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Docmaker Kastrati Makes Feature Debut at Toronto With ‘Zana’

Haunted by the trauma of war and pressured by family to seek treatment for her infertility, a Kosovar woman struggles to balance the responsibilities of motherhood with her personal healing in “Zana,” documentarian Antoneta Kastrati’s feature debut, which has its world premiere in the Discovery section of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

“Zana” is produced by Casey Cooper Johnson for Crossing Bridges Films and co-produced by Sevdije Kastrati, Dritan Huqi for On Film Production (Albania), and Miguel Govea and Brett Walker for Alief. Alief is handling world sales.

“Zana” is a deeply personal film for Kastrati, who lost her mother and a sister in a war that claimed more than 10,000 lives and displaced more than a million people. After surviving the conflict and studying journalism she began to make documentaries about post-war Kosovar society, including her most recent short, “She Comes in Spring,” which premiered at the Busan Film Festival.

“I needed the time after the war to focus on other things,” she said. “It’s not that I wasn’t dealing with it. But to process it through my heart, I needed some time to step away from it. Fiction made it easier somehow.”

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While developing “Zana,” Kastrati traveled the Kosovar countryside, interviewing women about the loved ones they’d lost during the conflict. Many said they were still haunted by nightmares more than two decades after the war’s end. “I think there’s part of ourselves that will never get healed,” said Kastrati.

“Zana” was shot with her long-time collaborator and cinematographer, sister Sevdije. During an especially moving memorial scene in the film, many of their real-life family members took part. It was an emotional moment in which fact merged with fiction, and the on-screen mourning tapped into a very real grief.

“We were all crying, but we still kept going,” said Kastrati. “That was in some way cathartic.”

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