Now in its 14th year, DokuFest is a documentary and short film festival in the picaresque historical town of Prizren in the southwest corner of Kosovo. In 2013, I came here for the European premiere of my documentary film, “Let the Fire Burn.” At the time, DokuFest felt like more than a film festival to me. Something seemed different and special about this innovative cinema event in this young country. This year, I returned with the idea that I would try to figure out what that special feeling was all about.
READ MORE: Kosovo’s DokuFest Announces Full Slate
In America, if two million people see a documentary, it is considered a huge success. That’s less than 1% of the population. The entire population of Kosovo is less than two million. Documentary filmmakers like to think of our films as broadly opening minds, but in America, the cultural landscape is largely set, and mainly static. In reality, we operate in a strikingly small box and have come to accept success as it is defined within those walls.
Kosovo is completely different. Having formally declared independence in 2008, it is the world’s second youngest nation. It is also young in the demographic sense, with 28% of the population younger than 15 and 50% younger than 28. It is a stem cell nation, not yet defined in terms of what kind of country it will be. The cultural boxes are hardly framed out, let alone set in concrete as they are in America.
“We don’t know what a Kosovo without DokuFest would look like.”