The Albanian director looks deep into the chaotic 1999 Kosovo war in a film starring Rinaldo Rocco and Teuta Krasniqi, produced by Albania’s On Film Production and Kosovo’s Buka Film
Director Gjergj Xhuvani during the shoot for Distant Angels
Post-production has finished for Albanian filmmaker Gjergj Xhuvani’s fourth feature film, Distant Angels (Engjejt jane Larg). The director, scriptwriter and novelist, born and based in Tirana, has directed several short films (such as Funeral Business, selected at the 1998 Venice Film Festival) and several feature films including Slogans (2001, the first Albanian film to be featured at the Cannes Film Festival, selected in the Directors’ Fortnight and winner of the Youth Award, as well as the Albanian Oscar submission), Dear Enemy (2004, winner of the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award during its development stage and screened in Sarajevo) and East, West, East: The Final Sprint [+] (2009, also selected as the Albanian Oscar submission).
After telling the tales of a remote Albanian village during the communist dictatorship, a small and unexpected community during the Albanian Nazi occupation in 1943 and an Albanian cycling team that goes to France to take part in a tournament, in his previous films, respectively, Distant Angels sees Xhuvani tackling the 1999 Kosovo war. Written by the director himself, the film tells the story of two intertwined fates in this chaotic atmosphere: that of Mario, an Italian priest who refuses to abandon a dozen Albanian orphans under his care in an orphanage threatened by bombings, and that of Hana, a young woman who leaves her life as a prostitute in Italy to make her way across the Balkan battle zone in the hopes of finding her missing daughter. Stranded in a struggling village, Hana finally arrives at Mario’s orphanage, where she is warmly welcomed both by the troubled children, for whom she ends up becoming a mother, and by the Italian priest, who finds himself torn between his faith and the physical and emotional attraction he has for her.
The main roles are played by Italian actor Rinaldo Rocco (previously seen in Antonello Grimaldi’s An Impossible Crime, Paolo Franchi’s Fallen Heroes [+] and the US TV series Hannibal, starring Mads Mikkelsen) and Kosovan actress Teuta Krasniqi. The cast also includes Nicola del Buono, Nik Xhelilaj, Ndricim Xhepa and Fatmir Spahiu, who is also a producer, among others. Giorgio Fantini served as the film’s director of photography, Paolo Marzoni as editor, and Marco Biscarini and Daniele Furlati composed the original score.
The film was produced by Dritan Huqi for Albanian outfit On Film Production and Fatmir Spahiu for Kosovan company Buka Film. The film received backing from the Albanian National Film Center, the Kosovo Cinematography Center (KCC) and Albanian National Radio Television, as well as Italy’s Mantova Film Commission and Cineteca di Bologna.