Part II—Past experiences and journeying on to the feature film
K: How has your experience with shorts prepared you for your first feature?
M: I think this is the right time for my first feature. I have been involved in many shorts and have been going through this process for years. I have also worked on my feature script for two years and I owe everything to the work I’ve done so far. Through my previous works, I learnt the process, and that is very important when making a film. I believe that although, yes, the length is different, but the process itself is the same. Above all, I have learnt a lot about working with professional and non-professional actors, and how to manage many other difficult situations. These will all help me with my feature.
K: Please tell us a little about your feature film, where the idea came from, and where you are in its process?
We won a fund from Kosovo Cinematography Center that is for filmmakers making their first feature. The film is titled “Andromeda Galaxy” and is a story about a father who lives far from his daughter, as he is unable to take care of her financially. He is also tackling Alzheimer’s and fears both being forgotten by his daughter and forgetting his daughter. He starts to prepare her for a swimming competition where he wants her to win first place. Maya Angelou said that people will forget what you say and do, but people will never forget how you make them feel. This is a reality that people with Alzheimer’s live with, and I want the emotional experience to create an unforgettable memory for the father and daughter.
My grandfather inspired me. I lived with my grandparents and we were inseparable, but when I was fourteen, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He played the trumpet, and during that time, he wanted me to record a song with him. According to him, this song would be something I would never forget. When he was in his last stage of Alzheimer’s, I was eighteen and I played him the song, which made him very emotional. I always wanted my first feature to have this connection between the characters. If all goes according to plan, we will start filming my first feature next year (2019) in May.
K: In your short films, the lead characters are women who are largely silent, oppressed figures – how will this change in your feature, and why have you chosen to go with a male lead this time?
I am asked this a lot as all of my work so far have had female leads. This is a male protagonist, but there is also the daughter, and I will touch on many other female stories and problems that will be secondary stories in the film.
K: What challenges do you face as a filmmaker right now and have there been any problems with inequality for you when working in the film industry?
M: A lot of people do not know this, but in Albanian cinematography, one of the first successful directors was Xhanfise Keko, and she was a female director. I feel very lucky because I was very confident going into directing—I always had someone to relate to. I also refused to be told that I couldn’t do anything because I am a girl or woman. I find myself very fortunate as I have never experienced inequality and have always been supported by my crew.
In Kosovo, the film industry is quite different. In the past there was a stereotype that men should be directors because they are authoritative and strong. Then, came many female directors who won international awards and brought so much success to Kosovo. A large part of the success that happened in our cinema came from female directors. Even nowadays in our film school, there is a good balance because many girls go to study film too. I like this a lot, but what I don’t like is how there aren’t enough female stories being told.
K: As a filmmaker, who or what have been your biggest influences?
M: My biggest influence is daily life, the problems that we face as citizens of this country, and the stories that people of my country tell me everyday. People know that I deal with social issues, so they often come to me and tell me stories of what they have experienced. These are people whose stories would otherwise go unheard. Therefore, I always say they are the people I look up to, my motivation and inspiration for making films.
K: What words of advice would you give all other up-and-coming female filmmakers?
We should be very persistent in our journey and aim for what we want. Never allow anyone to tell us that we cannot go further and achieve something. We should never say no for an answer and always continue until we accomplish what we want. No one is going to come to our doors with what we want, we have to go and take it with hard work and persistence.
K: If you could use one sentence to describe your work and goals as a filmmaker, what would it be?
M: I want to bring reality to the screen to change people’s minds about realities in the world.
Trailer for “Ajo”
© Katusha Jin (7/29/18) FF2 Media
Photo Credits: London Flair PR
To read part I of the interview, please click here.