Antoneta Kastrati's feature debut, ZANA, to world premiere at Toronto
by Vassilis Economou
- The emerging Kosovar filmmaker is presenting her social drama in the Discovery section of the leading North American festival
After surviving the war in Kosovo in the late 1990s, writer-director Antoneta Kastrati began making documentaries about post-war Kosovar society, along with her sister Sevdije. In parallel, Antoneta directed a series of short films, the most recent one, She Comes In Spring, premiering at the Busan Film Festival. Her feature debut, ZANA [+see also:
interview: Antoneta Kastrati
film profile], is set to world premiere in the Discovery section of the 44th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) (5-15 September).
“I feel so fortunate that ZANA resonated with TIFF and that I get a chance to have a premiere there. It is validating and a big step for me as a debut feature director. I am hopeful that launching ZANA at TIFF will help the film reach a wide audience and that it will help me on my way to making my second movie,” stated the director after the announcement.
Set in a small Kosovar village, ZANA follows Lume, who lives with her husband Ilir and her mother-in-law Remzije. Lume is under constant pressure to get pregnant, especially from Remzije, who threatens to “replace” her with a younger and more eager prospective wife who will bring her grandchildren. Desperate, Lume decides to stray away from modern medicine and seeks the help of witch doctors and mystic healers who promise to treat her infertility. In that process, her well-hidden post-war traumas will soon return to the surface, and the family will start to question her mental and psychological state.
The lead characters are played by two acclaimed Kosovar actors: Adriana Matoshi, well-known for her roles in Father [+see also:
interview: Visar Morina
film profile], The Marriage [+see also:
interview: Blerta Zeqiri
film profile], Unwanted [+see also:
interview: Edon Rizvanolli
film profile] and Cold November [+see also:
interview: Ismet Sijarina
film profile], among others; and Astrit Kabashi, who was awarded for his role in Father and had a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated short film Shok.
The script was written by Kastrati along with Casey Cooper Johnson, and the director stated: “I started to write ZANA five years ago, but it’s a story that I have been slowly incubating for 20 years since the war in Kosovo. Even though ZANA is a fictional story, at its core it is a very personal story for myself and my sister Sevdije, as it delves into our experience of the war and post-war reality.” Sevdije Kastrati, the first female cinematographer in Kosovo, is lensing the film as well as co-producing it, and is thus continuing the collaboration she’s had with her sister throughout their entire careers. She also added: “Telling this story with my sister was a unique experience because we got to share a world with which we are deeply familiar. Making this movie was both painful and joyful. And the ultimate satisfaction is that we get to share this story with the world.”
Regarding the challenges of production, Antoneta Kastrati mentioned: “Going back to our village in the west of Kosovo and filming ZANA was very special for me, both a challenging and a beautiful experience. We got a lot of support from the community there, as it is rare for films to be shot there, and we were able to shoot in the most beautiful locations. It was also exciting to be working with top Kosovar actors.”
ZANA is being produced by Casey Cooper Johnson, of Crossing Bridges Films, with Sevdije Kastrati, in co-production with Dritan Huqi, of On Film Production (Albania), and Miguel Govea and Brett Walker from Alief. The film has received support from the Kosovo Cinematography Center (for both its development and its production), the Albanian National Center of Cinematography, the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant, the SFFILM Rainin Grant, Light Iron and the City of Peja. The project participated in the 2017 edition of MIDPOINT Feature Launch, where it won the MIDPOINT Development Award.
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