Historic premiere of "The Road" in Cannes, Kosovo receives "Palm d'Or"

In the cinematographic field, the world premiere of Samir Karahoda's film at the festival of festivals is a culminating achievement. And in that state is taking Kosovo to the highest levels of cultural diplomacy. In the Balkans, the word "historic" is frequent. But it rarely finds a better place than in the case of "Ruga". "The premiere went in the best possible way. The applause was long and it was an inexplicable moment and feeling," said director Samir Karahoda to KOHE immediately after the premiere on Friday at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

The past and its inexhaustible consequences affect the Balkans every day. Derivatives of the 90s are a discourse everywhere, even among the generation that practically had nothing to do with that period. 

But ongoing tensions with threats of war along with economic stagnation impose despair. In a few minutes, but with great skill, the film "The Road" in front of over a thousand people in the public, lit up the screen at the International Film Festival in Cannes, precisely to show a story of Kosovo. It is the story that suits almost every Balkan country and beyond. 
In the cinematographic field, the world premiere of Samir Karahoda's film at the festival of festivals is a culminating achievement. And in that state is taking Kosovo to the highest levels of cultural diplomacy. In the Balkans, the word "historic" is frequent. But rarely does it find a better place than in this case.

Karahoda: "An inexplicable moment and feeling..."

11:00 a.m. on Friday at the "Debussy" theater of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes has been the time reserved for the premieres of short films competing for the "Palme d'Or". There was also "The Road" under the direction of Samir Karahoda, with his script and that of his son, Miron Karahoda, who also has a role in the film. One of the main roles. 

From the images there, it seems that the published reaction has been spectacular. They have seen a story that, according to the synopsis published by the Festival, during a 15-minute car ride, a child and his father have complex conversations, clearly presenting the reality that today's Kosovar society faces. It's about a father and son who are on their way to the airport to receive a gift from the son's godfather. 

"Among bureaucratic obstacles with little or no hope for political and social changes in the country, they find comfort and strength in their common optimism for the future," reads the description given by the Festival to the film. The conversation that takes place in the car highlights present troubles that are inextricably linked to the past. The "smell" of war is also inside the vehicle. According to what is seen in the "trailer", the son played by Miron Karahoda asks his father, the actor (Ylber Mehmeti) about the possibility of war again. The answer explains a lot. 

The team of the film "The Road" on the red carpet at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. From left: Actor Ylber Mehmeti, distributor Ben Vandendaele, director Samir Karahoda, actor Miron Karahoda, co-producer Eroll Bilibani and editor Enis Saraçi  

"One day there will be no one left to fight with me.......even they (the Serbs are fleeing). It's about dialogue that breaks down a lot. It covers the 90s, the current situation and then the airport is touched upon as well as a practical example of congestion. Being bullied through procedures to withdraw a gift. 
"The premiere went in the best possible way. The applause was long and it was an inexplicable moment and feeling", director Samir Karahoda told KOHĕ immediately after the premiere. According to him, the comments have been very positive. 

"So far the comments are very impressive and on Saturday night we are waiting for the jury's evaluation", said Karahoda. 

The jury of the category of short films this year is made up of the president Lubna Azabal, Belgian actress and members, the French director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, the Italian programmer, Paolo Moretti, the French director, Claudine Nougaret and the Serbian director, Vladimir Perishic.

"Rrugës" edited by Enis Saraçi and produced by Samir Karahoda and Eroll Biliban is in competition with "Volcelest" by the Frenchman Éric Briche, "Ootid" by the Lithuanian Razumaitė Eglė, "Sanki Yollesn" by the Azerbaijani director, Azer Guliev, "Les Belles" Cicatrites" by the French Raphaël Jouzeau, "Across the Waters" by the Chinese Viv Li, "Perfectly a Strangeness" by the Canadian Alison McAlpine, "Tea" by the American Blake Rice, "Yellow" by the Brazilian André Hayato Saito, "The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent" by the Croatian Nebojša Slijepčević and "Bad For a Moment" by the Portuguese Daniel Soares.

