International Press Reviews
Children-Kosovo 2000 downloadable Press File
MOVING PICTURES DAILY-BERLINALE:
Moldoványi's documentary Deza-Femijet- words meaning 'children' in Serbian and Albanian-is remarkable for its sensitive approach to tragic chapter at the end of the past century: the savage slaughter of masses of innocent people, particularly children, on the both sides of the conflict.
A poignant, balanced insightful documentary shot in black and white in the spring of 2000, Children of Kosovo is far more than just a film about kids in the Balkans-it's an indictment of man's inhumanity to man.
VISIONS DU REEL:
Wasteland, ruins, misery. This secular oratorio is filmed in black and white, interspersed with colour super 8 sequences shot by the children themselves. It is a radical approach, bringing to mind great films about war-stricken childhood such as Roberto Rossellini's Germany, Year Zero or Andreï Tarkovsky's My Name Is Ivan.
In fact, Moldoványi has composed a harrowing and disturbing work; its images will remain imprinted in our memories, and its grave questions in our minds, for a long time to come.
The black-and-white doc is a strong film, says Colart, a "manifesto against war, for children and human rights." It lets the children speak for themselves on their suffering during and after the war. The story addresses the unspeakable trauma borne by young rape victims and an orphaned teenaged girl left alone with her two brothers. It depicts daily life in a country where everyone is trying to pick up the pieces and make a living again. Despite the fact that the Soros Fund had received a number of projects dealing with Kosovo, committee members felt Moldovanyis was unique. Says Soros director Diane Weyermann, "He wanted to depict the absurdity of war by delving into the testimonies and memories of traumatized children, not by journalistic means, but with creative cinematic images, sound and music. The result is an incredibly powerful and heartfelt film that exposes the tragedy of war through the eyes, dreams and souls of these children.
Andrew James Horton,
SENSES OF CINEMA: Unrecognised power:
It has become something of a mantra among Central and East European film critics that the quality is not what it used to be. This may be so among feature films, but the great undiscovered film treasure of the region is documentary, which seems to have retained far more integrity than its fictional counterpart. Ferenc Moldoványi's Деца-Fëmijët (Kosovo 2000) / Children (Kosovo 2000) (2001) was one of the most impressive documentaries from Central Europe, being a surprisingly filmic work that was obviously designed for the big screen. The film divides its time between ethnic Albanian and Serb children in Kosovo, who tell their camera how members of their family were killed and how it has affected them. Somehow, these youngsters breaking down on screen as they describe being robbed of their parents evokes the pain and futility of war more than pictures of mangled blood-stained bodies. It's also a sobering film in that it emphasises just how much the war in Kosovo has ingrained inter-ethnic hatred in individuals who were previously peace-loving people.
Ferenc Moldoványi asks Serbian and Albanian children about their Kosovo War experiences in Deza-Femijet (Children, Kosovo 2000). This film is thoughtful, almost contemplative, conceived as a meditation or conjuration.
Some true treasures, although in less great number than usually, appeared among the about sixty films presented in this section. Let us mention for example the impressive documentary "Children, Kosovo 2000" signed by the Hungarian director Ferenc Moldoványi who shows without frills the infinite distress and inextinguishable hatred of the orphans of this very dirty war.
The judicious manner and the relevance of this aesthetic film are striking. An essential work.
Avidly non-judgemental in approach, and rightly avoiding the politics of the affair, pic is essentially a study of loss -- of parents (often the father), friends, identity and a sense of homeland -- through the eyes of a small bunch of young Albanians and Serbs interviewed in Mitrovica, a city split north and south along ethnic lines.
Teenagers (and younger) tell grinding tales of family gunned down and retribution killings, and film ends chillingly with a young Serb almost offhandedly vowing revenge - one day on Albanians for murdering her father. Technically, docu is no-frills hand-held.
The inner wounds reflected on the faces and the in the words are much more shocking than all the exterior images of war.
