THE GAME OF ALBANIAN FILM IMAGE 1895-1945
by Natasha Lako
1. The Birth of Balkan Cinematographic Art
in an Albanian Colonial Period
It is not known exactly, for how long time the news on the birth of image language
could pass the Albanian mountains and valleys. Two years after the birth of
the cinematography, concretely in 1897, the film box is found as a magic into
the open roads of emigrants, or in the cultivated centers of Albanian art-lovers.
And this was more than natural. Film's language entered into Albania between
roads that Albanians had created from centuries with their continent. Albania,
this country of western Balkans, has been a center of crossing and circulation
of different products, ideas and cultures, which gave her multicultural features.
Albanians start to live with this new image language too, and between it, a
community, which still lives in a tired colonial empire, receives a sign of
passing from the nineteenth century to the twentieth. It is interesting to view
in this period how the man's eye, in Albania, too, as in the entire Balkans
and world, requests help to its second eye, that of camera. This is a new level
of human society's conscience, which next to the letters language gives birth
to the image language. Only in this new relation of the view, the new signs
of modernity appear signs, which in all Balkans have been often neglected. But
we have to see Balkan, not only as the land of many ruptures and breakings,
but as a fatherland of the cinematography too. The history of image's circulation
becomes an important part of the circulation of ideas, products and people between
different Balkans countries. The road of cinematography's entering and delivering
in beginning of this century takes the same directions of centuries and thousand-years
wings of influences, which do not break only the Balkans borders, but the continental,
too. Cinematography's delivery came as an internal cultural need prepared by
a continual circulation of values. In the Albanian territory, there are tens
of tracks of old bridges, hundred-centuries ruins and roads, which have connected
not only the western part of Balkans with the eastern one, but far worlds with
unknown ones, too. There are these corridors, where there have been circulated
not only products and people, but also ideas, which found a rich land of traditions
that come together and create the Balkans fantasy.
Very often it's said that only where is fantasy and healthy imagination, there is future too, and Albanian people have really had a healthy fantasy and imagination. Film image had to face this Albanian fantasy of western Balkan, crossed always in contacts with other worlds. We can't understand Balkans and Albania without this huge and open circulation, as exotic as adventurous too. Each time we remind the world silk and orient's aroma, we remember the road of far traveling caravans that were passing to the old road Via Egnatia, associated with the ancient song and the creation team. The world silk and orient's aroma, as many other exotic products that go towards West, up to the famous tulips of Turkey, slowly loose their only product being, passing into artistic processing and figurative meanings, which pass to Albania too. They are roads and passes opened by the man, from the ancient thousand-years beginnings to the long colonial eastern empire periods, deep penetrations often covered by dust, old Balkans exchange of words, events and histories which connect with the whole world. From the end of nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century, whole Balkans enters into its new-programmed époque of new exchanges. With these roads we can do an over-pass of travel to Janina of nineteenth century, where the gymnasium school of Zosimea became a center of formation for the big Albanian ideologists and writers Naim Frasheri and Sami Frasheri, who devoted their life to the free circulation of the idea of human and national freedom. It's the same Janina with its territories where Manakis family has been living, family of Balkans cinematography creators, Milto and Janaq Manaki. The colonial empire government cannot interrupt the thousand-years traditional links and due to this internal human potential the Albanian activity is laid from Istanbul up to the western European cultural centers, with which were kept continues links. The big Albanian writer Faik Konica has documented that Albania has given to Rome a Pope, an Albanian prince called Gjovan Francesko Albani, who hipped in the Pope's throne in year 1700. Moikom Zeqo' (Koha Jone, September 4, 2002). National leader Skenderbeu has had friendship relation with Nifoni, Albanian patriarch of Costandinopoja, who has been murg in Athos and has became priest exactly in Kruja, after Skenderbeu's arrival in year 1446. It is seen the same road and circulation epicenter between three countries. B.G. Niebuhr, Latin publishment in Bonn, Saint Nifon, patriarch of Costandinopoja, Greek book published in Athos in year 1995. According to the documents founded this priest has gone to Ohrid and than to city of Manastir to pass to Bucharest, in Adrianopolis and in Costandinopolis. There are almost same itineraries that Arvanitis' camera follows too in the movie Ulisses' point of view, of producer Teo Angjelopulos, where path of the first camera of Balkans film is described. Balkans European cultural connections become even wider, when a group of Albanian inheritors of Skenderbeu's time, emigrated from centuries from their fatherland, and placed in South Italy, not only keep and bloom the Albanian language outside Balkans pressures, but in the example of humanists of 15th century create the masterworks of Albanian literature of eighteenth century. Other Balkans traditional open paths bring us up to the Albanian cultural fireplaces opened in Bucharest and Sofia with a huge activity for the fates of all Albanian nation and culture, especially Albanian language that has passed into the most difficult pressures and destinies. Without this open circulation, we cannot return to the birth of Balkans cinematographic art. It's the same Balkan of a continues circulation of communities, which goes up to the eighteenth century. Today we can speak for the organization of film views and image's enter, but it is difficult to determine the place where the Balkans cinematography was birthed firstly, as different countries were still living in a colonial society. Historical data of before national centuries present a very complicated structure of all center and eastern European countries, including also those Balkans which during the Ottoman power lived for a long time between the three big monarchies, the Austro-Hungarian, the German kingdom and the Russian one on the other side. In all this land, including from Poland, Hungary up to southeast, of course the groups that were becoming more powerful were dominating. "Pushes of different communities, of most messy parts, wanted to do the immunity or internal self-administration, which some did achieve before and some after, as well as Albania achieved its own independence in 1912. Cinematography has entered in Albania before the creation of the Albanian State. Under a long five-hundred years colonialism of the Ottoman power that had increased even more the communication surfaces, a different and differentiated community, Balkans hundred years, is gradually split up in pieces, without strictly dividing the different nations people from each other. Doing a parallel comparison between Czechs, Poles and Jews, as between Albanians, Aromanians, Vlachs and Macedonians, happens that these groups did not have any concentrated territory and in many cases they spread in more than one state. These have been natural and open developments. In this land where the nations were coming into being and territorial conflicts happened, there were cases where there were not known territorial borders within which each group could come together to build a state nation and this was that natural too. In this natural legalization of people circulation and moving, the Ottoman Empire was interested for administrative multicultural devices, going further with the national states in the twentieth century, in that sense", where you can become independent, if you rely in this national doctrine. So the vilajet of Manastir, the land where births the language of Balkans image, becomes one of the most open points of the circulation of people and ideas, and of the birth of the cinematographic language between the big Balkans creators Janaq and Milto Manaki. Images language births in Balkans as a need of fixation and expression in the image language, from these multicultural features and inter-linked moves, as well as this new birth of identities. Seems that Manaki Brothers, with their film and photographic camera, were cared to follow this chronic of time. In this direction their attention is directed in all Balkans parcels, creating a complete equilibrium, as a rare witnesses. Film camera is calm and objective element, within a very passionate world where everything is tried to be seen only with the first eye. This second eye of Manaki Brothers, beginning from the photography fixes the new national Albanian myths as Cerciz Topulli, or events of Dibra lands, from the movement of xhonturks up to the congress of Albanian letters which is kept in Manastir in year 1908. Balkans cinematography births so in one of the most opened and inter-linked Balkans point from people who had felt on their destiny this continuous movement of human circulation. Can be called as a surprise how in these idyllic lands, of big popular epos, is the images birth which expresses one of the most industrialized games of the human spirit.
