Producer refurbishes unused theater
A film producer and owner of Kosovo’s first private cinema in the newly independent state’s capital, Pristina, is planning to reopen a cinema in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica in October
Nehat Fejza, 32, who runs Pristina-based Concordia Pictures, last year opened the 90-seat Kino Studio in an old print works in Pristina, which also houses his offices, production and editing suites.
The success of the e35,000 ($50,000) private investment project has spurred him to invest a further e25,000 ($40,000) in refurbishing a long unused cinema in Mitrovica, the scene of fierce protests by Serb residents after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17.
The European Union and U.S.-backed independence of Kosovo — long opposed by Serb nationalists until the election of a pro-EU administration in January — had brought immediate benefits to Kosovo’s small film industry, Fejza said.
“As soon as independence was achieved, a state film fund that had been established two years ago but not functioning, started working and now filmmakers can access a e500,000 ($750,000) annual fund,” said Fejza who was in Sarajevo late August for regional co-production event CineLink, which is part of the city’s annual film festival.
He said the fact that the World Bank, Intl. Monetary Fund and other international organizations had opened offices is already benefiting credit lines with finance now available over much longer terms than was the case before independence.
The new stability had given him the confidence to begin work on the cinema in Mitrovica, which is a challenging project not least because it is right at the southern approach to the bridge over the river that divides the town into Serbian and Albanian ethnic districts.
“The cinema — which will also be branded as Kino Studio, but will screen largely European and art house fare — is surrounded by peacekeeping troop positions. You even have to show your identity card to enter the cinema, which is my biggest concern about the project,” Fezja said, adding that there were tentative plans to make a documentary about that aspect of opening the cinema.
Backed by Mitrovica’s mayor and former Kosovan Prime Minister Bajram Rexhpi, Fejza sees the 320-seat cinema as a venue for showing regional Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian and Serbian films.
“I’d like to attract Serbs from the northern side of the bridge to come and see films there; politics has just turned everything upside down — we always used to watch film together and I believe film is something that can bring people together.”
Fejza, who in his role as a distributor owns the rights to a growing catalogue of regional film, wants to create film events with directors, actors and producers of regional films presenting their work at the cinema.
“Cinema should be a factor in reconciliation between people,” he said.
It’s a philosophy that spills over into his life as a producer. Currently, with Irish, German and Albanian co-producers, he is working on a e800,000 ($1.2 million) black comedy, “The Power Cuts,” about a couple of young western Europeans whose prejudices about Kosovo are stripped away when they visit the country.
Fejza, who studied in Belgium, America and Austria and is currently participating in a European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs training scheme for producers, says the project is partially informed by his own experience of the ignorance and prejudice he encountered about Kosovo during his own travels.