It is a special documentary the strength of which is doing without. It abandons colour, off commentaries, fashionable editing and sequences. It does not, however, abandon melancholy music between narrative parts, as if it wanted to embed the feelings, a moving mixture of empathy and tact, it rouses in the viewer. Moldoványi wants to leave as much space as possible for the children, these witnesses with no court, in this trauma-stricken land where the roundabout is turning round and round among the rubble of war and heaps of litter. These children are really witnesses not accusers. Besarta, Jelena, Violeta, Edmond, Valdrin and Miljana tell of horrors, violence and forced partings from fathers. They tell their story in detail often in a surprisingly sober manner, sometimes they break down but never in order to impress. It proves the strength of this documentary that we do not forget any of their faces.
Moldoványi's documentary, in two movements, "Children, Kosovo 2000" tells the fate of Albanian and Serb children the victims of the Kosovo war. The film is a shocking diagnosis of hate and suffering. The encouragement of ethnic hatred represented by a sequence of the Mitrovica radio phone- in-programme using a little girl as a presenter is no less troubling than the one with the wife of a Serb soldier talking about the extirpation of Albanians. Both sequences witness such deep wounds, which make the fairytales of those bel esprit completely implausible that there is hope for peace and calm soon in this blood-drenched land.
JOURNAL DE QUEBEC:
This is an emergency! A call for all television channels.... For god's sake wake up and buy the broadcasting rights of "Children, Kosovo 2000"! It is a poignant documentary, which has to be seen by everyone around the world without exception.
Florence La Bruyère
Hungarian directors have often dealt with the Balkan wars in their work. History turned them into helpless witnesses of the Yugoslav conflict. Ferenc Moldoványi is the author of a documentary film on orphans in Kosovo, "Kosovo 2000", a visual poem shot in black and white which depicts the despair of Serb and Albanian children. Now and then appear a few cuts in colour, shot by the kids themselves with a small Super-8 camera. This is not a newsreel or a correspondent's report, far from it; it is an extremely moving document on those lonely children, left to themselves after their parents' death. Sorrow and hatred weigh heavily on their shoulders and they cannot come to terms with it.
By Allan Berg Nielsen:
The documentary film has grown into great classic art in my awareness in recent years. It deals with profound themes, profound feelings. Therefore, I must apply profound words from my European background. I think this is what we have to offer the global community alongside the many calamities. So this short essay will deal with profound words. I want to link them to 3 films that I have seen, enjoyed and thought about.
These films were created in times when things were really humming. The political struggles, the new opening to the East, the retrospective studies, the extent of the crimes and the identity of the traitors.
"Children" is the title of the film. A girl in a room in a rural house in Kosovo last year is making dough, puts it aside to rise. She walks out the door that is allowed to swing all the way back before the cut. She and her two younger brothers walk down the road through the village. In the next scene, they sit in dread on a sofa in a damaged room. Then they tell what happened:
Interviewer (off): Do you remember that day?
Interviewer (off): Were you with your brothers?
Interviewer (off): Would you tell me about it?
Girl: If you ask me questions.
Interviewer (off): What were you doing at that time?
Girl: When we returned from the convoy we settled here, We were in this room. The Serb forces arrived. Dad was lying on his couch. We were outside. I was the only one who was outside, the others were in the house. Three people came and told me in Serbian to stop. Three times. I did not stop. My sister came to warn me they might shoot. Then I went onto the porch. They ordered me to go in. I didn't want to. Finally I did. My little brother (she looks at him) came in and told my father lying here, the militia were looking for him. Dad went out. I was watching. The Serb militia man asked him if he was a terrorist. Dad said he wasn't. "Terrorists have lived here," the Serb militiaman replied. Dad said he didn't know them. "Aren't you one of them?" the Serb asked. Dad said he was no terrorist. "Never mind," the man said, "Go over there and raise your hands." We all left the house. Dad raised his hands, and the Serb shot him with his machine gun. Blood streamed down his legs but he was still standing. We ran away. My sister remained. Then the three men grabbed my sister and took her in here… When it was over they asked her what her father had done. She said he'd done nothing. She collapsed onto her father's body, his blood was on her face, his body had been shot to pieces, his bowels were out. We covered him with a blanket, except for his face so we could see it...
