I, FATHER (UN ‘ATI)24/02/2020
A FilmaKS Film Production in association with Prussia Lane Productions Ltd
Winner Best Psychological Film
Winner Best Experimental Film
Winner Best Director of a Film in a Foreign Language
Winner Best Screenplay of a Film in a Foreign Language
For enquiries, contact:
FilmaKS Film Productions Prussia Lane Productions Ltd
Rr. Aim Ramadani 10000 1A Upper Brockley Road
pn Prishtine Brockley, London SE4 1SY
Kosove United Kingdom
Tel: 377 (0) 45 243 690 Tel: 44 (0) 20 8694 8821
Cell: 377 (0) 45 243 690 Cell: 44 (0) 7813 958 946
Pristina based Kosovo production company FilmaKS Film Productions teams up with London based Prussia Lane Productions to shoot I,FATHER (Un ‘Ati).
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of Hamlet is widely recognised as the greatest dramatic work written in the English language and 2016 just happened to be the four hundredth anniversary of the author’s life and death with numerous commemorations and productions of his plays and sonnets taking place across the world. Kosovo was no different with its proud history and traditions of theatre and performance.
British playwright and filmmaker, Mark Norfolk adapted Shakespeare’s Hamlet, first in his native English for a national touring production in the UK for Black Theatre Live- notably the first ever production of Hamlet to feature an all-black cast– then, he adapted the text and penned a new play titled Princi I Kosoves (The Prince of Kosovo) for Color Art Production in Pristina. The text was swiftly translated into Albanian and staged at the eponymous Theatri Dodona in the capital city as its part in engaging with the global celebration of the Bard’s legacy.
Arguably Shakespeare’s most contemporary work, Hamlet deals with themes encompassing grief, depression, suicide, fratricide, love, honour, murder, duty and friendship amongst others. This new adaptation transports the story to modern day Kosovo, where a young man grieving for his recently deceased father witnesses the blossoming love affair between his mother and his uncle. Norfolk came to Pristina at the beginning of autumn to direct the play which featured a unique style of mixing the Shakespearean text with contemporary language, a brave and new departure for Kosovan audiences.
A successful performance at the Dodona Theatre to a packed and appreciative house led to discussions between producer and actress, Makfire Miftari and Norfolk on the possibility of shooting a low budget movie utilising themes from the play to capture elements of contemporary Kosovo. An agreement was made and a few weeks later Norfolk returned to shoot the film in the second city, Gjilan.
Shooting on the fly, often in temperatures of minus 24 degrees the small cast and crew set about trying to complete a schedule reduced from fifteen to just five days before Norfolk was due to return to the UK for Christmas.
Norfolk comments on the talent of the crew, “I was very impressed with cinematographer, Adonis Krasniqi. He was a true professional, his calm and knowing eye and an operating style that is a hybrid from music video and commercials that merge into verite drama. It totally worked for this film. Sound recordist, Agron Demolli was brilliant. The raw sound he captured was as clean as you can get for location sound recording and you saw the result of this when we moved into postproduction”.
Norfolk had worked with some of the cast before in Princi I Kosoves at the Dodona Theatre: Makfire Miftari who played Marigona, the Gertrude-like widow who clashes with her grief-stricken son. Makfire is a talented dramatic actor, singer and former child television star, who was forced to flee the country during the conflict.
In support in a pivotal role was Besim Ajeti, playing Vasillis, modelled on Claudius, the machiavellian power-hungry man, seemingly jealous of his brother. Besim is well-known in Kosovo and Albania and gives weight to his talent, a talented, instinctive screen actor with a cinematic edge. Due to a series of availabilities and differences of opinion, we lost an actor to play the fundamental role of the ‘Ghost’ and Norfolk hit on the idea of having the same actor play Claudius and the ‘Ghost’. This is not a new concept, the great theatre director Peter Brook having successfully managed this in his inimitable Tragedy of Hamlet that toured the world twenty years ago. Norfolk also worked with the actor and long-time collaborator Jeffery Kissoon-who incidentally, played both parts in Peter Brook’s production- and used the technique in their all-black production in 2016. But it had never been done on film and Norfolk took a leap of faith in applying it on this film. The third actor, Norfolk had previously worked with was Ekrem Sopi playing Josef. Ekrem is a gentle, humanitarian soul, much-like the Shakespearean father figure, Polonius in the original play. Again, a well known and popular Kosovan performer, Ekrem is a talented, softly spoken actor and director with a ready sense of humour never far from the surface.
