Official name: ALBANIA
Currency: Lek (ALL)
Time zone: CET (UTC+1)
Calling code: +355
The National Center of Cinematography was founded in 1996 in response to worries that the Albanian film industry would die out completely if it was not given resuscitation and in accordance with a cinematography law passed the previous year. The Centre was empowered to give a grant for projects, provided that they were able to find a foreign co-production partner. Projects awarded funding have 20 months to find such a partner, and if after this time they have failed to do so the Center can demand the money back from the producers.
PRODUCERS in Albania are a relatively new phenomenon, as in most former communist countries. The normal role of a producer is to bring together the creative team and to find financing for the project. Under communism, neither role was necessary. Money came from the state and once a script had been approved funding was usually automatic. Furthermore, communist countries favoured the "film unit" approach, which kept creative teams working together in a tightly knit group from film to film, obviating the need for a producer as talent match-maker.
Furthermore, the major producers of Albanian films, the state-run and private TV channels, are unable to inject money. When they are involved as co-producers, they usually provide payment in kind: access to technical facilities or free advertising space on their airwaves before the release of the film.
During the period from 15 May 1997 until 1 December 2006 the Albanian National Center of Cinematography has financed 132 film projects of different kinds, from which:25 Features 8 Short films 6 Feature projects for development 56 Documentary film projects 35 Cartoon film projects 2 Project of festival organizationThe financial amount for the projects has been 570.775.493 Albanian Lek (All) or 4 566 206 Euro. Albanian Cinematography is not in its best state for the following reasons;
The absence of a national strategy for the art and culture in general that caused a lack of orientation for the Albanian cinematography as part of the national culture. If there had been any nagging doubts among producers as to the strategic importance of Albania for the future of Balkan cinema, then these were quelled by a short excursion to the historical monuments, castles and ruins. Your trip can include a stopover at the wonderful sandy beaches of the Adriatic Sea or the rocky beaches of the Ionian See. The north of Albania offers a landscape with mythic mountains, wild rivers and canyons. A newly reconstructed Mother Teresa International Airport will welcome you to the new and ancient land of eagles.
PERMITS, RULES & REGULATIONS
The cinematography in Albania is regulated by the Law No. 8096, of March 21, 1996“ON CINEMATOGRAPHY”. Other permits, requirements and restrictions will be handled by Albania Film Commission.
The Albanian Center of Cinematography preferably finances projects with foreign co-production already established by Albanian filmmakers.
Co-productions have been set up in recent years with Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Russia, Germany, Italy, Check Republic, Holland, Belgium. But the currently favoured country is France. France is already a major international co-producer, and the attraction for Albanians is even greater due to Fonds Suds, set up by the French foreign and culture ministries to provide "selective aid" to films "with a strong cultural identity." In Europe, the only countries with access to this fund are Albania and the former Yugoslav republics.
From 1997 to 2001 about 3 (three) million euro have been invested for joint productions in the film field. French producers don't just pump in much-needed cash. They also provide invaluable know-how and modern equipment. So, for “Slogans”, the Albanian producers provided the creative side of the film, the actors, set and costume designers and, of course, the locations, while the French producers, Les Films des Tournelles, handled technical matters, providing a director of photography, camera equipment and post-production facilities. Tirana Year Zeroalso had a French co-producer, Cine-Sud, and production support from Fonds Sud. It gained as well the support of the Belgian company Alexis Films and the Hubert Bals Fund, organised by the Rotterdam film festival to aid films from "developing countries."
The French producers also handle international sales and arrange distribution in France (Slogans opened at 35 cinemas around France), with the Albanians covering what distribution they can manage in Albania. This in itself is no mean feat. Surprisingly, Slogans was the first Albanian film since the fall of communism to gain a theatrical release in the country (opening at the beginning of October), distributors being more interested in sure-fire blockbusters from the American Majors. The film showed for ten days in Tirana, and then a week in other major Albanian cities. The film was an enormous success. Distributors were obviously satisfied with their venture into domestic products, as Tirana Year Zero opened with a two-week run in Albania's capital at the end of October 2002, again to a mixture of criticism and box-office success.
The current wave of optimism, if carefully exploited, could be very beneficial for Albania. If Albania has any sense, it will be cashing in on films such as Slogans and Tirana Year Zero to rebuild this decrepit film infrastructure and to foster new talent. But whatever Albania does or doesn't do with its infrastructure, it will surely be easier for Albanian production companies (particularly established ones) to team up with foreign producers.
OBSERVATIONS FOR FILMMAKERS
You could easily be forgiven for thinking that Albania doesn't have anything even remotely resembling a film industry. And by extension, it is easy to think that film, the most expensive and technological of all the arts, is an area where Albania would hardly have made it off the starting block. But in 2001 came the first challenge to these preconceptions: an Albanian film, Gjergj Xhuvani's Slogans (2001), was selected to play in the Director's Fortnight, which runs concurrently with the Cannes film festival. It is thought to be the first time that an Albanian film has played at Cannes, and the novelty continued when it was critically acclaimed. The film's success was not a one-off either: it went on to win the main prize at Film Festival Cottbus at the beginning of November 2001, and just a matter of days later it scooped the Grand Prix and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role at the Tokyo International Film Festival, while Xhuvani shared the award for Best Director at the same festival. Meanwhile, Fatmir Koçi's Tirana Year Zero (2001) was in the official selection at Venice and won the international competition at Thessaloniki Film Festival. Albania, the world now knows, makes films.