Now in its fourth year, the Durrës International Film Summerfest continues to expand apace on a very modest budget supplied by the municipality and a small number of commercial sponsors. Admission was free to all screenings and, since the city lacks a cinema, films were shown in Durrës' first century Roman amphitheatre and at the Aleksandër Moisiu Theatre, a live performing venue in which projection facilities had been installed.
Assembled by the festival's Artistic Director, Anila Varfi, the programme consisted of two main strands, a pan-European Contemporary Visions competition and a Balkan World competition which, together, sought to reach out to an audience that had long lived in total cultural isolation and still has very limited access to international cinema.
Among the high-profile guests was Francis Ford Coppola, who gave a much appreciated two-hour masterclass to discuss his career and to introduce two of his recent films, Youth Without Youth and Tetro. Claudia Cardinale presented the closing night film, a triumphal screening of Fellini's 8 1/2, which had reputedly been one of Enver Hoxha's favourite movies but which the general public had never previously been allowed to see.
A sidebar programme compiled by FIPRESCI Vice President Alin Tasçiyan spotlighted the New Turkish Cinema, led by Honey (Bal), the opening night film. Jan Harlan, Stanley Kubrick's long-time executive producer, introduced screenings of Barry Lyndon and the Kubrick-scripted AI Artificial Intelligence.
Given the very low levels of local production, Albanian films were thin on the ground. The national cinema was represented by two programmes of student shorts, two films by Albanian directors based in North America and a posthumous Career Award commemorating the actor Vangjush Furxhi.
The chair of the international jury — which gave its top prize to Marco Bellocchio's Vincere in the Contemporary Visions Competition — was Nik Powell, the producer of many acclaimed British films, including Scandal and The Crying Game, and now the Director of the National School of Film and Television.
The Balkan World jury presided over by the distinguished Czech director Jirí Menzel gave its award to the Croatian-Serbian comedy 72 Days. Another comedy, this time from Romania, Wedding in Bessarabia (Nunta in Basarabia), was honoured by the FIPRESCI jury, present in Durrës this year for the first time. (Sheila Johnston)
Durres International Film Summerfest: www.ifsdurres.al