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Albanian director’s ‘Daybreak’ picked to make world premiere at Sarajevo Film Festival

Albanian director’s ‘Daybreak’ picked to make world premiere at Sarajevo Film Festival

TIRANA, July 24 – “Daybreak,” an Albanian drama about moral compromises, has been selected to make its world premiere at the upcoming Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the leading movie events in South East Europe. The Albanian-Greek co-production directed by

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Albania’s Skenderbeu progress to third Europa League qualifying round

Albania’s Skenderbeu progress to third Europa League qualifying round

TIRANA, July 21 – Skenderbeu progressed to the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League after beating Kazakhstan’s Kairat Almaty 3-1 on aggregate, remaining the sole Albanian club in European competition after all Kukes, Partizani and Tirana were disqualified

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Seas turn deadly for beach goers

Seas turn deadly for beach goers

TIRANA, July 17 – It has been a deadly week in Albania’s beaches, with four people drowning in a single day as rip currents and bad weather hit the coast at the peak of the tourist season. Three people drowned

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Greece strips Himara mayor of citizenship

Greece strips Himara mayor of citizenship

TIRANA, July 19 – Himara Mayor Gjergj Goro has been stripped of his Greek citizenship for holding positions against Greece’s national interests, according to a decision of Greek Interior Minister Panos Skurletis published in that country’s official gazette and quoted

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Japan officially opens Tirana embassy

Japan officially opens Tirana embassy

TIRANA, July 18 – Japan has officially opened its Tirana embassy with a special ceremony attended by Japan’s Minister of State for Foreign Relation, Nobuo Kishi, in addition to several Albanian officials. Minister Kishi praised Albania’s role in the region

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Go North:  ‘The art of simplicity. Buke, kripe dhe zemer. And a little Raki. #Valbona’

Go North: ‘The art of simplicity. Buke, kripe dhe zemer. And a little Raki. #Valbona’

“The art of simplicity. Buke, kripe dhe zemer. And a little Raki. #Valbona.” This tweet by Johann Sattler made headlines and almost went viral as the Austrian Ambassador to Albania recently visited the northeastern Albanian region of Tropoja inaugurating an

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Multicultural festival awaits visitors to Berat

Multicultural festival awaits visitors to Berat

TIRANA, July 20 – Rafting, book promotion and musical performances opened this week the fourth edition of the multicultural festival in the southern city of Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The festival, which is turning into a traditional annual

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UNESCO concerned over proposed Gjirokastra bypass project

UNESCO concerned over proposed Gjirokastra bypass project

TIRANA, July 20 – UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has called on Albanian authorities to carefully examine plans on a bypass road in the southern city of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005, before proceeding with its implementation. In

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Euro 2020 qualification target set for new Albania coach

Euro 2020 qualification target set for new Albania coach

TIRANA, July 19 – Italian Christian Pannuci has been officially introduced as the new Albania coach, replacing Gianni De Biasi in a tough bid to make another surprise Euro qualification as hopes for a World Cup qualification are almost over.

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The fate of Russian women trapped in 1960s Albania to be made into movie

The fate of Russian women trapped in 1960s Albania to be made into movie

TIRANA, July 19 – Russian directors have started working on a movie tracing the fate of more than a dozen Russian women who were trapped in Albania in the early 1960s when Albania broke up with the former Soviet Union.

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 24 - "Daybreak," an Albanian drama about moral compromises, has been selected to make its world premiere at the upcoming Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the leading movie events in South East Europe.

The Albanian-Greek co-production directed by Albania's Gentian Koçi is one of the three world premieres selected to showcase in next August's festival.

"The Sarajevo Film Festival is one of Europe's most important and the most important one in the south-east region. I think having the world premiere in such a festival, is an achievement not only for me personally, but also for the Albanian cinema's effort to have a stronger voice internationally," says Koçi, a 37-year-old director who is also making his feature film debut.