This new cinematographic material, this new film silk, comes in the beginning as a big sensation and a direct information, brings one world close to the other, between the same roads and traditional directions of their communication and crossing, from the West to the East. In the Albanian coffee shops and casinos, in these open advertising places of cities with big cultural traditions, or in the open places, between the magic wanderers, the cities views come in the beginning, which were exchanged into big industrial and cultural centers or first filming of brothers Lumiere. The cinematographic audience is set in front of a committed and complete fact: the cinematographic opera, which is projected in front of her. The power of the cinema and of the committed and fixed opera, ones and forever, which comes in front of your eyes and does not seem like the fast food of the half-developed societies. The Balkans people, including Albanians, become the first participants of the development and the extension of the cinematographic art. The matches of Albanians with the image world is explained by their traditional link with the visual arts, especially with the wall painting of church alfresco, and an ancient cultural tradition. Manaki Brothers' camera shows how the internal human potential moves, which births detached by the static movements, which want to appropriate it for themselves. This internal human potential, has rarely went to Albania in trends of the administrative and state powers, from the church medieval music of the man from Durresi Jan Kukuzeli to the big paintings of churches alfresco, before and after the big and long colonial empire Ottoman invasion. The works of the Albanian painters Onufri, Kostandin Shpataraku, David Selenica, Zografi, are spread in all the biggest points of linking with Balkans countries, in the same open point of Albanian-Greek-Macedonian relations, and creation of the biggest roads for people, products and ideas circulation. Albanian researchers have been speaking many times for the man who lays the seed of Onufri, who breaks the church canons of painting, setting openly his auto portrait in a religious art work. This ancient signal shows that Albanians wanted to fix and interpret themselves very early. We are so in a land of continues links with the centers of world cultures, which has always tried to challenge the circulation of backwardness, medieval obscurant mentalities, pressures from one group to another and other big pressures that brought the first and second Balkans war. It is this troubled period which gives to Albanians two industrialized arms, the arm and the cinematographic set, which as it seem provoke even biggest game of industrializing the spirit world, which can be done only by the cinematography. In the beginning of 20th century, between the first seven pupils of Lumiere brothers, there are two Albanian photographs in Paris, Gege Marubi from Shkodra and Petro Fotografi from Korca and these contacts continue for a long period, until in years '30, photograph Gjon Mili, another maestro of lighting and light effects, who's parents had emigrated to USA, prepares in his studio also other artist of the Albanian viewing art, and does film shootings in the same time. It seems that not only the territory but the time too takes bigger dimensions, to implant the cultural seed. Balkans countries with a rich collaboration tradition, which find ancient links in the languages of each other, although with difficulty, tried to keep alive these traditional links, interrupted time by time from different historical operations. But when we speak for the cinematography, we cannot see the image's circulation separated by its birth in the Balkans land.
In this Balkans land, one of its axes, connected especially with the Albanian destiny becomes the axe Durres, Elbasan, Korce, Follorine, Manastir-Skopje as the main axe of the first image circulation and the welcoming that the Balkans people to the image, without leaving beside Vlora and Shkodra in Albania. We are in lands which live in the administrative borders of an eastern empire which keeps all linked. Kole Idromeno, 1860-1939, painter, architect and town-planner with an erudite culture, in 1883 sets up a laboratory in Shkodra, called Driteshkronja Idromeno (100 years Albanian cinematography, A Hoxha) and in year 1908, begins to organize the show of diapositives and films in the cultural club Gjuha Shqipe, developing its activities in his house. It's the same year, which in base of xhonturks reforms enliven the Albanian movements for indipendence. In the city of Manastir, the location of Albanian big renaissance men Gjerasim, Sevasti and Parashqevi Qiriazi, there where in 1908 is developed the Congress that sets up the Latin letters of the Albanian language, and the first publication house and the first ABC book with Latin letters are published. The diffusion of the new expressive film language begins to intertwine with the diffusion of the Albanian national language which had hundred years that had created its first big works. In 1909 Brothers Como begin to organize film shows in the theatre's hall of Manastir, very close to the city of Korca. Meanwhile in year 1911, first shows begin in the coffee shop Stema of Korca. Albanians, before the creation of their national state begin to know with the first cinematographic shootings of the world, not between the sporadic meetings, but due to their initiative to create institutionalized relations of the free trade, where this free human initiative gets priority.
It exists a contract in Italian language of Nikole Idromene Kole Idromenos with the distributor, representatives of an Austrian company, Josef Stauber, signer on 1 September 1912, which marks a long history of distribution of the world cinematography, which will give Albanian its masterpieces. It is natural that this free human initiative becomes even stronger as much as it weakens the states politics brought and implemented by Istanbul, which becomes always more far. Manaki Brothers exercise their activity in the climaxes of this last period of a long colonialism and of a world which tries to become without end and shape, when the Albanian girl Gonxhe Bojaxhiu leaves Skopje to go to Kalkuta, who would become Mother Teresa of the whole world. Within this big circulation of the film image, births also the circulation of the Balkans film image. Manaki Brothers, born in village Avdela, village which they relived with their first Balkans shootings of year 1905, continue their activity in a more extended Balkans land. There are these two creators of the Balkans cinematography who along with their work in royal courtyards of Balkans, have fixed Albanian commits in photos, units of the first national movements of Albanians and the common Albanian man, wife and husband from Toskeria (south), or the hallvaxhi, with the same penetration and deepness as the four Turkish orchestrates. Before speaking for nations, camera speaks for the human world. Cinematographic art was born as a need to reflect this human world. The movie Ulisses' point of view of great Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, who makes a huge homage to the Balkans cinematography, on the occasion of 100-years of the cinematography, passes his character in one of the most beautiful sequences of the movie in the empty square of Korca's city, city with which Manaki Brothers have had continues contacts. The Balkans silence, deepness and subtext are some of the most meaningful sequences. Anyway something remains empty and creates an empty space, and this is the origin of Manakis Brothers, of these citizens of neighbor country, who have spoken the Albanian language too, not as an official and institutionalized Balkans language, nut simply as a tongue language. Lets turn back again to the film of Theo Angelopoulos devoted to the first Albanian cineastes of Balkans, on the occasion of the 100-years of the cinema. Although this film goes away from the documental data, making an apotheoses of people in the Balkans movie, to this message where it tents to circulate instead of the instruments of revenge manipulation between pressed populations, the love of free people, has place for free interpretations.
