You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Open Door’ Helmer on Road Movies, Ancient Traditions, Social Pretensions

Albanian director Florenc Papas, an alumnus of the Sarajevo Talents program, is in competition at the Sarajevo Film Festival with his feature film debut, “Open Door.” The road movie follows two sisters, Rudina and the pregnant and unmarried Elma, who embarks on a journey to visit their strict and traditional father in the remote mountain village where they were born. Papas, who also works as a programmer at the Tirana Film Festival, is currently developing his next project, “Luna Park.” He has also taken part in the Berlinale Talents program, the Midpoint script and project development platform and the Goethe-Institut First Films First initiative. Papas spoke to Variety about his film, centuries-old traditions, the struggles of Albanian filmmakers and the civil unrest that engulfed his country in 1997, a period the filmmaker will explore in his sophomore feature.

What inspired you to make “Open Door”?

As a filmmaker, I’m drawn to the road movie, especially right now when so many of us are attached to our phones and social media. Everybody knows everything. Even Google is mapping the bottom of the ocean. I think the road movie still offers the promise of escape, change, adventure, salvation. This journey definitely changes the characters in my film, characters that I have met in my real life.

To what extent is the film a commentary on the clash between family and strong local traditions on the one hand, and the younger generation trying find its own path on the other?

Several years ago, I worked on a film in the middle of the Albanian countryside. You see old shepherds out in the hot sun with their flock, day after day, as they’ve done for centuries. When you see these people you realize that nothing changes them – not dictatorship, not democracy, not the Internet. As someone in his late 20s, it makes you feel secure but it’s also kind of terrifying too. I think this contradiction that is found in my country is the stuff of great cinema.

Do you see dramatic social change occurring in Albanian society today?

I think there have been enormous changes in Albania. Yet I believe you see these changes mostly in our capital, Tirana. One-third of our country’s population lives here. But I think those of us in the one-third don’t want to think about everyone else. As a filmmaker, I’m drawn to outsiders, traditional or non-traditional. Albania is filled with so many dramatic possibilities in this regard. But so far we have not been very successful in bringing them out for the world to see.

What role does humor play in the film in presenting the absurdity of family relationships?

I think appearance and perception have a lot to do with this absurdity. Sometimes we go to extreme lengths to present an idea of ourselves in the eyes of others. I even know of many people whose parents were divorced but on holidays they’d pretend to be living together when relatives came to visit. The irony is that usually everyone knows everyone else’s business anyway. This particular kind of Albanian absurdity is at the heart of my story.

You participated in the Goethe-Institut First Films First initiative, which launched in 2016. How important are such programs for young filmmakers in Southeastern Europe?

It’s lonely to be a filmmaker in Albania. Our capital has more than 1 million people but all our movie theaters show mostly Hollywood product. Our industry struggles for funding and support. There’s also very little community among Albanian filmmakers. I think these kinds of creative meeting points for regional filmmakers are very necessary. It’s always valuable when film directors can get together and find inspiration. An artist can carry this around for a lifetime.

What is your next project about?

I’d like to explore a moment in recent Albanian history, a near civil war we experienced in 1997. Coming out of dictatorship, we lived through several years of wild, unchecked capitalism. This resulted in many Albanians putting their entire life savings in pyramid schemes. When the schemes collapsed, Albania fell into almost total anarchy. No one wants to talk about 1997 now but I think it left a lasting wound. I’d like to tell a story about how this impacts the life of one family. With this story, I hope to reveal the broad chronicle of this national trauma. It was developed at the Torino Film Lab, the Mediterranean Film Institute and it won a prize at the Sofia Meetings.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • La vaca

    Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Boards Debut by Chile’s Francisca Alegria (EXCLUSIVE)

    In what marks the company’s first Latin American project, Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Pictures has boarded Chilean filmmaker Francisca Alegria’s debut feature, “The Cow Who Sang a Song About the Future.” The multi-Emmy-winning actor and his El Dorado partner Casey Bader will serve as executive producers of the film, slated to start principal photography in [...]

  • Hustlers Box Office

    Box Office: Why 'Hustlers' Soared While 'The Goldfinch' Flopped

    Though STX’s “Hustlers” and Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch” couldn’t be more different in terms of genre or style, the two new releases prove the divergent paths that mid-budget movies can take at the box office. Both films arrived last weekend in an environment that has been increasingly hostile to anything that’s not of the superhero [...]

  • The Irishman

    Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' Set for Centerpiece Screening at Rome Festival

    Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will be among highlights of the upcoming Rome Film Festival, following its European launch as the closing film at the BFI London Film Festival. As with the Oct. 13 London premiere, key cast members of the hotly anticipated Netflix film are expected to attend the screening in Rome, as is Scorsese. [...]

  • 'Cheer Up, Mr. Lee' to be

    Korean Comedy 'Cheer Up, Mr. Lee' to be Remade in French

    Currently on-release South Korean comedy drama, “Cheer Up, Mr. Lee” is to be remade in French. “Mr. Lee” is the story of a mentally-challenged man who learns that he has a sick daughter, and embarks on a voyage of discovery with his new family member. A remake deal was struck between Yong Film, part of [...]

  • The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos

    Korea: 'The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos’ Rules Chuseok Holiday Box Office

    Local films dominated cinemagoing in South Korea over the 4-day Chuseok holiday weekend, traditionally one of the year’s busiest periods. The winner was “The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos.” Opening on Wednesday, the CJ Entertainment release earned $20.2 million from 1.97 million admissions over five days. A film adaptation of CJ E&M’s 2014 hit TV [...]

  • Disco

    New Europe Sells Toronto and San Sebastian Film 'Disco' to Several Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jan Naszewski’s New Europe Film Sales has signed several distribution deals on “Disco,” which had its world premiere in Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery section and makes its European premiere in San Sebastian’s New Directors competition. The film has been picked up by Palace for Australia and New Zealand, Artcam for Czech Republic and Slovakia, Kino [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content