Albania to enter ‘Pharmakon’ for Oscars

Pic centers on melancholy pharmacist

HELSINKI — After last year’s row over its Oscar nomination, Albania is poised to announce a unanimously backed movie for the best foreign language pic at next year’s Academy Awards.

Joni Shanaj’s “Pharmakon” is the Balkans country’s only feature made in the past year that meets the Oscar submission requirements.

The film, produced by Touchy Feely Films and Zig-Zag Film, is due to be announced in Tirana Friday by Artan Minoralli, head of the Albanian National Cinematic Center.

“Pharmakon” is about a melancholy 25-year-old pharmacist (Klevis Bega), overshadowed by his cancer specialist father, who dreams of devising a drug that will cure unhappiness.

He falls in love with a nurse (Olta Gixhari) who works with his father, complicating their relationship further.

Last year Albania submitted Joshua Marston’s “The Forgiveness of Blood,” but the film was disqualified after the choice was challenged by director Bujar Alimani, who claimed it failed to meet Oscar nomination rules regarding local crew, language and content.

Alimani’s “Amnesty” was substituted instead.

An Albanian film industry insider told Variety Tuesday that this year’s entry had been thoroughly checked out. “Albania had several film productions (in the past year), but only ‘Pharmakon’ meets the Oscar requirements. And, believe me, no one wants to go down that road again.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the five nominees for best foreign film on Jan. 10. The 85th Academy Awards ceremony takes place Feb. 24.

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