The authors, following the road of travel, considered the traditional path of values and not counter-values; they stopped the hero of the film exactly in an empty square in the town of Korce, in the company of a woman looking for her sister. Only a distant voice is heard. The square turns into a closed circle for the life and activity of these two creators of the film. However, the conscience and the feeling of the great artist feels all the movements of the inter-Albanian cultural values. Albanian researchers have found it difficult to contact the Manaki Brothers, as they have had all the times closed paths with the other Balkans countries. The long Balkans battles, iron curtains and ideological conflicts, have caused the interruption of the contacts of a prople with another, or of a culture with another, exactly in its most open points. Manaki Brothers are a Balkan example of the union and cooperation of these cultures, as the first sign of an emancipated and civilized Balkans, and of the continuation of the multi-cultural Balkans civilization, split up in different nations and states. In an enormous big world games, we have to accept that that Albanian - Balkan people, remain as the players of the cinematography goal. In order to show this combination of relations established since centuries as the groups of people did not comply with the state borders, this is what the meeting with one of the Manaki Brothers shows; Irfan Tershana, 98 years old, a personality of the Albanian social life, a well known sportsman and constructor of 370 sports buildings since 30is until 70ties. "I have followed the technical school of Fulci, construction branch, from which in 1929 I left for Rome, in order to follow the studies for physical culture. Since age does not provide the opportunity to exercise sports for a long time, the director of this school, before I left, suggested to observe all the sports centers in Italy, since Albania was in great need for them. I have gone to Berlin in order to see the construction of the stadium, which was built for these games, as well as to see the Olympic games. I returned to Albania in 1934. I have participated in all the Olympic games of Istambul, where I met a lot of Albanians, among them Fuat Bey Toptani and Niukolle Nishku. They introduced me to a Turkish citizen, who had served in Diber and through marriages he had connections with Albanian families; he was not satisfied with them since they had fought against their armies. As he got to know that I had my origin from Diber, he spoke to me about the congress of Diber and during the talks he spoke about my father. This citizen brought a book which was published in Turkish, about the congress of Diber, and he showed to me a copy of the group of people, participants to the congress of Diber, where my father was on a horse. I did not know that there existed a photography of my father, and that was a rare thing for that time. From him I heard the name of Manakis, as the photographer of Manastir. Returning to Albania, as we were in Follorina, I decided to ask about the photography, and to return to Monastir, where I met the photographer as he was working in the studio. I was accompanied to the Manastir by Hali Stermilli, brother of Haki Stermilli. I spoke Macedonian. I asked him about the photography I was interested in, and I asked him for a reproduction of this photography, since it had to do with my father. Where are you from? - he asked me. As he got to know that I came from Tirana, he spoke in Albanian. Janaq promised that he would do the photography for the next day and he immediately invited me to his house for dinner... At his house I met his wife, and some children who spoke Albanian with each other. On the following day, as I get the photography, my father on the horse, taken away from the group of Albanians, I asked him how much the work costs. There are expressly his words: You are an Albanian patriot, you are not going to pay." This has taken place in 1934, a relatively quiet European, Albanian and Balkan time, during which the Albanian social life was being consolidated with new cultural culminating points. Presence of the second year in the short and interrupted period of independence...
Cinematography, this moving photo, which tries to compete with the movement of life which tries not to let time die and transforms many elements of eternity from the sky to the earth, influencing the building of a humane society. Maybe, all world would walk on another pace if cinematography were not born. Social life develops quicker within the screen, with another speed. So, in the screen of Griffith, the father of cinematography, women win very soon their rights of equality, so that the whole society, which only in the most developed countries had given the vote to women in 1911. Albania had to recognize the rights of the female world in this part of the world and humanity. Albanians welcome cinematography art, more than the other arts since they have felt the need of identifying and happiness which is provided by the documentation of the human being. Albanians have the tendency towards their individual identity and this has been done by them with passion in photography. In front of the objective of photography or film box, kings and servants, Turkish captain or Albanian capidan, of Manaki Brothers are the same. In front of their eyes we can have some photos from great photographs of the beginning of the twentieth century, who prepared the birth of the Albanian cinematography. They are photos of the famous predecessors of Geg Marubi, Pjeter Marubi 1834-1903, photos of Kele and Kole Kodheli, Zengos, Budes, Sotiri, Xhimitiku who lived and worked in different towns of the newly formed Albania, with which the first evidence for themselves has started, before they provided any proofs for the community or the state life. Before the photo they say what they have been, uprisers against the Otoman empire in 1835 (Marubi) or founders of the first Albanian school, 1887. The second eye is taking a selective position. But photography remains first and foremost an individual object and goes into the everyday life, where everyone is the master of selection of his own moments and they are rare moments, because of the opportunity of taking a photo. There are hundreds of people who have remained fixed in photos providing the most human direction to the future human life through film works. Posing in front of the objective is almost solemn, directly connected to the objective. They seem that they have forgotten the eye of the photograph and they have to so with the eye of the apparatus. They are never photos of people taken aback. The agreement between the ones who are in the photo and the others taking the photo seems to have been respected. In the photo they are the real ones, without interpretations. It is the evidence they are providing themselves, without the interpretation of the others. At the beginning of the century, photography was the pride of humanity, an attitude full of dignity for the life, almost unchangeable. Photography becomes a protecting document of the personal and collective dignity, of the selection of events and moments of life. This is why society has felt the need of photography, which is eagerly waiting to bring human life in full move.
Photography becomes the first show of the new cinematography art, this art that proves that it can hinder the personal power and attempts of man, the only one, which connects his cultural inheritance with another. At this period there start in Balkans the chronic filming which define the great role, which the cameraman would play in cinematography. In the show-off between the society collective shows and the state organisms, the individual man comes up as a winner, trying to keep his camera in his hands. Through the setting up of the independent state in 1912, there ends a long colonial period, during which Albanians sooner or later had shared their fate with the other Balkan peoples. At this period, Albanian patriots write for the cinema halls as valuable places where people can learn something. In a new and troubled Albania, cinematography art of travels and deep penetrations and the cinema hall remain a sign of modernity, which is often accompanied with the military moves of the time. Today there are a lot of evidence that the different fighting sides in the first world war did not stop bringing their apparatuses for making filming for their armies. The reality from the second eye continues its own life in the screen and we can say that Albanians continue to know the period of industrialization through two of its signs: weapon and film camera, prior to and after the setting up of the Albanian state. Albanians remain filmed in the camera according to the data in the years 1903, 1910. The Albanian critics have described this period, which really marks the birth of the profession of the cameraman.
English society Charles Urban Company has been one of the first companies which has filmed in Albania since 1903 up to 1912 and 1913 and it has left the evidence of the Balkan wars which caused the Balkan hatred. A Torinese company films in Albania Unitas in 1909 prepares the chronicle: Rebel Albania. From the companies which shot in Albania, there were Albert Kahn, Pathe, Gaumont, Eclair; from the Italian companies - Aquila, Savoia, Comerio, Luce; and the Austrian companies - Sascha Film Fabrik, Wiener Autorenfilm; from Germany - UFA, Kabinet Film, Munich, Olimpia Werber Film, Optima Film GmbH Werberfilm; from Switzerland - Rich; from Belgium - Kurt Thorman Film; and from the American companies - The march of time, Paramount, Fox Movietone News, etc, which were interrupted by the second world war.
Through these filming there have been fixed once and for ever sequences from the life of Albanians who lived between the two world wars. Views from towns, of special importance is Durres, which in 1914 was the center of the Albanian state, headed by Prince Vid. The arrival of a foreign prince provokes even the cameras. Earler filming in 1908 show the roads of Durres, which present today a clear social situation, same as the presentation of the Albanian tradition of tradesman in the centers of the town. At the same time, with the marriage of the woman mounting a horse and covered with a duvak, camera follows the Albanian life and the craftsmen, which very often can be translated into neutral people, same as Albania was propagated. Event he world film is within this kind of neutrality, the more the Albanian state was consolidated, the more are the filming connected with its life, opening of parliament, visit of Zog to Shkoder and other towns of Albania, death of Fuat Diber, marriage of princess, sister of the king, 25 jubilee of Albanian independence 1937, parade of 1929 etc. the eye of foreign operators tries to fix the oriental Albania, while Albanians, including the royal courtyard look for finding the civilization of 20th century. Slowly, the majority of filming is made by Luce, which films even the entering of Italian troops to Albania, not managing to film the pullback of the king. The camera is following the history of the state, which has brought other interests and are looking for a balance with the official representatives of Albania. The camera starts to go away from the destiny of the history of Albania. There have remained unfilmed events which have laid the foundations of the Albanian state, such as the congress of Lushnja, which right after the conclusion of the conference of peace in Paris, decided once and for ever a governance based on consensus, which would have the representatives of the four main religions in Albania, and starts the building of a new emancipated society. This emancipation is felt through the opening of the halls of cinema. Right oafter the first world war and the new Albanian balance in 1920. the patriot Kodhel Zilja, opens in Vlora the cinema called Perparimi, Thanas Pema opens in manastir the cinema called Belgrade, while in Korca the Albanian shareholders turtulli, Mano - Aristidhi opened the cinema Modrne. In 1925-26 there was opened in Tirana cinema "national" and in 1927 there were opened in Korca the cinemas Luks and Majestic. At the same time there were transformed into a cinema the old military barracks in Gjirokaster, Hall of Mitropoli and café Paris in Korce, the rooms of hotel Kontinental and in Sarande Splendid and in Durres.