The other actors were met briefly with an audition that was a quick “Are you free?” For example, lead actor Alban Goranci playing the Hamlet character, Hektor was in the middle of assessments and exams at the University of Prishtine where was studying drama. He had turned up believing he was appearing a a couple scenes in a short film by a British director. He read the script overnight and turned up on set unsure of what was happening and was immediately slotted into the scene we were shooting. In a way, this helped him in his first feature film part, removing the nervousness that would accompany taking on such a role. Says Norfolk, “I must give him a lot of credit. He showed up not knowing what he was doing, never having met the director, who was foreign, playing an iconic part, all the while taking exams, with the pressure of his professors telling him to drop the film and concentrate on his studies”.
Norfolk was extremely pleased to be working with Florentina Ademi (now Beck) whom he cites as a phenomenal talent. “I’d met Florentina before. She had come in to read during rehearsals of Princi I, when an actor suddenly wasn’t available. She was brilliant that day and I told the producers that I want her to continue in the part. However, there was a mixup, probably due to language misinterpretation and she never returned. So I was very pleased to see her play Irma in the film (the Ophelia character). She is a versatile actor with excellent instincts and a sense of authenticity that is purely natural”.
The shoot was difficult. No time, no budget, a lack of production facilities and personnel, Norfolk was forced to draw upon all his experience and training in experimental film production to eke out a cohesive narrative from a stripped down schedule. One scene that sticks in Norfolk’s mind is in a beautiful mountain-side cemetery, “The cemetery was magnificent, beautiful. It was a freezing morning, under a pristine clear blue sky. The headstones and mausoleums gleaned like monuments to history, which of course, they are. And then we met the gravedigger who, just like a Shakespearean character from the original play, knew the inhabitant of every single grave-there were over a thousand. He’d been working there for over twenty years and was having trouble with his wife because he spent more time in the cemetery than he did at home. He was a wonderful man and had we more time on the schedule I would have either cast him in the movie or commissioned a documentary about him”.
Shooting wrapped just before Norfolk was driven off to the airport, now nursing a heavy chesty cough which later turned out to be pneumonia. Furthermore, pneumonia wasn’t the only thing he found himself taking back from Kosovo- the rushes were thrust into his hands, despite the fact that he doesn’t speak Albanian. “They said I should give them to you”.
Shooting completed and back in England, the search went out to find an editor who spoke Albanian. Meriton Ahmeti, an experienced editor, originally from Pristina, who’d cut his teeth editing material for the UN and big corporate entities, was one of two. Meriton had been booked on another project but I, Father came in when he happened to be free for a few weeks. We met discussed the project and he agreed to cut the film.
With virtually no budget to work with, artist filmmaker, Edwin Mingard came on board as colourist. It was fortunate that Norfolk and Edwin were known to each other having worked together at Deptford Cinema, a community-led cinema which Edwin was instrumental in establishing from a former shop into a thriving cinema which recently won Best Community Cinema at the national Cinema For All Awards.
Norfolk wanted to make good use of music in the film which he sees as an integral part of Kosovan and Albanian culture. He researched Albanian music tradition going back over two hundred years and concluded that the confrontation scene in the restaurant be about more than the clash between Hektor and his profligate uncle. He saw it as a clash of generations and a celebration of culture at the same time. Pristine based musician and studio engineer, Korab Kallaba was brought in to play piano and sing in the restaurant sequence. However he had contracted a terrible cold and completely lost his voice. But he demonstrated his resourcefulness, disappearing for an hour and returning with leading vocalist and tutor, Diana Toska, who was perfect for what is ostensibly an improvised scene.
The music score by Agron Shala mostly came from music utilised for the play, Princi I Kosoves. Norfolk recalls meeting Agron for the first time in his Pristina office where he played his music to him, “It made me cry. There was a gentle, yet grand structure in the mixture of contemporary and traditional. It was as if a thousand voices from the past were crying from the heavens”. Young up and coming British sound designer and mixer, Tom Anderson recognised the significance of the score and gave it prominence above the narrative, producing the final 5.1 mix in amazing time.
Now with I, Father complete and blazing a trail across European festivals winning awards and gaining recognition, since premiering at the All Lights International Film Festival in Hyderabad, India I, Father has won awards in Geneva, LA and Milan. Yet it is somewhat nostalgic looking back at the time shooting in the bustling city of Gjilan, capturing second unit images in Fushe Kosoves and Pristina. The post production phase seemed a lot more stressful, probably because of the length, yet the two go hand in hand. “Everything when the time is right”.
Mark Norfolk – Writer/Director
Mark studied Speech & Drama before studying Avant Garde and Independent Film production at University of Wales Cardiff. His short and feature films have screened and won awards all over the world. A former journalist, Mark is also an award winning playwright and writer of radio drama. He teaches film and creative writing and is currently a lecturer in screenwriting at Birkbeck College, University of London.