"I feel privileged I will be part of a competition with directors whose works I have followed and appreciated much. I would like to single out renowned Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu, the 2010 Berlinale Golden Bear winner, whose latest ‘Grain’ movie will also make the world premiere. I believe it will be a tough race among seven very good films,” Koçi has told reporters.

Starring Ornela Kapedani and Suzana Prifti, the Albanian-Greek co-production follows a single mother and her one-year-old son, who live in dire economic circumstances. They move in with an old, immobile woman whom they have to take care of.

In an earlier interview with Cineuropa portal, the movie director and screenwriter described “Daybreak” as an intimate drama that takes place in a flat, in Tirana’s urban setting.

“The pivot of the story is the very fragile relationship between the young and the old woman, a relationship swinging between empathy and pragmatic aims. One of the most important challenges for me as a writer and director was to keep a subtle balance between these two opposing aspects of their relationship: affection and pure pragmatic interests,” said Koçi.

Commenting on challenges facing young directors in Albania due to lack of sufficient financial support, Koçi says international co-productions are still vital in order for film productions to reach a successful conclusion.

The “Daybreak” project, developed with the financial support of the SEE Cinema Network, was also supported by the Albanian National Center of Cinematography (ANCC), the Greek Film Centre, Eurimages, the Albanian Ministry of Culture, the Albanian Public Radio-Television and the Municipality of Tirana.

The film is expected to make its Albania premiere next September.

The 23rd Sarajevo Film Festival, scheduled to take place from August 11 to 18, will showcase 55 selected feature, short and documentary films from around the world. The festival will pay tribute to Oliver Stone, a three-time Oscar winner.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 21 - Skenderbeu progressed to the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League after beating Kazakhstan’s Kairat Almaty 3-1 on aggregate, remaining the sole Albanian club in European competition after all Kukes, Partizani and Tirana were disqualified in their first round campaigns.

Skenderbeu, who beat Kairat 2-0 in their second leg home fixture, will now face Czech Republic’s Mladá Boleslav in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

The Korça-based club, who have dominated Albanian football in the past decade, need to beat the Czechs and pass another play-off round in order to make another Europa League group stage appearance.

In the first qualifying round, Skenderbeu easily beat modest Andorran side Sant Julia 6-0 on aggregate.

In this year’s UEFA Europa league campaign, Skenderbeu was the only Albanian club that was seeded in the draw thanks to their Europa League European competition in 2015-16 when they became the first-ever Albanian team to play in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

Skenderbeu return to European competition after a one-year ban imposed by European football governing body, UEFA, on match-fixing allegations in the 2015-2016 Champions and Europa League campaigns.

Last month, Albania's football association also stripped the ‘Snow Wolves’ of their 2015-2016 Superliga title on match fixing allegations, cutting their six straight titles to five. The club have denied any wrongdoing.

Earlier this week, Albania’s debut champions Kukes were unlucky to progress to the next Champions League qualifying round, despite winning their home match. Kukes beat Moldova's Sheriff 2-1 in the second leg home match, but were disqualified because of the Moldovans’ away goal after losing 1-0 in the first leg.

Kukes, who won their first Superliga title this year, were unlucky as they missed a penalty kick and even hit the post in injury time to score a qualifying goal.

Partizani and Tirana were easily beaten in their first qualifying Europa League rounds by Bulgarian and Israeli sides.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133337" align="alignright" width="300"]Zvernec Beach is as pretty as it is deadly. (Photo: Panoramio)  Zvernec Beach is as pretty as it is deadly. (Photo: Panoramio)[/caption]

TIRANA, July 17 – It has been a deadly week in Albania’s beaches, with four people drowning in a single day as rip currents and bad weather hit the coast at the peak of the tourist season.

Three people drowned in a single incident at Zvernec Beach near the southwestern city of Vlora.

Two women, cousins, 27 and 25, faced difficulties due to underwater currents for which the beach is notorious. As they yelled for help a young man Beniamin Ferhati, 24, an ethnic Albanian from Tetovo, Macedonia, rushed to help.