Feeling the obstacles in opening the cinemas, the representatives of the first company of cinemas in Albania, Alqi Hobdari and Xhuf Koljana, write about the cinema "national" on 5 Feb 1926. "It is only the patriotic ideal and not speculation which encouraged out company to risk the money for this holy work, since there is no doubt that this capital could bring more income if it were used in trade or industry".
During this period where Albania turns back from a republic into a monarchy, the attention of foreign cameras focuses to parades, physical exercises, in order to show the whole society and organization of the state. The state has started to intervene with the power of camera, but still it is not possible since the screen is in freedom and competes with the other screens in the world. None of the other arts can compete with the open market of cinematography and in some cases we can say that the screen causes improvisations of shows, which stage the films in the streets of the town.
The great painter, Stavri Madhi and others, reproduce the posters of films since there are no publication houses. The film remains a value compared to the other arts; what is fixed remains once for ever. Different is with the books which is being translated and sent to the publication house, with the music which needs exercise, while the film comes as a present. A ticket is enough. It is a period where the people have understood the need of the second eye, or fixing the objective as the reality, however, for this long work is needed.
Testimonies of people speak about such work by Albanians themselves, which are made in 1935. One of the present successors of cinema Majestic testifies that the initial filming was made on 6 January 1935, the day of throwing the Cross into the river and processions of carnivals. The successors of the cinema majestic indicate how the camera was found, which they still have in the premises of their cinema. A push for buying the filming camera was the need to help the cinema-audience, which couldn't understand the foreign languages and the content of the film without sound, whose the dialogue was written on the screen. Because the cinema owners didn't have subtitle possibilities, they decided to make a short summary of the film events and bought a filming device in order to shoot and adjust them. The preparation of the summary phrases, events and main dialogues was a necessary commercial process, which required the film developing and the simple mounting of the pellicle. Through the preparation of these original subtitles they assured a wide public. These first owners, who had their own camera and cinema, decided to make the first shootings. Korca Press and one of the Mano brothers, who were shareholder and owner of the two modern Albanian cinemas, tell about these first shootings made in the streets of Korca city, on the occasion of the cross cast in water and carnival feast.
What is important to be stressed is that the shootings in a small country like Albania were made neither by the state nor by filmmaking companies, but by the people that had their own initiative and inclination following the example of the Lumiere or Manaki brothers. The inclination is very human and shows the point of view of the Albanian art in general. The camera taken by the hands of the Albanian people has shot neither the royal court nor the official activities but a crowd of anonymous people when one had the possibility to fix not merely the procession but the human being world. In Albania all the citizens attended these feasts despite their different religious belief. The attention is attracted at the same time by the chronicle and carnival spectacle, this big theatre, which joins the possible and the impossible the tragic and grotesque. It is noticed in this direction the point of view and influence of the big and cinematographic human spectacles, which have brought in Albania from Tarzan to Battleship Potemkin. The evidences show that the shot material was developed in the Salonika laboratory and then was placed at the cinema Lux which was burned so this first copy disappeared once and forever. At that period the Albanian people didn't have the possibility to make more great efforts and they were opening the doors for all the foreign companies, which continue to film in Albania.
Up to now the wedding of the King Zog in 1938 has remained as one of the most popular filming in Albania. This filming brings in Albania the tale and the reality at the same time. The ceremony was attended by many well-known Italian personalities. The importance of this direct chronicle shootings starts to compare with that of the feature film presented in different cinemas.
The film cinematographer still remains the first protagonist that fix the human life, because the chronicle under the example of the photography is fixing the Albanian life. The figure and influence of the film actors will play another strong role in the cinematographic life of the Albanian society. From the year 1924 up to 1939, which are the years of the consolidation of the cultural authentic Albanian life, the revival of the concert life, the works of the modern literature and the stars of the cinematography invade the screen. In the period between the two world wars, the influence of the American, Italian and French cinema prevails. Greta Garbo with Mata Hari, in 1932, Ingrid Bergman with Gaslight, in 1944, Maurice Chevalier, Laurence Olivier with Rebecca of Hitchcock, in 1940, Chaplin, Fred Astaire come uproariously. At the same time the Albanian people follow the chronicles of that time.
In these chronicles still shine the national Albanian suits, the rivers and the pastoral life. Suddenly near to the world big names of the screen, the Albania people discover the presence of the Albanian actors that play in foreign movies. It is the time that an Albanian in Boston shot with an amateur camera.
During this shiny period of the free world screen, the movies of the big actor, Albania originated, Aleksander Moisiu, who during the nazi time asked the Albania citizenship, appear in Albania. Aleksander Moisiu was born in Trieste in the year 1880, in an emigrant family from Kavaja. In the year 1902 Moisiu goes to work in the German theatre of Praga and from the year 1904 he works in Berlin with the big producer Reinhard. His tours in all Europe and United States scenes proclaim him as one of the most great actors of the scene of the years 30. He was distinguished for his dramatic, resounding voice and his expressive character. A.Moisiu has acted the roles of the main dramatic works such as Hamlet of Shakespeare, Fedaj of the The alive corpse of Tolstoi, which raise deep emotions for the human spirit. Certainly it is easy and difficult at the same time for this hero to join the new field of the cinematographic battles. It is this rare talent of the scene, who was invited to act in the first European sound films. He plays in the first European sound films The black fate of the German film house, das Scharce, which was realized in the years 1912-1913 and after it he acts in The eyes of Ole Brandis, realized in 1914 by Deutche Bioskop with Stellan Rey as filmmaker, His only sun, directed by Gartner in 1915. He plays in three movies with the producer Wellin: Pique dame (Avelli, 1918), The ring of the three wishes (1918), Between life and death (1920), and later in Mach's The wedding of Figaro (1920) as well as in The devil follower realized by the American society Warner Bross (1929); The King box (1929), Lorenzo de Medici (Brignone, 1935). According to the German newspaper Allemagne Zeitung of 14th June 1929 it was said that Aleksander Moisiu plays Hamlet and declaims in English the monologue 'to be or not to be'. Another face of the Rumanian screen is Kristaq Antoniut.1907-79. Kristaq Antoniu was born in an Albania emigrant family in Bucharest in 1907. He started his cinematographic career since he was a student of the Mimo-dramatic school. His first role was in the Rumanian movie The first sin. "There is a short time that a nice Albanian boy equipped with rare qualities appeared in the Rumanian sky" writes the Minerva magazine in 1931. After the realization of the film Napasta Lyra, The Major Mura in 1927 as well as two main roles in the films, The Committee.It is the time that an Albanian in Boston shot with an amateur camera.
After The Thief (1929) and Cokoj (1931), Kristaq Antoniu returns to Albania, where he continues his activity as a lyric singer. On the realization of the main figures played by him one feels the expression of an elegant play, where the actor tries to express his rich spiritual world plenty of surprises. Kristaq Antonia had very expressive eyes related with his Albanian-Balkan origin. After his return in Albania Kristaq Antoniu attends the cultural active life, especially as lyric singer. He continues the studies at the experimenter cinematographic center of Roma, and then he was invited to play in the film The meeting at the lake, which was shot in Albania in 1942.
