Shok

| February 19, 2016

Few films have been made about the ethnic cleansing of Albanian people in Kosovo that took place in the late 90’s, and now fifteen years since those atrocities and eight years since the independence of Kosovo, the small country has garnered its first Oscar nomination with the short film “Shok.”

On February 17th 1016, just weeks before Oscar night and on the 8th Anniversary of Kosovo’s independence, a screening of “Shok” took place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In attendance were the cast of “Shok,” it’s writer and director Jamie Donoughue and a room full of proud, excited and contemplative Albanians and Albanian-Americans, whose history, tales and lineages are so faithfully told from generation to generation around dinner tables and TV sets, but so rarely depicted on-screen.

“Shok” tells the story of two young boys growing up as best friends in Kosovo during a time of great conflict and change for Albanians under Serbian authority. Despite the turmoil that surrounds them, Petrit and Oki are able to remain relatively carefree kids. However, as Oki is enjoying his new and cherished bicycle, Petrit is selling cigarette sheets to Serbian troops who he mistakes as his friends and business partners. This meeting takes a quick turn for the worst when one of the soldiers confiscates Oki’s bike to give to his own nephew.

Petrit and Oki’s friendship is tried and restored, but the events that follow for the two and their families further depicts the plight of Kosovar Albanians during this time. According to writer and director Jamie Donoughue the story and the scenes were strung together from some of the many first-hand stories he heard during his many years in Kosovo—One segment came directly from the life of one of the film’s actors and producers Eshref Durmishi, who portrayed the Serbian solider who in real life pulled him off a school bus and beat him.

Donoughue, from the UK, grew extremely fond of Kosovo and Kosovars during a short-turned-long visit, falling in love with Albanian food, hospitality and culture. More than that, he heard countless stories from the war and felt compelled to make a film about it. Having lived through it, Durmishi also felt compelled to tell these and other stories first-hand while it is still relatively fresh in history, so that they can be preserved and the lessons never forgotten.

“Shok,” 21 minutes in length, is a deeply moving film as much about friendship, pride and culture, as it is about the devastation of oppression and ethnic cleansing. It is about a part of the world that few understand, and even fewer know exists, but that is rich with stories and tradition. This particular story, “Shok,” has a good chance to add to this tradition in a new and major way, with an Oscar statue.

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