The shorts and features of Xhanfise Keko (pronounced Jonnfeesa Kayko), all of which center on children's themes and preoccupations, occupy a pivotal yet controversial place in Albanian cinema. These films were among the most popular of Albania's Communist era, and remain widely loved. But this affection is now tempered with ambivalence about their association with an era many Albanians would prefer to forget. Keko is the only female director in the history of Albanian cinema. When she died in 2007, she left behind a remarkable legacy of nearly a dozen features virtually unknown to Western critics and audiences.
The Albanian Cinema Project's English-subtitled restoration of TOMKA AND HIS FRIENDS (1977) is a rare chance to look at moving images from a society that was closed off from the rest of the world for decades. By the time the cameras rolled on TOMKA AND HIS FRIENDS, Keko had established herself as one of the top directors in Albania's male-dominated film industry. Keko filled TOMKA with many stylistic devices that would have been discouraged for higher-profile filmmakers toiling in the system.
TOMKA AND HIS FRIENDS brings us into the compelling story of a group of young boys working to defend their homeland from the occupying German army in the town of Berat, Albania circa 1943. TOMKA's opening tracking shot of the young barefoot protagonists who live under the Nazi occupation signals a vitality missing from nearly all Albanian cinema of the era. When the young boys discover the Germans have transformed their soccer field into a base of operations, they plot revenge. Aiding local partisans (Communists, of course, though this is not stated), Tomka and his pals spy, poison the occupiers' guard dog and help the partisans in a spectacular act of sabotage.
This restoration is a rare chance to look at moving images from a society that was closed off from the rest of the world for decades. Starring: Enea Zheku, Artan Puto, Flurans Ilia, Genci Mosho, Herion Mustafaraj, Selma Sotillari, Sotiraq Cili, Zehrudin Dokle.
Dir. Xhanfise Kek | Not rated | DCP Presentation | 74 min | English
*The Screening Room temperature tends to run cool, so please remember to bring a jacket or sweater.
*No food or drink is permitted in the Screening Room.