Dignified representation and a track record of director Karahoda

Samir Karahoda is a well-known cinematographer for major festivals, especially for Cannes. With "Pa vend" he made history, being the first local production to compete for the "Palme d'Or" at the Cannes Film Festival in July 2021, where it was given its world premiere. It became the first film from Kosovo that the Cannes Film Festival nominated for the European Film Academy Award. It was the first film from Kosovo nominated for the best European film. It was also in the running for the American Academy Awards. It didn't stop even in 2022, when it won the jury prize in the short film category at the Sundance Film Festival. 

Co-producer Eroll Bilibani, while talking about the film's reception, said that Karahoda has a record in relation to the Festival that is holding the 77th edition on the French Riviera. 

"Samir Karahoda is the second director in the history of the Cannes Festival to have a film in the official competition for the second time", he said. The history of the Festival also recognizes directors who have won both the "Grand Prize" and the "Golden Palm" twice. With the results so far, Karahoda turns out to be the most successful director in Kosovo and beyond the youngest country in Europe. 

Before leaving for Cannes, co-producer Eroll Bilibani said that the good thing is that they will be in Cannes to represent Kosovo. 

"We haven't seen the other films and we don't want to raise expectations. But I think we have a good movie. Probably Samir's best in his career. We will make a dignified representation and we will see the verdict of the jury", he said. 

Director Samir Karahoda at the "Debussy" theater, on Friday, May 24, after the premiere of his film, "The Road"

Kosovo this year is the most important stage, because Karahoda's film is in official competition. In advance, the youngest state of Europe has gathered guests in a reception organized together with the Embassy of Kosovo in France. 

"The whole organization was done to respect the director Samir Karahoda and the main actor of the film, which is Miron Karahoda", said late Tuesday Blerta Zeqiri, director of the Cinematographic Center of Kosovo, which has continued the tradition of representation in the "Marché du Film", which is considered the largest film market in the world. Zeqiri has been there since the opening of the Festival last Tuesday.

"It was a beautiful atmosphere, because there were many important guests from the film industry, especially we had a large attendance of programmers from some of the biggest festivals in the world, and this was something that made us very happy", described Zeqiri . The list of guests comes no later than from the festivals of category A. 

"There were programmers from 'Sundance', 'Berlinale', Venice, Tallinn, Sarajevo, Toronto and others", said Zeqiri.

The festival, which this year is held from May 14 to 25, takes place in difficult times and rarely with a more polarized global environment. It is overshadowed by the Russia-Ukraine war and the conflict between Israel and Hamas. On the other hand, tendencies towards authoritarianism are increasing everywhere. Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, whose film "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" had its world premiere at Cannes this year, has been sentenced to 8 years in prison by the Islamic Revolutionary Court. Accounts of the lack of freedom of expression were not few in Cannes.

Scene from the movie "The Road" 

Striking exploration of nationalism and immigration

The troubles of the Balkan region this year at the Festival are revealed through "The Road". The media platform that covers cinematographic developments in Europe, "Cineuropa" wrote on Thursday that returning to the Cannes competition after "No Place" in 2021, the director from Kosovo with the film "The Road" explores the ideas of nationalism and immigration and similar themes. with his previous projects. 

"As a filmmaker takes his son to the airport to pick up someone, a number of detours along the way serve as an overall absurd reflection on modern reality. The protagonist is praised for bringing attention to the country and he is also condemned for not looking for a 'real job' - the lack of which causes many groups of people to travel to other countries in search of a new and more prosperous life. As expected, it is a film with a lot of humor, but even here there are sharp hits with satire and real anger", wrote "Cineuropa" while describing several films in the category of short films. 

Samir Karahoda has the insight to "play" with completely local topics and conversations that in the Kosovar reality are present more or less at every table. His skill brings them to the fore, articulating them through the language of the film, and giving them a social character to communicate with different audiences. Even with that of the Cannes selectors. Thus, for the second time, he brings Kosovo there not only as a confession of troubles affecting the past and the present. But also as a country where talents are what compete with the world, whose tradition in film is as old as this medium itself. It takes a film like "The Road" there that expects to make its way back with the "Palme d'Or". It would be a first for his country.