Another actress that has impressed the Albanian public was Elena Qirici.
Elena Qirici is the first Albanian girl that appears in the big screen. She started her artistic life in the Albanian scenes, with her artistic spectacles and many tours in different cities, which were given most of the time in the cinemas' rooms. She was selected among a group of 80 girls and she takes part in a spectacle organized at the Quirino theatre of Italia, when the Italia first King assists. The Italian Press calls Elena Qirici: "Picola Grande Diva". Elena Qirici moves in U.S.A. before the fascist invasion where she was activated from Metro Goldwin Majer in two main roles. In 1938 she returns in Albania to make tours. The Albanian press writes for her on that occasion and re-publishes an American article where has written: The small Elena Qirici arrives in Hollywood, she is the main rival of the famous dancer Eleanor Powell. As it's noticed a long period of co-existence has passed for the Albanians and the cinematographic art, where the Albanian figures appear. On 1938, Daragjati, Canco, Beshiri created Shqiptoro-film distribution. The agreement say that 9 feature should be shown every week in Tirana city and other city, three of them comic.
The period in trecio: The intrigue of the personal initiative towards the most extreme colonial statehood. Despite the efforts to open the cinematographic eye the short Albanian independence could offer neither means nor possibilities in a bid to be expressed in the Albanian image. It was only the self-isolated period of the communism dictatorship, which required that Albania should fulfill all its needs in a closed economy where the Albanians started to produce every thing by themselves including the Albanian movie. Certainly in this space the conditions to stimulate the Albanian cinematography and wishes of its filmmakers were created. But during that period nobody had the right to see the past or analyze the beginning of the Albanian cinematography, which constitute its first 50 years of cinema history. In a small country like Albania, the long presence of the seventh art dated since the beginning of the century, which influenced on continuous connections with countries abroad worldwide and created the conditions for the birth of a national cinematography. The creation of the first film studio in Albania by the year 1952 has undervalued all attempts and traces of the previous film shootings performed in Albania by the Albanian themselves. The reason behind is very simple: the totalitarian regime emerging after the Second World War urged creating Albania from scratch. The totalitarian society which cracked down only after 1991-92 in the 20th Century is not interested to look backwards because government connects itself with, and attributes to itself every phenomenon of the Albanian society and according to it, every feature is related to this power. The cinematographic critics find this easier while looking at three simultaneous phenomena which were more negations rather than three concurrent affirmations, without which we should not have Albanian cinematography at present. The first affirmation derives more from an abrupt exclusion rather then negligence. For a totalitarian society with a complex totalitarian mentality, Manakis comes beyond abrupt definitions, which are more, then needed. The second affirmation and traditionally one of the Albanian totalitarian prevailing opinions, points out the first period of the Albanian state to be treated outside the Albanian state of the post second world war. According to this mentality we maintain a new state which does not carry and inherit neither a single tradition nor any trace with the previous one, nor has the Albanian post war cinematography had any connection with the time lived by Albanians since 1912 up to the start of the fascist occupation. And the third negation has remained the taboo of the period of time under the fascist invasion, from April 7 of the year 1939 up to November 1944, a period which marks a very interesting relation between the screen and the Albanian creator which at that time was represented by Mihallaq Mone, the first Albanian filmmaker.
From year 1939 up to 1944 Albania is turned against its short-term colonial inhuman period of density. It is very easy to close this chapter of the Albanian life, which has been confronted so much; moreover one cannot use the thesis of forbidden times. But while following the press of the time, when looking at the program of the cinema halls, you conceive the fact immediately, that time cannot be halted nor can the will of the Albanians to have their own made cinematography. Most difficult was to penetrate in this new short colonial period of occupation, which along with the confrontation, had elements of the co-existence or co-operation, or the daily secrete battles for the domination and counter-domination in life, an irresistible resistance of the human kind. The creation of the Albanian film image of the years 40 should be seen in that resistance. The fascist regime creates a famous in-trecio between the point of view of the people as contemporaneous, the camera point of view and invader or propaganda point of view. This in trecio, prepares a new acting intrigue when the people live together or die together in a camera which stays far from them. This means that the intrigue has gone more far away, in a propagandistic territory but even more further in a propagandistic territory, which convince the Albanians to be ready for their cinematography. And maybe it is the same territory that leads the shootings of Mihallaq Mone, the first filmmaker of the Albanian film. In trecio continue in a testify and wished complexity. After the ground battles, where none seeks to proclaim himself a looser, for a long time is felt the fight to rule the screen. It is a battle, which urges two or more intertwined forces in this small Balkan ball like Albania, is, henceforth the cinematography will have its own due inside it.
The years 30-40 bring the necessity of interpretation and stage-management. It is the first case that the camera remains under the direction of an Albanian filmmaker and producer, who recently was realizing a strong wish. This wish consisted at materializing an imagination manipulated by the politic art exerted in the Albania territory. The cinematographic image born in the Albania of the years 40 cannot be detached from this imagination of the free human being under a very forced control. But when one sees the documentary of Mihallaq Mone he doesn't see the realization of the statehood theories but the wish of one man to fix the society in a certain period. The attention of the propaganda in this period is directed towards "the new young person". Mihallaq Mone in his documentaries especially in the The Eagle Sons of Skenderbeu is the first man of cinema that intervenes in the middle of this controversial imagination. His shootings have traveled in all industrialized Albania and fixed a new industry, the one of creating the new generations. But what the announcer says it's different from what the camera says. Today thanks to Mihallaq Mone some evidences of the Albanian life in the years 40 have remained vivid. We are so before the evidence of the wish for development of a society despite the created trap. The most beautiful human deeds and imagination, inherited generation after generation indeed couldn't be reflected but neither has been replaced by a new ideology. The pellicle had remained untouchable and virgin under the real seal of the years 42. Before these shootings, the Albanian people were seeing only the foreign cinematography. This foreign cinematography has been in plenty harmony with this Albanian imagination unexpressed as it should be in the artistic works, parallel with the dream and desire, the diversity of feelings and passions, curiosity, analyze of the human society, pain, historical rising and descents. Now is the turn of an Albanian filmmaker of 40's, to say something for the first time in cinematography, not with a simple chronicle shooting but with a documentary. Certainly Mihallaq Mone is one of the first and young Albanian filmmaker. We are in a period and in a country, where the ratio and harmony is shocked between the first eye and the second eye of camera, which invites for normality. The art of the fascist regime move the human eye from this kind of rationality, because its interpretation controls and overcome at the same time the creation. So in the documentary of the 40s it is noticed the need for producing interpretation and its film figuration. This is an example that the documentary is taking from the feature film. After the development of the feature film the producing film takes a big importance, which often intervene in artistic interpretation in order to show better the reality. This transfer of interpretative means, which elaborates the direct chronicle and need the producer, is necessary for the statehood citizen. Here it comes the opportune moment to enter in scene the energy of a new Albanian filmmaker such as Mihallaq Mone. It's the time when the directors' eyes interfere in esthetic shootings, which have a certain ideological basement, which exclude the main part of a certain reality. What has remained in the documentary The Eagle Sons of Skenderbeu are the human faces filled with hope, unconscious for what lay ahead of them, filled with hope for a future that will never exist. But to speak for Mihallaq Mone one should see back the Albanian period of the 40's.
The activity of Mihallaq Mone should be seen related with the cultural activity of many others Albanian artists, who at that time were working at Radio Tirana or other institution, but who couldn't find the dream of the big cultural institution and had hope to revive the Albanian theatre, opera or cinematography.
