Prishtina
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Does it hurt?

The first Balkan Dogma film

In the gigantic concrete annex to the Rilindja building Nehad/Nick and Edon Rizvanolli are setting up the promising production and possibly arthouse studio for Concordia Film.

In the editing room, they set me up before a large monitor and show me Does it hurt?, 'the first Balkan Dogma film', directed by Aneta Lesnikovska, co-produced by Concordia. I hadn't seen the film in Rotterdam, where it was a Tiger-nominee, but here might be just as well.

It is a nagging, enigmatic film that creeps slowly under your skin - and yes, very Dogma. The characters are a bunch of Skopje hopefuls and not-so-hopefuls, caught up in that strange atmosphere of loose friendships, lazy hanging out, dismissive jokes, deep lethargy and sudden energy that must be typical of innercity life in most Balkan capitals.

There is Daniela, the ironic aspiring moviestar, and her jealous boyfriend; Bosko, the Balkan macho with the tiny heart; the blond Macedonian tough guy; his Albanian friend, about to marry and move to London; the coke-sniffing and alcoholic politician in the making. And of course Aneta, who is continually trying to convince her friends that they can star in a Balkan Dogma film about their own lives and that Danish producers are coming with bags of money - and Lennert, the young Dutch cameraman (who did excellent work for David Lammers and others), who gets entangled into this after-hours Skopje mess.

The film itself, the director and the cameraman, are not just oberving all of this, but become part of it and work as a catalyst to fire up the contrasts, the fights, the jealousy, the suspicion. Lennert the cameraman gets beaten up by the jealous boyfriend, Mariana is shocked by the secret filming of Bosko making awkward love to her, Lennert gets kicked out by Daniela when he mocks her dreams of making it big if he would take her back to Amsterdam. And Aneta finally has to confess that she made up the Danish producers, after which Bosko calls her an 'immigrant piece of shit'. It all falls apart in a very ugly way, hard to watch, while it is impossible if these people are caught in real life or playing it in a very convincing way. The only clue is that the Aneta we see is not the real Aneta, the loudmouth whirlwind I know from De Balie, but another young woman, with the same hair and the same yellow sweater.

A painful and convincing film, documenting young people trapped in Skopje, who host and mock outsiders like Lennert and me, in a way I haven't seen before.



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