Ferhati grabbed the 25-year-old and brought her to shore before going for the other woman. The two never made it back and the girl who did make it ashore later died due to large amounts of water she had taken in.

Ferhati has been hailed as a hero in Albanian media, giving his life as he tried to save two fellow beach-goers he did know before the tragedy.

A 14-year-old boy died on the same day in the nearby Uji i Ftohte Beach.

The drawings have led to a lot of debate in Albania about the need to have more information signs for swimmers and lifeguards wherever possible. Both are mostly missing from Albanian beaches.

Zvernec Beach, one of the country’s deadliest beaches due to it underwater currents, still attracts people due to its beauty and shallow sandy coastline that hosts underwater currents that are unusual in Albania’s coastline.

However, there is not a single sign around this beach to inform swimmers about how dangerous the water is on that spot.

About 30 people have drowned there in the past few years, locals told the media.

Police said it is working to find ways to let beach-goers know about the risks at the beach’s water.

The central government says it is the duty of the local municipalities to manage and maintain safety on beaches, which the local governments say they don’t have enough funding to do so.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133329" align="alignright" width="300"]Himara Mayor Gjergj Goro. (Photo: Archives) Himara Mayor Gjergj Goro. (Photo: Archives)[/caption]

TIRANA, July 19 – Himara Mayor Gjergj Goro has been stripped of his Greek citizenship for holding positions against Greece's national interests, according to a decision of Greek Interior Minister Panos Skurletis published in that country's official gazette and quoted by several media outlets.

Goro, a representative of Albania's Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama, has been able to win elections against an Athens-friendly candidate in the southwestern Albania coastal town, where many residents speak Greek as their first language.

Goro, himself a member of Himara's Greek-speaking community, was embroiled in a conflict relating to the demolishing of several homes and businesses as part of an urban renewal process in the town located at the heart of the Albanian Riviera and known as a tourist hotspot.

The actions drew ire in Athens, with Greek officials there saying the rights of local ethnic Greeks were being violated and that Tirana aimed to change the ethnic makeup of the town through the development.

Tirana does not recognize Himara's Greek-speaking community as ethnically Greek, a point of contention with Athens for years. However, several other areas at the southern edge of Albania recognized as Greek minority areas, with ethnic Greeks making up less than 1 percent of Albania’s population, according to the 2011 census.

Albania's government has responded to Greek criticism that urban renewal projects are taking place in towns and cities across Albania, and that Himara is no different.

Greece routinely grants residency and citizenship to people from Albania who can claim Greek ethnicity and heritage. Goro appears to have gained citizenship through that mechanism.

Grece’s interior minister, however, has the power to strip dual citizens of their Greek citizenship if they act against national interest.

Albanian media reported secessionist elements among Albania's ethnic Greek minority had lobbied authorities in Greece to punish Goro for cooperating with the Socialist government in Tirana, seen as deeply unfriendly to Greece.

Goro has not spoken to the media about the matter.

Alfred Bejleri, a local leader of the Greek-speaking community, said Omonia, the largest ethnic Greek organization in Albania, had not asked the Greek government to take action.

“Omonia, the Unity Human Rights Party, any other organization working to protect property, cultural and heritage rights in Himara has never filed a complaint on the matter of his citizenship,” Bejleri told a local television station.

Bejleri said the organizations he represent opposed Goro’s stances because they fear the urban development he support, with large buildings downtown, will change the ratio of people living in downtown Himara, altering the population and diluting the Greek-speaking indigenous population he says lives there.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133323" align="alignright" width="300"]A special ceremony took place for the opening of the new Japanese embassy in Tirana. (Photo: Albanian MFA/Facebook) A special ceremony took place for the opening of the new Japanese embassy in Tirana. (Photo: Albanian MFA/Facebook)[/caption]

TIRANA, July 18 - Japan has officially opened its Tirana embassy with a special ceremony attended by Japan’s Minister of State for Foreign Relation, Nobuo Kishi, in addition to several Albanian officials.