Many personalities of the culture were supervised. Among these educated young, who tried to guard the equilibrium of the neutrality the name of Mihallaq Mone relates him directly with the Institute Luce and cinematographic activities and maybe for that reason with the notorious directory of propaganda. Because the activity of Mihallaq Mone was closed too early, his name is not mentioned in the history of the Albanian cinematography. But this reality of development shows that it was only the statehood will which could make in Albanian more than a personal wish some steps for the cinematography.
On 30 September 1942 recommended directly by the Cont Ciano and Benito Mussolini, was created in Albania Tomorri Society, which aimed to create films. Mihallaq Mone becomes a member of this society, who seeks to respond to the Albanian recent hopes and find a solution. By being a new colonial power that owns the Albanian life since the year 1939 up to 1944, the camera started to go towards the third eye, which is the power that wants to prevail even in the human point of view. During the whole World War II, the first eye should confront the camera look, which in reality from the camera look has passed in the look of the third eye that is a totalitarian eye and wants to control and serve every thing. The Albanians feel this statehood power since the first entrance of the fascist Italian troops. Thanks to this shootings we have today the photochemistry-evidence of this invasion.
The German or Italian cinematography of those days, which left some historical traces and war documents, is like crossing a roadblock towards post war.
It was impossible for the Fascist power to strike on the screen as hard as in the battlefield. In the occupied Albania the screen fight starts and is confronted between the artistic feature which continues to come from different countries of the world introduce by private owners of the Albanian cinema halls and the chronicles of a totalitarian propaganda played prior to films. While the owners of cinema halls recycle frequently films, masterpieces displayed for along time, the Italian etatism creates the state chronicles block. The more the world open film display was preserved in the Albanian screen, the more refined and elaborated the propaganda in the offices of military and high civilian administration became. Keeping a follow up on this battles and on its mission, it strikes your eye the open correspondence of the director of the Luce Institute with the representative of the Italian king to Albania, Jakomon in connection with the new orientations on cinematography. Without any doubts, it is felt the superiority of the man of the central propaganda, towards a military representative who enjoys power on Albanians. In the daily press it is spoken for the "General department of press, propaganda and tourism which brings about a great service to a country and the issue of their fascist empire community:" Albania has joined the Italian empire. A perfect restricting etatism has dominated the country's life. The battle starts for dominating the screen, the battle for dominating the cameras has started likewise. But in a country like Albania with a rich tradition in playing artistic features, the battle for dominating the screen is many times harder than the one for dominating the camera. Apparently on the fight over the screen we come across attempts to draw parallels with the air and sea battles among the states put in front of each other. The fight over screen of the 40s is battles between chronicles produces by the propaganda and the artistic features where free mankind energies continue to source in and which goes beyond control. A whole list of chronicles of that time surge into the screens of the cinema halls: "250 million of people of the Rome, Berlin, Tokyo axis are changing the fate of the entire mankind, which is turning into a new one- is said in a chronicle of year 1941.
On the other side artistic films continue to be played all kind of productions from the entire world. Mata Hari of Greta Garbo, 1929 and Ingrid Bergman of Gaslight,1940, continue to survive.
On the delicate surface it became common to hear the use of the words fire and iron. Fire an iron with views from the towns of Manila, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, from the island of Sumatra and from Malaysia. (The chronicle: The Bombardment of Sumatra and of a English military and navy basis by the Japan Military and air force in l942).
At the same time onto the screen people watched the Howard Hawks's characters. The rich Nick, the dinosaur bones at the museum, the fell in love despite of engagement... And, what the chronicles say: Attack of the German aircraft army against a convoy of US ships that were carrying materials for the Soviet Union in l942. Trains with patrol and grain come in Germany from the Soviet Union, l940. Italian military vehicles arrive in Athens. The Italian soldiers are in Acropolis in l941. Aspects for the native life in the island of Bali, l942. Rome open town, with religious and cultural objects, which should be protected. Papa Poi XI blessed the gathered people in front of Vatican. The Ceremonies of donating to Benito Mussolini an armored train by Adolf Hitler, the Ceremonies of inauguration of a new bridge in Italy Dalmatia, Venice: Visit of the German minister of propaganda Dr Goebbels in the international cinematographic exhibition, 1941, Wrestling match between the Italian and Swiss teams, 1942. Other: The Bombardment of the town from the German Air force. The IX army of the Italian force-marches towards Ohrid. Cetinje: The Visit of the Italian King Vittorio Emanuel the III-rd in the town. Reception and a mess in the Saint Gorges church. The Royal palace of King Petrovic where the Italian queen Elena was born - Beauty and health competition for the grown up children on vegetarian food, Stockholm. The visit of the Spanish Morocco caliph Nurej Hasan in the town of Valencia, Washington: Test of a new type of helicopter. l939, Bern: Popular parade of people in national dresses. Some artistic films titles of many countries played during the same period of time: Hadzhi Murat, The man that broke into the bank of Monte Carlo, A man with principles, The spy, Three times engaged, I have betrayed, A rebellion love, Three magnificent girls, The elixir of love, The battle of Verdun, Beautiful spy, Four men and an oath, The tow of devil.
This battle is followed by the attempts to monopolize and control the artistic film, Since October 2, 1939, only some months after the entrance of the Italian army in Albania, an agreement signed between the Albanian government and Albanian kingdom represented by his excellency Shefqet Verlaci, chairmen of the council of Ministers and the National entity of the Cinematographic industry centered in Rome, represented by the general director Armando Boncaglia which stated:
"To take measures for the distribution of the cinematographic films in Albania as well as to found and manage cinema halls with four elected councilors by the chairman of the council of ministers, ENIC takes over for the period of five years the exclusivity of displaying film\ms in Albania. The new fascist Albania has devoted attention to be raised politically and morally even by the aid of the cinematographic art".
The Albanian owners of the Cinema Theatre halls try to object this monopoly: "Monopolization of the films, instead of serving to the aim for which they have been created or its requested to act as such, shows nothing else but a monopoly like all the other of the like harming the majority and serving the interest of a few number of people. This letter of protest was undersigned by Jusuf Beshiri, owner of the cinema hall Rex, Ruzhdi Vokopola, owner of the cinema Rozafat, Raqi Mano, owner of the cinema Lux, Reshit Dervishi, owner of the cinema National Berat, which mentions even the cinema halls Kavaja and Vlora-Nacional: during this period of time distribution contract are compiled and the final convention was signed on October 20, 1940 and it came into force on October 31 (Council of ministers files)".
There exist a correspondence with ENIC and the Ministry of Popular Culture and the Ministry of National Economy over the playing and distribution of the artistic films and granting or according permissions for 5 years. Albania was put into full and entire control of the economic, political and social life, when Mihallaq Mone starts shooting films with the Albanian production association.
During this period of time there exist some papers which circulated in the Ministry of internal Affairs the directorate of municipalities and communes sent to the prefectures for hindering or preventing the permission granting of playing films for the students of schools (p 152/2 D.753.D 11/0 f/1 etc.) or some cinema category, something which speaks for deep conflicts.
The owners of the cinema halls are put under surveillance because they protested against the control of distribution and against Beshiri, the Albanian distributor. There exist a correspondence and many file, consisting of more than 19 documents. But the company Luce has been granted the exclusivity since May 1940. Albanians continue to watch the battles on Somali, the fall of France, the marching on Paris. The same chronicles according to this exclusivity of Luce Institute circulate through the ENIK in Spain, Argentine Greece, Bulgaria, Norway, Finland, U.S and Brazil, (document of the year 1940.)
At this time the criteria of shooting are determined. (Con l'O.N.D e con G.I.L per la documentation photo- cinematographic. Letter of the Institute Luce sent to the general representatives in Janina. Ceketi-Cordone)
The controlled camera's eye is spread all over the countries and continent, but this time the power has passed on the third eye.. At the same time new monopolized cinema halls are opened.
