In the tradition of East European tragi-comedy, “Tirana Year Zero” is a gently funny, informative film with a stubbornly utopian message: Albanians should stay in their country and rebuild it. Director Fatmir Koci (“Necrology”) doesn’t sugarcoat the ugliness of life in today’s trigger-happy, post-communist Tirana, yet finds reason to love it anyway. It’s a decent item for niche programming.
Niku (Nevin Mecaj) is a young truck driver who loves Klara (Ermela Teli), an attractive girl planning to go to Paris and be a model. He refuses to leave. Koci paints an honest if surreal picture of the world Niku opts for: unpaved streets with useless objects smoldering by the roadside, a traffic cop with a Kalashnikov, a train that runs out of fuel and dumps passengers, armed moviegoers and general poverty. The ugly, dirty, run-down concrete buildings are full of quarreling neighbors, but also ties of affection. A distraught father frets about his daughter in Italy, who never writes but sends him TV sets. Austrian thesp Lars Rudolph appears as an addled German who buys one of Albania’s 400,000 bunkers to take back to Berlin on Niku’s truck.