The entire scene of the three children on the sofa is one unbroken sequence. She is crying all the while she tells the story. Her oldest brother is also crying, while the youngest only feels dread. I see it in his eyes that he averts from the camera all the time. The scene continues after her testimony and she cries for such a long time that I discover and understand its relief.
The most important aspect of documentary films is their presence. In a presence as great as this, I have brought it as close as possible to a point of pain in the history of our part of the world. A major event, though one of thousands. An event more important to remember than countless international conferences put together.
I see she is wearing fingernail polish when she hides her face in her hands. She is seventeen years old, she is washing clothes outside in the courtyard in the next scene. Sunshine and bird songs. Timor Szemzö's music takes over. The solo rises above the orchestra. Elegiac. In his filmic work, Ferenc Moldovànyi has mounted the children's testimony as the central pictures in a triptych of landscape shots and depictions of everyday life facing a sacred concert in a darkened church interior of our times. Just as medieval altarpieces focused the prayers about human suffering in front of a singing choir of believers. The filmic works are the altarpieces of our era in front of a modern, sceptical silence.
Ferenc Moldovànyi: Deca-Fëmijët (Children), 2001
Herz Frank: Ebreju iela (The Jewish Street), 1993
Marcel Lozinski: Wszystko sie moze przytrafic (Anything Can Happen), 1995
DOX Magazin (English)
FILM (DFI)- (Danish)
Allan Berg Nielsen is commissioning editor of documentaries and short films at the Danish Film Institute
The wounds that never show
Ferenc Moldoványi's Деца-Fëmijët (Kosovo 2000) Moldoványi targets the tenderest points of our emotions to reveal the iniquity of war and the pain of readjusting to life beyond it. Andrew James Horton examines his approach.
War is fascinating. Horrible, yes, too. But also fascinating. Its images fill screens both big and small, and countless words are printed on the subject. And while these images are repugnant to us, they also draw us in.
War, after all, is an extreme and inexpressable mystery. As frequent as it may be in global terms, the experiences it involves are some of the most remote and difficult to understand in the context of everyday life. And something in us drives us to try to comprehend the incomprensible in human existence, be it the giddy heights of passion, the cold mind of a serial killer or the adrenalin rush of extreme danger (all of which are also common elements in film plots).
Hungarian documentarist Ferenc Moldoványi's latest film Деца-Fëmijët (Kosovo 2000)  attempts to look at two manifestations of inexpressable mystery in the experience of war: the total and seemingly irrational tragedy that it sows in people's lives and the less commonly explored territory of where such indescribable hate can possibly stem from.
The title of Moldoványi's film is the word for "children" given first in Serb and then in Albanian, with a place and date to pin the film down to the conflict he wishes to dwell on. As its name suggests, the film portrays the plight of the younger members of Kosovo's inhabitants, drawing on accounts from both Serbs and Albanians (although the latter group have a far stronger representation).
Two tales of a city
The film starts by alternating sections of image and word. The imagist parts use just simple black and white images, evoke a small section of the current, post-war lives of various Albanian children. Then we hear stories of how their relatives were murdered. These accounts are told with a range of emotions: some are wearily dispassionate in how they narrate their tale, some can barely look at the camera and break down. The stories gush out of some spontaneously; for others it is a more painful process that requires help. There's no way to verify these stories, but that is besides the point. Moldoványi is trying to portray the psychological scars rather than the events which caused them. (The idea for the documentary came from seeing a Hungarian psychologist on television talking about a then forthcoming project to help Kosovan children overcome the psychological traumas of the war).
