Sarajevo Film Festival 2024

DokuFest issues statement following protests around DokuNights performance

Tensions arose in the historical city of Prizren, Kosovo, following a controversial performance by Canadian feminist electro-pop singer Peaches at DokuFest. The event, now in its 22nd year, attracted significant protest after images of Peaches and two dancers in body-revealing costumes sparked outrage among social conservatives in the region.

The local Islamic Community, led by Besim Berisha, was prominent in calling for protests, describing the concert as «degeneracy» and demanding children be «strictly kept away.» The demonstration began after Friday prayers, with protesters holding banners with messages such as «Rejecting Degeneration» and «Keep Drugs Away from Our Children.»

Burim Shpejti, an organizer of the protest, expressed parental concerns, stating that «the performance shown does not fit with our tradition and culture.» He also urged the Kosovo authorities to be more diligent in approving such activities, particularly when financed with taxpayer money.

DokuFest organizers responded with a strong and clear statement, expressing their concerns: «We are deeply concerned by the recent spread of misinformation suggesting that the opening concert of DokuNights was accessible to minors, as well as the inciting hateful rhetoric that followed. This has led us to suspect that there are underlying efforts to undermine our mission of addressing human rights and social issues through the lens of art and culture.»

The festival emphasized its mission, standing «steadfastly as a platform where human rights are protected and promoted universally, without distinction,» and stressed that the concert took place in «a well-fenced area, strictly restricted to attendees aged 18 and over, with purchased tickets only.»

DokuFest also highlighted the support from most citizens of Prizren, stating, «Their support, hospitality, and generosity have always been a cornerstone of our festival’s success. DokuFest is and will always be a beacon for human rights.»

The festival expressed deep disturbance at the inciting rhetoric leading to violence during the protest. Journalist Vullnet Krasniqi and cameraman Arber Latifi were attacked by some protesters, a violent incident strongly condemned by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo.

Veton Nurkollari, the artistic director of DokuFest, argued that the protest was unnecessary and based on inaccurate information. «We are comfortable in what we do, and this festival is committed to human rights. Our commitment is not selective for the rights of someone and not someone else,» said Nurkollari.

Founded in 2002, DokuFest has grown into Kosovo’s largest cultural event, attracting filmmakers and artists worldwide and providing economic stimulation to Prizren. This year’s theme focused on examining the impact of artificial intelligence, with over 100 films presented in 8 categories.

While the protests underscore the societal tensions and clashes between traditional and modern values, DokuFest remains steadfast in its mission to promote human rights and equality. The closing ceremony proceeded as planned, with prizes awarded to recognize cinematic achievements.

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Steve Rickinson
Steve Rickinson
Steve lives in Bucharest, Romania. He is Communications Manager and Industry Editor of MTR.

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