Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic risked the ire of nationalists at home and in Albania when he set up the first co-production between the acrimonious Balkans nations.
“Honeymoons,” playing in the Venice Days sidebar, is the result of an idea sparked by the enthusiasm with which audiences received his work when he attended Albania’s Tirana Film Festival, which was screening three of his films, in 2006.
“The audiences loved my films and nobody asked me the questions that always tend to come — about Serbian relations with Albania over Kosovo,” Paskaljevic said, referring to the Albanian-dominated territory that until last year was part of Serbia.
It was only when Paskaljevic began work on the script, co-written by Albanian painter and writer Genc Permeti and the Albanian National Film Center agreed to co-finance the $1.3 million project that “nationalists from both sides attacked it.”
With events heating up in Kosovo around the same time, the film was put on hold for six months before Serbian funding came through, allowing shooting to go ahead late last year.
The story of two couples — one Serbian, the other Albanian — who share identical dreams of escaping to a better life in Europe, “Honeymoons” continues a Paskaljevic theme of how the past exerts a grim grip over the present in the Balkans.
Paskaljevic points out a deeper message, about the common desire in Serbia and Albania to rejoin the European community of nations and of the film’s power to promote reconciliation.
“We don’t know each other and yet we are neighbors. Our goal is to encourage public debate about the problems between the two countries,” Paskaljevic said.
The film should also boost Albania’s slowly emerging film industry.
“This is a great showcase for Albanian filmmaking, demonstrating that we can attract a director of Goran’s standing to a film where cast, crew and locations were all shared between our two countries,” said Permeti.
The film, which has distribution deals for France and Spain, is due for its Serbia premier in Belgrade Nov. 24 and will open the Tirana Film Festival five days later.