«The Central and Eastern European Documentary industry is still healthy, despite damages that pandemic may have infused.»

    DOKUFEST: Artistic Director Veton Nurkollari on the festival's jubilee edition.

    The 20th DokuFest – International Documentary and Short Film Festival is currently on from 6 – 13 August, 2021 in Prizren, Kosovo.

    Founded in 2003 with the aim of revitalising culture cinema in Prizren, DokuFest fills the cinemas and improvised screening venues around the historic city with a selection of more than 200 hand-picked films from around the world, as well as attracting numerous international and regional music acts that perform at DokuNights — its music strand.

    Modern Times Review spoke with DokuFest Artistic Director Veton Nurkollari on the challenges, trends, and current DokuFest experience.

    What sort of themes did you notice in 2021 film submissions? How did this thematic pattern carry over to the final programme?
    There were a number of themes from this year’s submissions that we noticed and that sparked our attention. From the more obvious and expected films about pandemic, hospitals and patients there, many films about lockdown too. Also a number of films about protests, such as those in Hong Kong or Minsk, about refugee and prisoner camps in Syria and Iraq, situation in Middle East, world in environmental crisis and about domestic violence. Some of these themes and thematic patterns did indeed find their way into the program, one such being a programme called «Terra Femme» for example, with films made by female filmmakers and mostly about women and many others across different sections of the festival.

    We must ask about the pandemic as it still causes logistical issues across the event industry. Of course, as a continent, we are in a better place during the 2021 summer than the 2020 summer. What sort of lessons did you learn from the 2020 Dokufest that you carried over to 2021? What is new/different this year?
    The pandemic taught us few things, like how to quickly adapt to new environment, including Zooms and online edition of the festival but even more it taught us of a need to cherish those precious times spent together with the audience and the guests, something we missed so much last year. One day before the start of the festival, I must admit it doesn’t really feel very different to pre pandemic era, except for the slight nervousness about the overall safety and the social distancing rules.

    Do you feel like the local decision makers/authorities supported DokuFest during the pandemic?
    There was very little support from the authorities to DokuFest or to any other cultural organization for that matter during the pandemic, unfortunately. However, we did receive a pledge from the local authorities towards an institutional support for DokuFest for next three years.

    There was very little support from the authorities to DokuFest or to any other cultural organization for that matter during the pandemic, unfortunately.

    How would you describe the health of the Central and Eastern European Documentary Industry these days? Recent studies have been released highlighting pandemic related festival programme decreases, as well as the pervasive dynamic of festivals outside the region limiting the number of CCE films in their programmes. In your opinion, what are some of the CCE non-fiction industries strengths, weakness, and difficulties faced?
    I think that the Central and Eastern European Documentary Industry is still healthy, despite damages that pandemic may have infused. Recent successes of Kosovo films may be a good example, even though most of these films are fiction with one notable case of a Samir Karahoda’s Displaced, a docu-fiction that was in competition at Cannes for short films.

    The decrease of festival programmes due to the pandemic as well as limiting the number of CCE films is temporary, I believe.

    One aspect of Dokufest that (I think) sets it aside from other film festivals is your side programmes. For me, specifically this is Sonic Nights, which adds a definitively fun nightlife and performance environment to the festival (alongside some world class artists). Can you talk a little about the «Sonic Nights» programmes? Why you think it’s important for Dokufest? Personally, the non-fiction industry can get a little humourless (in my opinion) and “fun” is not privileged as much as it could be, so such side programmes are very welcome?
    Well, one of the reasons for «Sonic Nights» and previous DokuNights sidebar programmes is simple, and it’s our love for music. The strand is highly popular and very well attended, growing through years and becoming almost a stand-alone music festival within a film festival.

    We also curate a «Music on Film» strand each year, exploring and bringing best of music docs to the festival for similar reasons, our love for film and music.

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    Steve Rickinson
    Communications Manager at Modern Times Review.

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