Western Balkans Film Archives Need Help

Since 2012, the Albanian Cinema Project has been working to save the little-known legacy of Albanian film. Now it is expanding to help preserve the moving-image record of the whole of the Western Balkans.

And it needs help.

To build regional partnerships among moving-image archives and promote long-term audiovisual preservation, it is holding workshops for archivists, the first from October 17-28 at the Albanian National Film Archives and the Marubi Academy of Film and Multimedia in Tirana, Albania.


Nëntori i Dytë (The Second November), Viktor Gjika, 1982

The Project is raising money to buy a film scanner with which to train 30 film and television archivists from the Western Balkans — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia — so they can digitize their collections.

Specifically, the Project plans to buy a LaserGraphics ScanStation personal, a portable, high-resolution (5K) scanner that is easy to use and able to scan fragile materials, by automatically adjusting for shrunken film. The scanner will remain in the Western Balkans for preservation and digitization projects.

So, the Albanian Cinema Project is running a crowd-funding campaign whose zero hour is fast approaching. As actress Eliza Dushku, of Buffy the Vampire fame, says in an online campaign pitch, you can donate directly on the organization’s web site.

Albania has, due to its political history, a largely hidden and also strangely distorted cinema history. For almost 50 years, up until 1990, the dictator Enver Hoxha misruled the country, and one of his central strategies was to seal the country off from the rest of the world. As a result, few Albanian-language films made before 1991 were subtitled in other languages, or screened outside the country.

Ngadhnjm mbi Vdekjen (Victory over Death), Gëzim Erebara & Piro Milkani, 1967

Ngadhnjm mbi Vdekjen (Victory over Death), Gëzim Erebara & Piro Milkani, 1967


The Albanian Cinema Project has been working with the Albanian National Film Archive, with support from the Albanian Ministry of Culture, the US Embassy in Tirana, the Association of Moving Image Archivists, and the international film and archives communities on such projects as Five Films in Five Years, which has restored and preserved Nëntori i Dytë (The Second November), by Viktor Gjika, 1982; Ballë per Ballë (Face to Face), Kujtim Cashku & Piro Milkani, 1979; Tomka dhe Shokët e tij (Tomka and His Friends), Xhanfise Keko, 1977; Kapedani (The Captain), Fehmi Hoshafi & Muharrem Fejzo, 1972; and Ngadhnjm mbi Vdekjen (Victory over Death), Gëzim Erebara & Piro Milkani, 1967.

Tomka dhe Shokët e tij (Tomka and His Friends), Xhanfise Keko, 1977

Tomka dhe Shokët e tij (Tomka and His Friends), Xhanfise Keko, 1977


In its upcoming Archives in Motion Preservation Workshops, the organization’s goal is to bring the latest preservation skills and technologies to the region’s archives. The workshops will be the first in a series that will move about the Balkans. They will be at intermediate and advanced levels, and focus on training in current audiovisual preservation and restoration techniques and archival practices. Trainers will be experienced archivists and restorers from around the world.

To get the workshops up and running, the Albanian Cinema Project is working with governmental and intergovernmental agencies, as well as film makers, archivists, scholars, and cultural-heritage preservation specialists.

General donations to The Albanian Cinema Project (tax deductible in the US through the San Francisco Media Archive) will finance the cleaning of all film elements and eventually the setting up of a mold-free facility for storage of the film, photo, and paper collections overseen by the Albanian Ministries of Culture and Defense.

The current film-storage facility is in an unsalvageable state. Despite being patched several times, its roof, walls, and floorboards leak. Moisture, mold, and mildew have crept in. Mold spores have entered many film cans, causing damaging mold growth on camera negatives and projection prints. Archives staff are constantly cleaning and re-clean film reels, but in doing so, without proper ventilation, are themselves exposed to harm.

If you’re in the Washington DC area, you can attend a free screening of the restored Tomka and his Friends, with the film’s cinematographer Baruk Fasha in attendance, on Saturday 1 October 2016, at 6pm, at American University: Ward Circle Building, room 1, 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW.


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