"Afterwar" - deep digging into the consequences of the war in Kosovo

Descriptive Text

The film "Afterwar" delves into the aftermath of the Kosovo war through the eyes of some now-grown children, while simultaneously offering a bold cinematic narrative that bridges reality and fiction to deliver a powerful testament to human resilience.

Berlin, February 20 ("Film Fest Report") - "Afterwar" marked its world premiere at the 74th edition of the international film festival in Berlin, "Berlinale", within the "Panorama" program. The film that was released on Monday is directed by the Danish Birgitte Stærmose and delves deep into the consequences of the last war in Kosovo (1998-1999), especially through the eyes of children who are now adults. With a bold cinematic approach and close collaboration with the characters, Stærmose brings a deep and poetic account of the daily struggle for survival and the search for dignity in a war-torn country.

Already in the first archival footage, the viewer is confronted with the ruins in post-war Kosovo. The ruins, destroyed landscapes and starving children selling peanuts and cigarettes to survive testify to the devastating impact of war on the population. Over the 15-year duration of the documentary, these children have grown up, but their traumatic pasts continue to haunt them in the present, creating a haunting continuum between past, present and future presented as the three chapters of the movie.

The film's uniqueness and strength lie in its surprising and daring approach, regularly breaking the fourth wall, allowing the characters to address the audience directly and share their stories and traumas with heartbreaking honesty. In scenes from their everyday life, the characters make eye contact with viewers and trust them with whispers. The camera isolates them so they can express what weighs on their hearts every day. Their traumas are not just a thing of the past; they are still alive and accompany them in every moment of life. As adults, they are haunted by these unbearable memories of the war.

With this film - which also stars Luan Jaha, Molike Maxhuni, Besnik Hyseni, Gëzim Kelmendi and others - the director seems to give the characters a blank paper and pencils and asks them to draw their experience

Paradoxically, their whispers have the effect of more powerful screams and convey the intensity of pain and sometimes even despair. They whisper because what they are talking about is too big and too strong. This whisper also metaphorically represents the fact that they dare not awaken this extremely painful past, but try as much as they can to avoid its return in their lives today, as if there was a code of silence in society or at least a feeling common that one must move forward and leave the past behind.

Ultimately, "Afterwar" is like an artistic performance. The characters bring their own emotional baggage, trauma and history, while the director prepares a scene for them to express themselves freely. This film is actually the result of a meeting between these characters and a director. It is a kind of artistic documentary that blurs the genres in which the instruction is present, but serves to allow the reality, the credibility of the testimony, to emerge.

"Afterwar" is considered a fascinating and destabilizing work, as it throws down the emotional barriers of the viewer by breaking the fourth wall

With this film, the director seems to give the characters a blank paper and pencils and asks them to draw their experience. It allows them to express themselves and speak freely. The viewer feels that it is a collaborative project. The film serves as a tool that helps the characters have a voice that is heard. At the same time, it offers the audience an engaging and extremely moving experience.

The process of co-constructing the film is all the more interesting and important because it helps to break the potentially hierarchical relationship between the director and the characters. "Afterwar" does not intend to look down on and further degrade the main characters. On the contrary, this process allows them to regain some dignity, involving them in the project as co-creators and not simply as miserable subjects to be filmed.

The editing by the duo, Stefan Sundlöf and Anne Østerud, is also executed in detail. The parallels between the scenes of the characters as children and then as adults underline the persistence of war traumas many years later. The lost, traumatized and starving children they once were continue to live inside them even today.

The voice, with all its muffled echoes, contributes to the creation of an atmosphere of melancholy and bitterness, underscoring the constant weight of the past on the present. Without being excessive, without being loaded, the music composed by Erik K. Skodvin perfectly plays its role in underlining the continuity in the trajectory of these characters from childhood to the present day. Fifteen years later, the characters still develop in the same atmosphere, in the same oblivion, while passing through the same places and sometimes taking the same poses in front of the camera. Thus, the film highlights the fatality that weighs them down, the nightmare they are immersed in that goes on forever and never seems to end.

"Afterwar" is considered a fascinating and destabilizing work, as it throws down the viewer's emotional barriers by breaking the fourth wall. With her respect and appreciation for the characters, with whom she achieves a meaningful and controlled collaboration, Stærmose handles a moving and profound story that crosses the boundaries between reality and fiction to deliver a powerful message about the continuity of traumas of war and human resilience in the face of such disasters.

Taken from "Film Fest Report". Translated by: Edona Binaku

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