There is a story of emigration in the background of "Agon", a film by Robert Budina presented for International Panorama at the fourth edition of the Bif & st, Bari International Film Festival from 16 to 23 March. A clear sign that the Albanian age of travel, escape, the search for the future outside national borders, which began with the Vlora odyssey over twenty years ago, is not yet over but continues to be a social reality and above all a theme cultural study, analysis, comparison, internal examination.
Even cinematically, emigration is a central reason for reflection as much as the set of prejudices and the clash between different cultures and traditions. But be careful, "Agon" does not want to be a simple story of immigrants and emigration but intends to tell the integration effort. In the same way, crime and the mafia are the background, the context in which part of the story takes place, but not the heart of the problem.
Saimir (Marvin Tafai) and his younger brother Vini (Guljem Kotori) are Albanians. They try to integrate in Thessaloniki, where they emigrated. Saimir, engaged to Elektra (Isabella Kogevina), works in his father-in-law's repair shop, Nikos (Antonis Kafetzopoulos). Vini continues to be fired from the jobs that Saimir gives him, trying to make him understand that only through work do you become a person worthy of respect. But Vini does not have the patience and persistence of his older brother. He is in a hurry to succeed. Then Vini knows Ben, a small trafficker in human beings linked to the Albanian mafia: easy money, luxury cars and women, first they will attract him then they will make him discover the sad destiny that many of the emigrant girls are facing. His "revelation" is called Majlinda (Eglantina Cenomeri), a victim of the prostitution ring. It was her husband Keno (Xhevdet Jashari), head of the local Albanian mafia, who put her on the street. Di Majlinda, Vini falls in love. And love, in violence, will make them understand what maturity and responsibility are. (Trailer on)
The screenplay and direction by Robert Budina, in 104 minutes, tells the story of a family and a change that has Greece in the background. Emigration yes, but also a journey of no return, not only because the protagonists try to fit into the new reality (in a laborious balance between the roots of the past and the new terrain in which to grow), but because they will never be the same boys again started earlier from Albania. On the screen there is an inner journey, a human, emotional evolution, an intimate journey that tells the complexity of feelings, of relationships between people, which goes far beyond the simple physical journey of emigration.
The film that has the music of Aldo Shllaku, the editing of Eugen Kelemen, the photography of Marius Panduru and the scenography of Bianca Nikolareizi, is produced by Sabina Kodra for EraFilm Production. It was presented in Albania last December and in Greece in February, it was selected for the Chicago International Film Festival, candidate for best film and best male actor at the Bloody Hero International film festival in Phoenix (Arizona, USA). And finally it was screened at the Petruzzelli of Bari, where the director should have worked if the theater had not been destroyed in a fire, shortly his arrival in the Apulian capital aboard the Vlora. A journey and an emigration that he told, interpreting himself, in the film "La nave dolce" by Daniele Vicari of 2012.
Albania News interviewed Robert Budina. Here is what kindly answered us.
Bari has a long history of relationship with Albania and 22 has already passed years since the arrival of the Vlora in the Apulian port. What is the significance of bringing your film to Bari?
It has a symbolic meaning. Twenty-two years ago, when I arrived, a friend from Bari who helped me, tried to get me to work at Petruzzelli as a stage worker, but just a few days later, the theater caught fire. After 22 years, I debut at Petruzzelli with my first feature film as a director. Then Bari is the city where I touched for the first time, 22 years ago, freedom. It's the city that has marked my life.
What message does the film intend to give? Is integration possible?
The only solution for the most developed countries is to live with immigrants, who come from other countries. We must not judge others and be judged regardless of prejudice. Yes, integration is possible even if it takes its time, but we must recognize the difference between the cultures of immigrants and the countries that host them.
We often think of emigration as a journey of hope, towards a better place and life. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Do you think it is possible to go back to Albania?
Many Albanians are returning to Albania and are trying to rebuild their new lives. This happens after they have already learned a new working culture abroad, which they may not have had before.
And for those who emigrated, is it possible to rediscover in your home country that "good" that you had not seen before?
I think so, after a long absence from your country you have plenty of time to reflect on the positive and negative sides of your society and define it better.
His film also deals with prejudices. In recent 20 years has seen changes in the idea that Italians have Albanians?
Absolutely yes, now there are no longer the same prejudices that the Italians had twenty but even ten years ago. It is enough to remember that, for the moment, many young Albanian writers are dominating contemporary prose in Italy. Many other Albanians have integrated very well and have their businesses in Italy, not to mention the many mixed families. I think we have reached a very natural relationship with Italy, the one due.
And the Albanians, in your opinion, what idea do they have of Italians and of Italy, and what prejudices? For the Albanians, Italy was the promised land, but after so many years of suffering for them, prejudices against the Italians also took root, such as that they do not remember the promises they make, or that they are manipulators. Now instead, the Italians for the Albanians are those who for them were 22 years ago: hospitable, generous. Moreover, today it is the country that is closest to the Albanian culture.