Making movies in the Western Balkans

  • 14 May. 2009 - 26 May. 2009
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  • Last updated: 22 Sep. 2009 15:57

Combining fun with education, young people in six cities across the Western Balkans were recently given a chance to work on their own film on the theme “protecting people”.

During ten days in May 2009, the KinoBuss travelled through Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia to teach digital filmmaking and animation techniques to local high school students in the region. The tour stopped for a one-day workshop in six cities along the way, focusing on areas where no cinema is available. 

The participants got to write, produce, direct and edit their own digital or animation film. The resulting movie was screened and discussed at the end of the day. This was followed by a feature offering a different view on peace, war and the new security challenges of the 21st century.

Promoting mutual understanding

The workshops helped further respect and tolerance among the different ethnic communities.

Monika (15) lives in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where children from Bosniak and Croat communities attend segregated classes. “When [we] go to the other part [of town], we permanently get needled by people commenting our style or way of talking,” she says.

She worked together with young people from other ethnic backgrounds on a short movie (“Happiness Wagon”) about helping others realize their dreams. It gave her a new perspective: "I've realized that we are interested in the same questions in life and have the same dreams for our future.”

New ways of communicating

The workshops aim at promoting digital cinema as a low-cost but flexible means of cultural exchange. They also stimulate and support creativity, critical thinking and freedom of expression, leaving the participants free to explore and experiment on their own.

This first venture into filmmaking was an opportunity for these young people to become familiar with digital media and explore new ways of expressing themselves.

“Life is not all about fun – it is also about learning things, developing skills and making new experiences”, says Iris (16), one of the participants in Shkodra, Albania.

Nemanja (16) from Niš, Serbia, was optimistic about what life has to offer where he lives. ”You can reach all your goals here – get a nice job, build a house, found a family – you just have to work hard and never bury your head in the sand.“

“And who knows if it would be better anywhere else,” he adds,  jokingly referring to the animation movie he helped produce, where a castaway manages to escape from a shark only to be eaten once he reaches the “safety” of the island. 

Cultural diplomacy

KinoBuss is an Estonian non-governmental organization. This educational and cultural tour was sponsored by NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division (PDD) as part of its outreach activites in the Balkans.

“Cultural and artistic education plays a crucial role in promoting integration within communities, providing a forum where young people from different backgrounds can meet, talk and learn from one another,” explains Katrin Hett of PDD. “However, there are often too few opportunities available for young people.”