I, Father, 4K Digital/91’/Kosovo/UK/2018
*Winner Best Experimental Film-EuroCinema Festival, Geneva
*Winner Best Experimental Film-Festival of World Cinema, LA
*Winner Best Director, Best Screenplay-International Filmmakers Festival, Milan
Shadow Gene, 16mm/95’/UK/2014
*Winner Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress-Festfilm Kosova
*Winner Best Editing, Best Actress-Peloponnesian International Film Festival
Ham & The Piper, S16mm/80’/UK/2013
*Winner Best Actor- Eko International Film Festival
*Winner Best Film-SevenArt, Greece
*Winner Best Actor, Peloponnesian International Film Festival
*Winner Best Film, Black International Cinema Festival
*Winner Best Feature Film-Carmarthen Bay International Film Festival
Crossing Bridges, 35mm/96’/UK/2006
*Winner Independent Spirit Award-Screen Nation
*Winner Audience Award-Corinthian International Film Festival
*Winner Best Editing-Cyprus International Film Festival
Love Is Not Enough, DV/85’/UK/2001
*Shortlisted-JVC Digital camera Award
Other film/video includes:
How Do You Sleep At Night? DV/75’/UK/2018
*Urban Internecine Intercession, The Muse Gallery, London, 2019
Secret Listeners (Site-specific Installation, 2013)
Mothers & Daughters (50 x 120’ Heritage Video Archive, 2007)
I see I, Father as an exploration of the modern family through the story of the young people and their relationships with the older members of society. This reflects on the present status of Kosovo as an evolving country moving from one regime into another, from the old into the new, building a foundation on history to create a new modern and egalitarian age.
The idea of the film sprung up very quickly. I had written a play based on Hamlet called Princi I Kosoves (The Prince of Kosovo) which was in rehearsal at the Dodona Theatre in Pristina. Makfire, who played Marigona in the play suggested it might be a good idea to make a movie. Of course, the opportunity to make a low budget, contemporary story based on an historical text was an exciting prospect, so I went away and put together a schedule utilising the same cast from the play. We even took a day out to scout possible locations. But that was the extent of it and I dismissed the idea as improbable. Eventually, the play was performed to a packed house and proved to be a success. In the following days, the subject of shooting the film came up again. To be perfectly honest, I thought it would never happen, however on the plane journey home, I began to adapt the script into a credible screenplay that was contemporary, yet shined a light on Shakespeare’s original story. When I got back to the UK, things moved very quickly. I eventually agreed to do the film for expenses only, and was back in Kosovo within two weeks to begin production. The cast changed due to availabilities, personalities and things beyond my control and I hit on the idea of having Besim play the parts of Vasillis and the Soldier, a technique I’d previously used on my film, Ham & The Piper where I had the protagonist and the antagonist played by the same actor. It was a lot of work for Besim, but he pulled it off and I must say, given the circumstances of how things came together, he ought to be very proud of the outcome. There was no money, very little time, it was the coldest it had been in Kosovo for over forty years, so in the end to get to this point with a completed film is little short of miraculous.
We shot 4K for five days on a shooting ratio of 1:1, second takes were a luxury we couldn’t afford. This took me back to my filmmaking roots where after leaving film school I signed up to the 2CC (2nd Century Cinema) Filmmaking Manifesto. The Manifesto group didn’t last very long but the four filmmaking principles it laid out made an impact on a young arthouse filmmaker and I utilised much of it for my second feature film, Crossing Bridges. For me, the ‘moment’ is key to telling ‘truth’ in performance, be it on stage or on camera. The actor has his or her idea of how they will play the scene but when this comes up against another actor, the director, technical conditions and the circumstance of the moment, there will come truth in performance.
Post production was a journey in itself, first, finding an Albanian speaking editor in the UK and then overseeing all the post production elements piecemeal as funds became available. In the end though, perseverance has paid off and we have a delightful little film to show.
HEKTOR Alban Goranci
VASILLIS Besim Ajeti
MARIGONA Makfire Miftari
IRMA Florentina Ademi
JOSEF Ekrem Sopi
CERAN Alban Shahiqi
GIRL Anzotika Ajeti
VOCALIST Diana Toska
PIANO PLAYER Korab Kallaba
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Makfire Miftari
PRODUCER Besim Ajeti
PRODUCER Mark Norfolk
SET/WARDROBE Bekim Korça
COMPOSER Agron Shala
MAKE UP DESIGNER Lidona Berisha
CINEMATOGRAPHER Adonis Krasniqi
SOUND RECORDIST Agron Demolli
EDITOR Meriton Ahmeti
COLOURIST Edwin Mingard
SOUND DESIGN Tom Anderson