He is a handsome man, beyond doubt (and he doesn’t look German at all; not that I really know what Germans look like!). Johannes Naber is at the 10th Pune International Film Festival with his debut feature ‘The Albanian’, which addresses the issues of illegal migrants in Germany.
At the press conference on Saturday after the film premiered on Friday, director of the festival, Jabbar Patel, takes the mike and tells the audience, look at him, isn’t he handsome, he should be in a film as an actor, not as a director. Naber says perhaps the reason he isn’t an actor is he was really bad at acting. Patel then mentions how in India, there are people who direct a film and then cast themselves in the lead role, acting or no acting.
Naber, however, is passionate about his first film. “I believe films can change the world,” he says and this is one of the motivations why he made the film, despite the fact that it really took him a long time. “There is a stigma attracted to Albanians. I wanted to address this issue.”
Albania is perhaps the poorest of all European nations, and that’s the reason there are a host of migrant workers from Albania in Germany, who works in the fringes, without any recognition from the society they work for. And the issue is never discussed in mainstream German society. Naber wanted to do something about it. First, he wanted to do a documentary, which later turned into a feature film. First, he thought he’d work with non-professional actors, then decided against it as his characters were far more complex and needed professional interpretations. That’s when he found Albanian actor Nik Xhelilaj, a well know name in Albania, but not really know outside. With this film, he arrives at the international filmdom.
But, isn’t Naber an outsider to talk about the issue itself? Naber says he knew this and wanted participation of Albanian counterparts. He traveled to Albania and sought help of the Albanian film industry. Thus, all Albanian characters in the film are played by Albanian actors.
Though he received grants from government agencies to fund the film, money was an issue. Hence, he decided to shoot the film with a Super 16 camera. “But, I’m happy with the results. It looks exactly the way I wanted it to look.”
Therefore, it’s not surprising that the film was so well received in Albania. In Germany, the film however was a commercial failure, despite the fact that it was lauded at various film festivals.
Talking about illegal immigrants and the issues surrounding it, there has been a number of films on the subject, which covertly and overtly address the issues, the recent one being Chris Weitz’s ‘A Better Life’ with Mexican actor Damien Bichir in a breakout role. The film dissects the dynamics of Mexican workforce in the United States, though the story of a single father. He is an illegal immigrant, who does not have any papers, and he’d be deported if the authorities find him, however, his son is an American as he was born there. The film saddles this contradiction and much more.
There are other films on the issue, and off the cuff, I can mention German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul’, German-Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin’s ‘The Edge of Heaven’ and ‘Soul Kitchen’, Dardenne brothers’s ‘The Silence of Lorna’ and to a certain extent all Alejandro González Iñárritu films, particularly ‘Babel’ and ‘Buitiful.’
(Picture courtesy: Pune International Film Festival)
The Albanian (German: Der Albaner, Albanian: Shqiptari) is a 2010 German and Albanian drama film directed by Johannes Naber and starring the Albanian award-winning Nik Xhelilaj.
For the sake of love and the situations imposed by the life in his country, Arben emigrates to Germany. An illegal emigration, in search of money, a subtle condition to protect his love; an adventure that unintentionally confronts him with the unmerciful world of crime.
Writes Alissa Simon in Variety.
An illegal immigrant in Berlin tries to earn the dowry demanded by the family of his pregnant beloved back home in social-issue drama "The Albanian." German helmer-writer Johannes Naber's involving feature debut highlights the difficulties facing undocumented workers in highly regulated Deutschland, as well as the honor codes of Albanian clans. Specialized Euro exposure and further fest travel are in the cards.
The Full Review Here.
This past weekend I saw a recent German/Albanian narrative film entitled simply The Albanian. Rarely have I seen a movie that confronts the fullest picture of the worldwide controversy regarding undocumented workers and illegal immigration. While its sympathies are clearly with immigrants, it does not resort to cheap sentimentality or agitprop. We recognize how the issue involves all the complications and tragedies of human lives. Suffice it to say that the entire matter is much more complicated than we ever usually contemplate, even for those of us who support immigration reform and human rights.
Full Review Here.