. Thematically, the film is as serious as it gets, but they carry it with sure hands, every
step of the way. Based on the experiences of producer-co-star Eshref Durmishi
(who ironically appears as Dragan), Shok is
a fully realized narrative that follows a highly eventful dramatic arc. This is
a film with a beginning, middle, and end that seamlessly establishes each beat,
all of which have a real point.
It is hard to imagine another short edging out Shok this year, but Academy voters often
seem to use the dartboard method to vote in the short film categories. (How
else can we explain Helium beating
out Just Before Losing Everything in
2014?) Regardless, Shok represents an
important milestone for Kosovar cinema and should be quite a career stepping
stone for Donoughue. Highly recommended, the twenty-one minute Shok is now screening as part of the
live action short film nominees at the IFC Center and is also available on
Labels: Kosovar Cinema, Short Films