Being involved in non-formal education, youth exchanges and international organizations or socio-cultural work in general is not so hazardous for us: it came as a very obvious fact after years of volunteering and taking part in many projects with the French-German Youth Office (OFAJ-DFJW). We decided to officially create TALK. when we were offered to take part in the regional conference for youth organizations of South-East Europe in Sarajevo last year (read here). Since then, our engagement in the Western Balkans has only grown considerably.
Last week, I had once more the chance to prove it while participating in the South East European Film Festival à Berlin as a member of the international youth jury, an opportunity financed by the FGYO for 5 young people from France, Germany, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to meet in Berlin during the festival to watch almost 20 movies in 4 days, let it be either short films, documentaries or features, coming from the whole Western Balkans Region. What an interesting way to know more about different social issues and culture! I wish a long life to the festival. It was amazing to be able to feel a deeper connection to the Western Balkans through culture and to be able to share particularly two amazing moments of cinema through:
- Three days in September (Macedonia), directed by Darijan Pejovski. I had the privilege to award this film for best directing. This movie is about two women getting revenge on life after being raped. Very empowering! As I said on stage: “Being a woman is a constant fight in the world, always has been but hopefully it will not always be the case and through such movies, it gives the youth and women strong hope. A man taking such a feminine and modest position and making a very erotic movie without being voyeur, giving women so much respect through his camera… It is a tribute to women because it says to them: rape is not ok but you have strength and power to overcome it.”
It won also the award for best actress, awarded to Kamka Tocinovski.
- Bota, (Albania), directed by Iris Elezi & Thomas Logoreci, who was present at the festival. It was awarded as best film. This movie is just incredible. The story is both beautiful and complex. I can’t even describe it. The all jury was just amazed by it. It was a metaphoric danse through the hard time of Albania’s dictatorship and an ode to the youth.
- The best actor award was given to Uliks Fehmiu from Bosnia and Herzegovina for his role in Our everyday life.
Over the festival, we had the possibility to learn more about the Balkans not only through films but also through a food market, music and two big symposiums. The most important one to me was about the establishment of RYCO. RYCO is the initiative we have been following for the past year and we could not be more proud. It is the first ever created regional cooperation office in the Balkans. It will be officially implemented on July 4th after months by the work group made up from both non-profit organizations and government officials and coordinated by the FGYO.
The panel discussion was held Friday morning at the FGYO and moderated by Frank Morawietz, the special commissioner for the FGYO in South-Eastern Europe and a mentor to us, while the building was deserted from its workers because they all were to the 100th anniversary of the battle of Verdun in France where more than 300.000 German and French soldiers lost their life and now 4000 youngsters from both countries were celebrating peace. It was a great moment to remember that Germany and France were ennemies for a very long time and building this friendship that we now have was not easy but it was real and we made it happen. The FGYO is a role model for the entire planet. It shows the world the only way to have sustainable peace is through youth cooperation and therefore youth exchanges and educational projects to get to know each other and build a strong friendship. Many problems need to be overcome but with time, passion and hard work, it will happen. I want to believe that.
State and civil society representatives from Albania and Serbia were present. Other countries could not be represented in the panel for organizational reasons but several other countries were somehow represented in the audience. Serbia and Albania were chosen to be represented because they are motors to the initiative from the beginning. Albanian Ambassador in Germany, S.E Artur Kuko, said that he felt privileged to be a witness in the whole process and such a great initiative was helping Albania to be greater. He congratulated Serbia for the progress made on the EU integration discussions and hope for the best of the Western Balkans. “During years of isolation, people were fed with the idea that those on the other side of the borders were ennemies. So it is important to forget this idea and build peace and friendship.” Miss Bulat, the Serbian civil society representative, also explained to the public that it may be a common thing here to see French and German people together but seeing young people from Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, … together is very new. Dafina Peci, Albania’s National Youth Congress director, said something that touched me deeply: “It’s so hard to measure the results of such initiative so it’s better to focus on the process of building it and we’re happy to be doing just that now. Albania comes from a dark period but some people helped to build a democracy. In those 20 years of transition, youth was/is the energy.” A representative of the Embassy of Kosovo was in the audience and told everyone she took part many years ago, right after the 99 war, in a project organized by the FGYO and that she is still friends with the other participants and that is precisely what she hopes for the future of the Western Balkans.
I have strong hopes and lots of confidence in this initiative. We will be working with them as much as possible. Youth in the Western Balkans has an incredible energy. I came back from Berlin with a new project for next year. I was inspired by the other members of the jury and we will work closely to organize it.
Thank you Harald and everyone who volunteered for organizing this festival.
Thank you Frank for inviting me.