"Cinemas will be built possibly of reinforced concrete body work with soft material for the separating walls for the interior and the projecting room. The number of seats will have to vary accordingly, coinciding with the number of the population and the needs of the towns, it can possibly vary form 400 up to 600 seats". The invaders interfere wit the categorization of the cinemas as well. In a protocol dated from 18 June 1942 its is revealed that how "at 10 o'clock the Commission chaired by Qazim Nekiu, having the presence of the Ministry of the Popular Culture, Dhimiter Berati, determined the norms of constructing the defined buildings for cinema halls (this was introduced with the official paper No. 1477, date 9th of October '42, of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers). Out of these definition is quite clear that the intervention and the surgery performed on the world of screen has been so deep (...) No deep moves on the soul and spirit of the people - is said in that decision (the monitoring commission of public performance displays D.64 fund 246.)".
During this period, in the year 1942 an Italian film is shot in Albania with an Albanian plot and Italian filmmaker Mr. Carlo Campogaliani, cameraman Aldo Tonti and the script was written by Aldo Vergano and Carlo Malatesta (Capitani Film Tirrenia Film). Here what the Albanian papers write about the plot of this film. Vito Stritani, a young journalist assists and becomes brother of an Albanian chieftain Asllan Hajdari This friendship hinders the Italian journalist to marry the sister of Asllan, but the imam of the village intervenes. "This film takes part in the Venice festival. There is a critical writing article from Michelangelo Antonioni. Italians have shot three features on Albanian subject as Kruja Knight (1942), Nanula, cugina d'Albania (1927, Amleto Palermi) and The triumph of Skenderbeu (Cines, 1930). From 1928 some chronicles on Butrint are shot, with an invitation of the famous archeologist Ugolini who has led the first excavations in this area of south." (Telegram of Ugolini to request a camera team saying). Luce continues its activity in Albania, but now alongside with the official correspondences of the extensions of the cinema network documentary films shooting are mentioned. Thanks to shots performed especially by Luce, in the Albanian film archives are found Film images of the every day life of Tirana and other towns of Albania which more and more grow the tendency of keeping apart form the every day common human life. Exotic Albanian views, the glare of the folk dressing fixed on the cameras are replaced by the glare of the scintillating rank bars of the generals that visit Albania and prepare the realization of the fascist occupation of April 7, 1939- Moreover, the visit of Mussolini (2-15 march 1941) and King Victor Emanuel is the visit of a high ranking military. Camera has passed on the hands of the third eye that controls. The Albanian critics have described this period, which really marks the birth of the profession of the cameraman. A new rapport is established between the personal human initiative and free will and the continuous tradition and the importing of a supreme and high hierarchy rules and will. This human will turn up on people like Mihallaq Mone. The name of Mihallaq Mone appears for the first time during the shootings of the film The knight of Kruja where he has assisted as a student of the Experimental Film Institute of Rome. Other Albanian artists like Kristraq Antoniu, Viktor Daragjati, Mihal Stefa have attended the same cinematographic Institute etc. In many countries of the world, especially in the colonial ones, the birth of the national cinematography for a long time has been treated as isolated and not connected or tingled the colonial one, something which has enables the loss of the sense of permanent connections. But the shooting seeks to become more and more means of the propaganda. The etatist restrictions are becoming more and more complete. "All know and accept the importance of cinematography as a means of education and propaganda. This art which is, at that time, an important branch of the industrial activity, achieved its aim enjoying the support of the fascist regime Tomorri". In Albania after the reunification with Italy and under the revival climate refreshed by the fascist the cinematography could not be left aside. (Eugenio Lequaglie, 1942) Here is what this author writes for the film market: Albanians like the film of adventure, but not the American adventure, that simple game full of craziness. They prefer adventure with yellow foundations, meaning, when danger is on the basis of the event like for instance "the red circle". The Albanians prefer historical films, so films of masses. The fascist occupation revives the hope of developing arts especially the cinematography, on strata of intellectuals. On 18 September from Nettinio, Antonio Krispi, deriving from Albanians of Skenderbeu have moved to Italy after the Ottoman invasion writes a letter of the general representative of the king "as a proof of what has happened in 1939 and as a homage I offer the historical and cinematography subject on Skenderbeu, which I have completed of the eve of the uniting Albania with Italy. My work is not an n improvisation of a simple fantasy, but it was based on the history and legend, which have scrupulously been respected." The news for a joint Italian-Albanian film is spread in all the papers and all are expecting to watch the figure of Skenderbeu on the screen. Corrodina Mole sends to Terence Tocifile from Milan, a letter where she proposes a march composed by her herself, be used as voice track of the film on Skenderbeu with an Italian producer, a march which then should be used as the national anthem,hymn. There exists a thanking telegram (Terence Tocifile) on behalf of the Albania intellectuals sent to count Ciano for the preparation of a film on Scenderbeu. It was a film looked forward but which was never produced. In the newspaper pages one can sees growing stories on Albanian actors who study on the Experimental Cinematographic Center of Rome. The following is a description of the the 40-ies style for a future actor of the Albanian screen who started his artistic career. "The Albanian Actor Mihal Stefa, born in Korce in year 1904. Height 1.64. Speaks Italian, Romanian, and Greek. Deals with these sports: alpinism, peddling horse riding, plays ping-pong. In the letter of the director of radio Tirana sent to the royal Cuestura Tirana for the movement permission)for the first time we come across the name of the future cameraman Hamdi Ferhati, one of the first Albanian cameramen. The letter of the director of Radio Tirana sent to the royal Cuestura Tirana for the movement permission (fond. 298. 23. 7. 1942). Meanwhile the Albanian Research Institute is set up in Rome with president the writer Ernest Koliqi. "New members of the Albanian Research Institute set up in the Royal Academy in Rome (File.145, Fund of the general king's representation). From the papers of the state Archive we learn for the re-opening of the cinema hall Esperia in Durres, Nacionale in Vlore, which were suspended by the military authorities.
Radio Tirana tries to resist with the preparation of the cultural programs the future theatre actors are offered active participation like Behije Cela, Hysen Pelingu IliaTreska, Pjeter Dungu (compositor) Liza Vorfi. The Cuestura holds files with the data on painters like Fadil Pellumbi, Kol Shiroka, Vangjush Mio, Androniqi Zengo,skculptors Odhise Paskali, K, Shala, Dhimiter Cami and writers as Ali Asllani, Pjeter Deda, Xhevdet Beqo, Sevasti Dako, Pirro Floqi, Parashqevi Qiriazi, Lasgush Poradec (signed by the head of ceremonies on the general Luogotenenca.). Among the music personalities in the same files are mentioned Lola Aleksi, Baki Kongoli, Tonin Guraziu, Kristo Koco, Tefta Tashko, Marie Kraja, and Kristaq Antoniu, all the future personalities. A newspaper writes for the active participation of the film actor Kristaq Antoniu turned to Albania, he has studied in the cinematographic center of Rome. "Bravissimo! Dolcisimo voce, Il tenore Antoniu Kristak." This is the newspaper La tribuna of 11 July '42, that speaks for two interpreters of the Rustic Cavalry, Marcella Santini and Kristaq Antoniu.