Minister Kishi praised Albania’s role in the region and said Japan would show a full commitment to economic and political cooperation with Albania.

In meetings with Albanian leaders, Kishi said he valued the cooperation of the two countries in international organizations, good experience in supporting mutual candidacies and for the formulation of joint stances on important global issues.

“The opening of the new embassy is very good news and a further signal of the strengthening and enrichment of relations between the two countries,” Albanian President Bujar Nishani said at a meeting with Kishi.

Milva Ekonomi, Albania’s minister of the economy, was among officials who attended the embassy opening, reminding those attending that last month alone the ministry she leads and the Government of Japan had signed a deal on a project that will help rural areas in Albania get more access to Japanese funding.

“This project benefiting areas where there is no access to financing shows the true friendship and benevolence coming from the Japanese government to support Albania and to extend cooperation between the two countries,” Ekonomi said.

Officials from both countries expressed their readiness to increase cooperation and participated in a ceremony to mark the donation of 129 vehicles to the Albanian authorities by the government of Japan.

Japanese Ambassador Makoto Ito presented his credentials to President Bujar Nishani in June, becoming Japan’s first resident ambassador to Albania since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1981.

Japan’s government appointed Ambassador Ito to the post in April 2017, and he participated at an official credentials ceremony Tuesday at the President’s Office, officially assuming his functions.

While Albania opened its diplomatic mission in Japan in 2004, the Japanese Embassy in Italy had handled matters related to Albania until recently.

Tirana has said it welcomes Japan’s decision to open an embassy in Tirana in an effort to draw greater investment from the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan has been a major donor to Albania through its difficult transition from communism to a free-market economy. Tokyo has given millions, primarily in the rehabilitation of infrastructure and healthcare facilities. Projects have included a municipal waste-water treatment facility for Tirana and its surroundings.
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                    [post_content] => "satlThe art of simplicity. Buke, kripe dhe zemer. And a little Raki. #Valbona." This tweet by Johann Sattler made headlines and almost went viral as the Austrian Ambassador to Albania recently visited the northeastern Albanian region of Tropoja inaugurating an Austrian exhibition, hiked some landmark natural sites in the region and enjoyed local food offered by guesthouses along the Valbona Valley, rated by the National Geographic as one of top great outdoors globally.

‘Buke, kripe and zemer’ (Bread, salt and heart) is an ancient saying in Albania characterizing the hospitality Albanians have traditionally shown toward guests, even unknown travelers knocking on their doors.

Meanwhile, raki, a clear liquor usually made from grapes, is the traditional alcoholic drink of Albanians.

The hospitality of Albanians has also been enshrined in the Kanun customary code dating back to Middle Ages which governed social behavior and almost every aspect of life in much of Albania, especially northern Albania. The Code is still revered in some remote isolated areas and many of the blood feud killings take place because of its laws inherited in centuries.

“The house of Albanians belongs to God and guests. A guest must be honored with bread, salt and bread,” says the Kanun, codified in the late 19th century after being preserved orally since the 15th century.

Ambassador Sattler had an intense weekend in Tropoja where he met Mayor Besnik Dushaj to discuss bilateral projects and tourism development, especially the need to focus on soft tourism. He also participated at the opening ceremony of "Flashback, Albania in the 1990s," a photo exhibition by Austrian historical anthropologist and photographer Robert Pichler that will remain open at the historical museum of Bajram Curri town of the Tropoja region for two months until early next September.

The exhibition is a major event for Albania and the northeastern Albania region of Tropoja, one of the country’s most underdeveloped, but with wonderful natural destinations such as the Valbona River and its valley attracting thousands of tourists.

The region is described as a perfect site to develop sustainable mountain tourism, but projects to develop hydropower plants have sparked concern among environmentalists.

Plans to build 14 hydropower plants in the Valbona river valley are already underway, despite protests by local residents and environmentalists who say they will destroy tourism in the pristine northeastern Albania area.