While the children speak, we the camera looks at them face on or we see colour Super 8 films that the children themselves have made to illustrate their testimony. This narrative rhythm of visual poem followed by documentary account is broken when the film moves from reflecting on the past to looking at the present. The second part of the film looks at Mitrovica, the infamous "divided city." Starting first with the Albanian south and then moving to the Serbian north, before making a brief diversion to Belgrade to speak to young Serbs who have fled the wrath of the Albanians.
For Moldoványi, the largest logistic problem was evidently finding Serbian stories to balance the Albanian ones: there is far less time spent focussing on Serbian children and Moldoványi has clearly had less material to chose from. Not only are the Serbs a minority in Kosovo, they also on the whole have a clear mistrust of the international community (including documentary film-makers) as a result of the NATO intervention.
Countless people tried to talk him out of filming on the north side, the danger of this being illustrated by KFOR being set on fire by disgruntled Serbs while Moldoványi was doing research in the city. Moreover, during the course of making the film Moldoványi himself was arrested in Belgrade and accused of spying for the Albanians and the Americans (he had an American visa in his passport) and interrogated by the Serbian secret police, who accused him of being an "enemy," a reference to Hungary's membership of NATO. Eventually he was found guilty of working in Serbia without a permit (he was seen holding a Super 8 camera in Belgrade railway station) and told he should spend 28 days in jail or pay a DEM 100 fine. Needless to say, he paid the fine.
In the light of these difficulties, it is remarkable that Moldoványi has obtained as much material on Serb stories as he has, with the testimony of Jelena Masiæ and her sister Miljana being an emotional coda to the film.
The wounds of the innocent being used
In comparing the after with the before in these children's lives, Moldoványi emphasises how childhoods have been lost: teenagers have been forced to take on the parental roles towards their siblings and growing minds have been deprived of the family love to grow up normally. In the film's most heart-rending and emotional moments, some of the children recite letters they have written to their missing fathers. Moldoványi in exposing these psychological scars as the most serious wounds of war, and in choosing the most innocent members of society he heightens the sense of damage that conflict can inflict.
But that is only one part of what Moldoványi tries to do. The film also shows how injustice spirals and that the current generation of children are potential perpetrators of ethnic hatred as much as they are victims of it. The distrust of all the children of the opposing ethnic group was apparent, and in one of the film's most disturbing sequences a Albanian radio presenter, perhaps as young as ten, hosting a call-in programme urges children to phone in and describe how they or their families have been victims of Serbian attrocities. As Moldoványi has said in an interview in response to a suggestion that the radio presenter sounded like a propaganda spokesperson: Mitrovica Radio Station is rather an oppressive place. And you are right the children are being used. This is a very important element of the film too. One has to face these tragic stories with an open spirit, without any kind of prejudice. We tried to include the conflicts of the present in the film as well. One cannot help but see, in the radio station scene that these ten, eleven-year-old children who used to play football together etc before the war, are now being turned against each other. The hatred is planted in their mind by adults and this must be shown in the film. These strands make Деца-Fëmijët (Kosovo 2000) an ambitious work, something that might explain while Moldoványi feels the need to present his ideas in a decidedly filmic form - shooting on 35mm, using an atmospheric soundtrack and trying (perhaps sometimes a little too hard) to escape from the artlessness that is often associated with the documentary medium. Given the self-consciously expressive mode of the film, I was not suprised to hear from Moldoványi when I spoke to him at Karlovy Vary that he is planning to do a fiction film (although it is likely he will complete another documentary before that). On the basis of Деца-Fëmijët (Kosovo 2000) and his previous film, the semi-documentary feature Az út (The Way, 1997), this would certainly seem to be a logical progression for Moldoványi. If he can apply the same profound and sensitive vision that emerges in Деца-Fëmijët (Kosovo 2000) to this new project, it will certainly be worthy of attention.
Andrew James Horton
Children-Kosovo 2000 downloadable Press File