Arben Castrati. Photo by Don Russell.
The only thing missing in the Kosovo government is a legal ministry of corruption. Everybody knows it, but nobody cares. They are immune to criticism. In our first elections – the first elections in our history – 92 percent of the people voted. The disappointment came so fast. Nobody can do anything now because the UN is involved in this corruption. It is an opportunity.
On Serbian-Albanian relations
You know what the British say about the French: we fought them, but we eat their cheese and drink their wine. People here would rather see an American film than a Serb film. But if it’s a good film, people will watch it.
There are so many artists from Belgrade exhibiting here. Two days ago, another exhibition by a Serbian painter opened. But you don’t find Albanians having exhibitions in Serbia. You can call me a nationalist, but we’ve been opening doors to Serb artists and they have not done that for us, not then and not now.
On Albanian identity
We sacrificed for independence, sacrificed not to join with Albania. Albanians are divided in history, divided into five different countries. I say, at least let’s have equal rights. I’ve been treated as a second-class citizen. When you say that you are Albanian, you are immediately treated differently.
Artists here studied in Belgrade and then returned to Kosova as stars. So everyone here thinks that to be successful, you have to be successful elsewhere. I used to think that way as well. I was a Julliard acting student, and I came back when my father died. I was feeling my father’s loss and the loss of my career. I recovered from that huge depression. I started to create from my roots, and I had international success, working with directors like Milos Forman, Roman Polanski, Emil Kusturica.
In November 2006, my film was accepted in the 30th International Film Festival in Cairo. Two days before the screening of the film, the Serb embassy intervened with the Ministry of Culture of Egypt, saying that my film should be excluded because there is no Kosova. The festival called me, and said, we can’t screen it. I said, I came all the way from Pristina. I have an official invitation. I called the journalists in the hotel. They pressed the festival director and staff so that they gave in. The next day, the Serb embassy intervened again, said that the film should not be shown because of the theme. The festival called me again because of the content of the film. I called the journalists again. Finally it got to the point where they said, we are not ready as a country to break relations with Serbia, so we have to take the film out of the competition. They showed it in a very small screening outside the competition.
At the European Film Awards, a Russian director and a Serb director excluded my film from the nominations. If it’s a good film, it’s a good film, for Christ’s sake…