Two female filmmakers from Kosovo and Serbia bring ghosts of the past and struggles of present day life at screen during Toronto’s International Film Festival

By Bjorn Runa, Toronto

Haunted by a past long suppressed and pressured by her family to seek treatment from mystical healers for her infertility, a Kosovar woman struggles to reconcile the expectations of motherwhood with a legacy of wartime brutality, in Antoneta Kastrati’s deeply personal feature debut.

ZANA, the debut feature by the Kosovo filmmaker Antoneta Kastrati is having its round of screening at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. The film depicts the struggles of Lume, an Albanian woman living in a Kosovar village with her husband and mother in law, while being haunted by night terrors of a child lost during the war and her inability to conceive.

Desperate to fill the void, her family seeks magical healers to treat her infertility and when Lume resists, her mother in law brings an eager, younger prospective wife to the home. Under threat of being replaced, Lume abandons modern medicine and agrees to explore traditional practices. But old traumas slowly rise to torment Lume. When Remzije catches her sleepwalking to a feared witch doctor, extreme measures are taken to protect the pending fetus from evil.

Exploring the deep and everlasting wounds of war, director Antoneta Kastrati portrays a community where the treatment for loss can at times seem archaic and nonsensical. Coming from the region, Kastrati drew from her own experiences of the Kosovo War in her psychologically jarring, surreal, and revelatory debut. As such, the film feels like an exorcism of her own heartbreak, brought to the screen with tenderness and impressive immersion. ZANA is a cinematic homage to the endurance of women and a powerful release of unspeakable suffering.

Meanwhile, another female filmmaker from Serbia, Sanja Zivkovic is also having her debut feature, Easy Land being screened at TIFF 2019.

The film follows a mother and daughter, Serbian refugees as they struggle to navigate the many obstacles facing newcomers to Canada.

A poignant examination of the obstacles and heartbreaks facing recent refugees, Sanja Zivkovic’s debut feature Easy Land follows Nina (Nina Kiri) and her mother Jasna (Mirjana Jokovic) as they struggle to build a life for themselves in a new country. Jasna has been traumatized by what she witnessed in Serbia, and the after-effects are exacerbated by the menial jobs she must take to pay the rent despite being a trained architect.

Meanwhile, Nina must deal with the regular tensions of high-school life, which are complicated by poverty and her mother’s volatile psychological state. Worse, one of Nina’s teachers insists she intern at a local theatre company to make up for past transgressions. Plagued by the past, the two women are unable to find common ground and both veer towards the breaking point.

Meanwhile, Nina must deal with the regular tensions of high-school life, which are complicated by poverty and her mother’s volatile psychological state. Worse, one of Nina’s teachers insists she intern at a local theatre company to make up for past transgressions. Plagued by the past, the two women are unable to find common ground and both veer towards the breaking point.

 

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