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Kosovo, the tiny former Serbian region that won independence in 2008 after a decade of bitter and violent ethnic clashes, has for the first time nominated a film for the Academy Awards.
Isa Qosja‘s Three Windows and a Hanging, which premiered at the Sarajevo Film Festival last month and won the Cineuropa Award there, uses the background of the havoc wreaked in lives by war to probe tradition and gender roles in ancient European Muslim society.
The film is set in a deeply traditional village a year after the Kosovo War of 1999, where schoolteacher Lushe (Irena Cahani) reveals to a foreign journalist that she and three other local women were raped by Serbs during the fighting. The news acts as a catalyst for social change.
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Village men begin a witch hunt to work out which women were raped, and Lushe and her young son are asked to leave. Only when Lushe’s husband, Ilir (Basri Shala), returns from a prisoner of war camp and comes under pressure to divorce her are stereotypes challenged.
Although initially swayed by age-old ideas that women are to blame for their own humiliation, Ilir eventually stands by his wife and demands the men apologize to the women who were raped for not having understood their pain and not having treated them as victims.
In a country still struggling to find its own post-war identify, the film, produced by Shkumbin Istrefi, who is also an actor, on a budget of around $810,000, reflects the tensions between tradition and modern social mores.
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The film was shot by Gokhan Tiryaki, former cinematographer to award-winning Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The Hollywood Reporter‘s review from Sarajevo praised it for its “warmth and humor” despite a somber tone and its “terrific, sun-scorched hillscapes and deep-shadowed interiors.”
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