If we go today with the same criteria, which let aside the activity of Mihallaq Mone, we would have excluded an entire Albania cinematography created during the period of the prevalence of another propagandistic mission. Mihallaq Mone was born in Vlora in 1917. He studied at the cinematographic experimenter center in Roma. He returns to realize the chronicle shootings through Luce, which for the fascist mentality was crucifying the Italian initiative with the Albanian one. Some filmed chronicles that transmit the image of the years 40 have remained from Mihallaq Mone. These images were used later from tens of film-producers for their derivative works. But the name of Mihallaq Mone was cast into oblivion. The black gold, the wells' fuel in Kucova, the olive-yards in Vlora, the Mine of Selenica, the Hunt in Karaburun, the Wedding in Narta continue to speak even now. One notices the inclination to present on the screen the wealth of the Albanian nature, the rich Albanian folk, the ethnography and the people habits.
The years forty are unreasonable years which relate in a furious course of history all the cinematographic inheritance developed in the years of its complete crisis with the years of another overcome of producing the after war with many Eastern European countries as Albania. In this propagandistic climate "of the life changing" efforts are made. But, as some few intellectuals have a certain hope for prosperity the Italian point of view put all the Albanian society in exotic and ethnographic positions. There exist documents where the Italian-Albanian literature was classified as a "folk literature." The Albanian people have rich folk songs such as A: "love songs, funeral songs, historic and heroic songs"; B: Anecdotes, sentences, proverbs; C: literature with biographic information (11.12.42).
This is a report on the Albania Cultural and inherited life. Nowhere it isn't talked about the cultivated literature and its great names. The same statehood mentality in 24.4.1941 declares these Monuments of Culture: the Mosque of Ethem Beu build in 1819 from Haxhi Ethem Beu, the Clock tower, the three floors building close to the old Mosque, the Old Mosque of Sulejman Pasha, the Peat near to the Mosque, the Grave of Sulejman Pasha and Ceno Beu, the five Cypress at the Old Mosque, the ruins of Namazgja of Ahmet Beu near to Luogotenences, the old Cypress at the Crossing of Italo Balbo street, the Mosque of Dervish Hatixhe at the Queen Elena street and at the end of Mussolini Street, Two Cypress at the corner of Tellini Dosja 932. This is almost a reflection of the up to then Albanian live and tradition, according to the Italian point of view. Nevertheless within this point of view some truths of the long backwardness speak, when the Albanian fate was put at game. It seems that Albania has hidden all the cultivated tradition. At that moment the courage of a young Albanian to join the cinematography, shows a new spirit of adventure. There are not too many information on this film-producer, who died in the U.S.A., during the time when the communist dictatorship didn't allow his name to be mentioned in Albania.
During the fascist invasion or colonial period of the 40's, even the Albanian Ministry of Culture in resonance with the Italian one was the Ministry of the Folk Culture and Tourism. The camera in the hands of Mihallaq Mone's point of view is the camera towards a cultivated art. Maybe he is one of the first Albanian film-producers, who was drinking brandy, eating and smoking together with the film Italian actors, during the shootings of the Italian film The Kruaja Knight, the newspapers were commenting. The same newspapers of that time stressed that the General Directorate of Press, the Propaganda and Tourism is bringing a big service to this country and to the issue of our fascist Imperial Community.
From Mihallaq Mone the time has left behind the documentary The Sons of the Eagle, which took a price at the Firenze Festival (1943). In these shootings one feels the joy and solemnity of a man that is conducting the camera point of view. What can offer the author when one can wait military and parades? He put a special attention to the young Albanian girl, her beauty and elegance. With these shootings Mihallaq Mone tries to move away from the direct propaganda and give the portrait maybe of a young person, if we don't refer to the camera that continue to be objective.
In a folk ground presented traditionally, Mihallaq Mone tries to give the civilized Albania ignored from the screens for a long period. Maybe it is the collaboration with the fascist Italy that raises from some Albanian intellectuals the hope of civilization. But before the filmed image this all remains a supposition. If we judge with the same eye hundred meters of chronicles shot after the Second World War and the complete creation of the Albanian cinematography, we still would have some meters of neutral and undefined film, which would lose the 50 years identity of a Stalinist society.
It seems that the speaker and his pathetic intonation try to be connected with the figure. The composing is very careful, almost angular and with intercepted forms of perspectives. It exists an esthetic and sympolarized research. What are obvious, there are the shootings in the youth and children centers, which present an organized and commode life that remove the attention from a person and concentrate it at the group, as it is done in the further 50 years experience of the Albanian cinematography. After this documentary Mihallaq Mone starts the shootings of a short film, which speaks on the Albanian folk song. The shootings have started at the Pogradec lake and Saint Naum Monastery. In this film participate Merita Sokoli, a well-known singer of Tirana Radio, Viktori Xhaxhka and the famous Kristaq Antoniu. The film is called Meeting at the lake and there is no information if it was made a copy in positive. Anyway, it marks the effort of the Albanian people in the way of image. The short colonial time has not relations with the individual desires and the need of fixing. The newspapers of that time speak several times about this lake and the join of the Albanian parts. It is possible that Mihallaq Mone has used this moment to realize a film that is far from the propaganda and bears the tones of the Albanian song. The Ohrid Lake at that time has become the center of the cultural meetings. Mihallaq Mone use the occasion to turn the camera in front of people. The shooting gives in favor of his individual desire to present in the screen along with the others' world the Albanian world as well. The leave of Mihallaq Mone from Albania to Italy in 1945, the long Albanian isolation and his death in the U.S.A. in 1986 let some questions without response. Anyway the aspects of the Albanian life of the 40's shot by a film-producing company named Tomorri still exist. On 1.12.1943 the cinema halls are under Nazi German control.
Some other Albanian footages:
Tirana Trade Market - 94 meters; Mosque and Religion - 168 m. Shot by UFA in 1944.
Albania in the World War - camera: Viktor Muromcev Shkolnikov (Tallin).
2. The New Etatist Society - 1945
Ahmet Celo is the very modest name in Albanian cinematography. He shot with
an amateur camera the entry of liberators in capitol city, 1944 . It is very
important as a document of history, another shooting by Adem Mani, a film amateur
from Ohrid. On 29 November 1944 in Shkodra. It is a image testimony of Albanian
liberation when the last Nazi troops left Shkodra.
Meanwhile, in Albania some photographers still work coming from the war, such as Mandi Koci, and Agim Fortuzi, who would become the cinematographers of another new time. With the shooting of the cultural documentary Albania, realized in Moscow, at 1945 in the Russian Studios that produce the documentary film, the wish of the new winners of the after war is realized. Directed by the Russian Karmen, music by the Albanian Kristo Kono. Albanian premiere: January 20.1946. In this shootings is fixed the parade of Enver Hoxha and the Partisans forces on July 1945 where one feels the enthusiasm of the after war. It is exactly this time, which is projecting a new statehood society, when the wishes of a film-producer will remain wishes for freedom in a bid to penetrate within a world and society that confronts the individual interests with the state's one. The fixing of the man figure and the post war enthusiasm is an evidence of the victory of these film-chronicles against every totalitarian power, which can never control completely the image. This is how it ends one of the most difficult battles of the Albanian film image, which continued for 50 years in the first half of the cinema century where the Albanians have left their imprints. Thanks to this deep human freedom we have today the initiatives of the Balkan cinematography, for which the Albanians have been trained under a road of big efforts towards the expression with industrialized "tools".
The study was written for the symposium The Development And the Interlacing between the Balkan National Cinematographies in the Period 1895-1945 (Project: The Cinema in the Balkan Cultural Context, iniciated by Macedonian Cinematheque)
Published verson in Macedonian: Igrata na albanskata filmska slika (1895-1945), in Razvojot i proniknuvanjeto na balkanskite natsionalni kinematografii vo periodot od 1895 do 1945 godina (ed. Boris Nonevski), Skopje, 2003, Kinoteka na Makedonija, pp. 192-223.