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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

SpIFF takes a look at post-war Kosovo

In January 2007, a small, magically realistic movie played as the opening film of that year's Spokane International Film Festival. The film's title was "Kukumi," and it was the first time the festival had featured a film from Kosovo.

I should know. I've attended each of year of the festival, dating back to 1999 when the late Bob Glatzer directed what was called the Spokane Northwest International Film Festival. And I spent some six weeks during the fall of 2006 in Kosovo, accompanying my wife who was doing volunteer work for the American Bar Association's Rule of Law Initiative.

During my stay, primarily in Kosovo's capital Pristina, I befriended several Kosovars. Among them was Blerim Gjoci, an actor, director and film producer. It was through Gjoci that I was able to meet Isa Qosja, a respected Kosovar film director, who had just released "Kukumi" the year before. I requested a copy of the film, screened it and immediately knew that it would be a good fit for SpIFF.

To my relief, Glatzer agreed. And so "Kukumi" opened the 2007 festival. I introduced the film and its two stars, Luan Jaha and Anisa Ismaili, both of whom were — thanks to Leslie Ronald and the festival's sponsoring entity, the Contemporary Arts Alliance — festival guests.

Earlier this year, another Kosovar film — titled "Three Windows and a Hanging" — came to our attention. I serve as a festival programmer and, knowing my Kosovo ties, current festival director Pete Porter asked me to screen it. To my surprise, it also was directed by Qosja. And it stars "Kukumi" lead actorJaha.

And though far different in feel from "Kukumi," I liked it. So, as with "Kukumi," I suggested that SpIFF needed to screen it. Not just because of filmmaker Qosja's past history with SpIFF, or because of Jaha's long stay in Spokane, but because I think the film is well worth being included in this year's lineup. Far more realistic than "Kukumi," "Three Windows and a Hanging" is a look at the hard feelings that exist in some Kosovo villages following the 1998-99 war with — and subsequent separation from — Serbia.

Besides beings a harsh examination of sexism, Qosja's film is a testament to the tendency some people have simply to forget bad times. And its moral is clear: The only true way to recovery comes from finding a way to work through painful issues — and maybe even to find a way to forgive.

The film will screen at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Magic Lantern Theater. Click here to order tickets.