By Philip VOGT


Documentary - Completed 2009

    • Year of production
    • 2009
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Duration
    • 90 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Philip VOGT
    • Writer(s)
    • Max MÖNCH
    • Producer(s)
    • Matthias ZUBER (polyeides medienkontor münchen berlin)
    • Synopsis
    • “The Reconciler” is a documentary about the Albanian present. It tells the story of a family at the epicentre of a nationwide conflict between a traditional notion of justice and the legal system of a modern state. Zef Sokoli is a powerful Bajraktar, or regional feudal lord, from the once impenetrable mountains of northern Albania. He is one of a few with the power to end the blood feuds that have become in recent years a nightmare for the people of the region. Zef regards the task of reconciling families as his duty, but it is one that sets him on a collision course with the police…
      The film documents Zef Sokoli and his family in the old and mystic surroundings of his mountain village, and then follows them as they move to Shkodra where they must cope with a new urban way of life. Since the times of the Roman Empire, the highland dwellers have descended from the mountains when state power begins to break. The “Barbarians”, as people from the mountains are called, disrupt the ethnic balance, which leads to turmoil and feuding among the urban populations.
      Zef Solkoli tries to compromise. Every summer he and his wife return to their village in the mountains, Pecaj, where they live in the old fortress of the Sokoli clan. In Shkodra, they live in a concrete bungalow, fence to fence with the state hospital. There, with the rest of their clan, they occupy the isolated part of town now known as the “blood quarter”.
      In the isolated and ancient world of the mountains, Zef Sokoli is a well-known and respected man. For centuries the leaders of his clan have ruled according to an ancient codex, known as the Kanun. But the world long governed by the Kanun is now falling apart. After one of the greatest exoduses in Europe since the fall of Communism, most villages in the mountain region are deserted. Thousands of men and women have left for larger cities, in particular Shkodra, a town down the river that most of the new immigrants are now seeing for the first time. In Shkodra, Zef Sokoli does not have the same influence. He is only one among thousands who came for a better life.
      “The Reconiler” is a film about home and its loss. We focus on men and women who live in a chronic state of cultural crisis – the old is broken apart, the new hasn’t yet taken over… The film focuses on Zef Sokoli and his family as they face the historic and final end of their epoch. The story of Zef Sokoli is a parable of change and crisis. For him and his family, cultural transition in Albania means not only confrontation with new values; it is first and foremost a confrontation with themselves.
      Zef Sokoli mediates regularly in different murder cases - one of the processes of reconciliation headed by Zef Sokoli shall serve as the film’s framework. If somebody from the mountains gets killed, nobody goes to the police. The killing is treated outside state law and official attention. Revenge must be taken for the sake of honour. That is the concept of their justice.
      The Reconciler
      If Zef Sokoli manages to reconcile two families, the murderer’s chances of escaping state punishment are very high. When a murder is forgiven, those involved, including the victim’s family, will keep silent and protect the killer.
      Zef Sokoli is a man who moves between the lines. His justice is based on the tradition of the Kanun. But he lives in a modern state that rejects the principles he practices. It is men like him who rule, not the state or the police. Their law is the law of their ancestors, the codex of the Kanun. The written law of parliament holds little sway here. In the film Zef Sokoli is asked to meditate between two families. A years-old vendetta is about to escalate, and there is only one way to stop it: an act of reconciliation. Zef enters into negotiations with the members of the two clans. The family of the killer offers him a bribe, the local television wants a spectacular story, and the police, frustrated with the people’s lack of cooperation, blame Zef for their failure to serve the murder.
      The world of Zef Sokoli has perished through historic progression. He is an anachronism. His work and outlook cannot be accepted in the new Albania, a country that wants to belong to Europe. And still, he has never been more needed than today.
      Zef Sokoli continues to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. He knows that he is one of the last of his kind. The inevitable transition to modern society affects everyone, even his own family. He’d like to see his youngest son, Vlad, be the leader of the family one day. But his son has his own plans. He wants to go to Italy after finishing school and become a doctor. Albania, he says, doesn’t offer him a bright future. His oldest son Kol is willing to lead the family, but Zef thinks he is too weak and too distant from the traditions of the clan.
      The film portrays people between the times. People trying not to get crushed in the middle. Their beliefs of honour, home and justice make us feel uncomfortable. Not merely because they are the source of social and political unrest in the Balkans. They also intimate an archaic past we have long since pushed away, overcome and replaced with notions of civil society.
    • Beginning of shooting
    • Jun 01, 2008
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