If you read my post regarding the Oscar-nominated film from Kosovo, Shok, you know I was really pulling for this underdog in the short film category.
Sadly, it did not win an Oscar on Sunday night. It did something more: it helped me see a complex situation through the eyes of two vulnerable and innocent Albanian citizens of Kosovo. It allowed me to understand why the celebration of eight years of Kosovo independence this year is so precious.
Most importantly, it taught me to see the people of Kosovo as more than just the victims of a war-torn region of the world.
Set against the backdrop of the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, this film tells the story of two twelve-year-old Albanian boys whose friendship is tested as the war takes over their lives. Although Shok takes place in a country I know very little about, I felt I knew these boys. They remind me of middle-school boys I see walk home from school each day. Still possessing the wide-eyed innocence of a receding childhood, they walk with the same lumbering determination as the young stars of Shok. Seem just as anxious to take on the armor and temptations of manhood.
But Shok is more than a foreign coming of age story. It cuts through the complex rhetoric of war and tells Kosovo’s troubling history in a compelling and accessible way. Told through the eyes of best friends (or shok) — it is funny as well as tragic. It reminded me so skillfully that hatred and bigotry can spiral out of control anywhere in the world.
As the film’s British director, Jamie Donoghue, put it: “. . . I wanted to tell a story of ordinary people, who are the true victims of war. . .”
Based on true stories, Shok is personal to the ordinary people of Kosovo. It triggered painful memories but also touched hearts, seeing the talent and artistry of the film. Understandably, it made them proud. Kept them — including the prime minister and president — glued to their television sets until five in the morning. And though the film was denied the Academy Award, its achievement is unquestionable.
In the words of Kosovo’s President Atifete Jahjaga, “Shok is our winner.”
I think so too.
Shok is available on ITunes for $2.99. Here is a link to the Shok movie trailer.
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