 
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                    [post_content] => berat 3TIRANA, July 20 - Rafting, book promotion and musical performances opened this week the fourth edition of the multicultural festival in the southern city of Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The festival, which is turning into a traditional annual event, celebrates diversity in one of the country's eldest towns boasting cultural heritage that dates back from ancient times, to Byzantine art, characteristic Ottoman buildings and ruins left over from the communist regime.

The three-day festival scheduled for July 20 to 22 is also an opportunity for tourists enjoying Albania's Adriatic and Ionian beaches to get to know more about cultural heritage in the country, a gateway to the Mediterranean boasting a mix of Illyrian, Roman, Greek and Ottoman civilizations.

Albanian and regional folklore bands, string orchestras and DJs will also entertain visitors for three days.

“Berat represents a special unity for the whole Balkan region. Local residents as well as national and local culture deserve this praise and in this respect we feel obliged to shed light not only on values but also achievements. That's why you should pick Berat, Albania #FestivaliMultiKulturorBerat,” organizers say.

Also known as “the city of 1,001 windows,” Berat has been rated prestigious Business Insider as one of Europe’s top incredible destinations that haven’t been discovered by tourists.

“Once at the frontier of the Byzantine Empire, the town of Berat in Albania has a citadel and a Byzantine church that dates back to the 13th century. Berat’s old town (the Mangalem) is also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list,” says the U.S.-based portal in its travel section.

Since 2008, Berat has been inscribed as a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period. Located in south central Albania, Berat bears witness to the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities down the centuries. It features a castle, locally known as the Kala, most of which was built in the 13th century, although its origins date back to the 4th century BC. The citadel area numbers many Byzantine churches, mainly from the 13th century, as well as several mosques built under the Ottoman era which began in 1417.
                    [post_title] => Multicultural festival awaits visitors to Berat 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 20 - UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has called on Albanian authorities to carefully examine plans on a bypass road in the southern city of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005, before proceeding with its implementation.

In its latest annual meeting in Poland's Krakow this month, the World Heritage Committee expressed concern over the proposed Gjirokastra bypass project, also strongly opposed by some of the country's best cultural heritage experts.

Albanian experts say the bypass design project, already approved by the National Restoration Council, risks destroying part of the museum city of Gjirokastra and endangers the surrounding area.

In a petition to the country's highest authorities earlier this year, architects, academics and culture heritage specialists warned the proposed concrete modern structure would ruin the town’s late Middle Ages architecture and poses a threat to the local landmark castle, already damaged by a late 2016 quake.

The government has insisted the project will further boost tourism in town by easing traffic and creating pedestrian zones.

However, UNESCO has unveiled Albania has temporarily suspended the bypass project until “further evaluation of the needs and other possible options to regulate traffic within the property” as informed through an April 2017 letter by Albanian authorities.

"As for the bypass road design, it should be noted that the World Heritage Centre has received a number of concerns from civil society as well as from the World Bank regarding the potential negative impact of the bypass on the outstanding universal value of the property," says the World Heritage Committee.

In a draft decision, the UN's world heritage body requests Albanian authorities to take into consideration the review and recommendations provided by UNESCO advisory bodies such as ICOMOS, concerning the infrastructural projects, and in particular, with regard to the Gjirokastra Bypass Road project. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, says Albania needs to reassess the bypass carrying capacity and scale in order to minimize potential adverse impacts of this development project on the outstanding universal value of property.

Already 12 years under UNESCO protection, Gjirokastra is currently having its Çerçiz Topulli square and Bazaar Pass area rehabilitated.

The World Heritage Committee also urges Albania to maintain the moratorium on new constructions within the property and buffer zones until the approval of integrated urban conservation and development tools for the protection and management of Gjirokasta and Berat, both of which inscribed on UNESCO as a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period.

Because of illegal construction posing a threat to place Gjirokastra on the List of World Heritage in Danger, Albania authorities imposed a moratorium on construction in October 2013.

Albanian archaeologist Moikom Zeqo has earlier said the bypass project also endangers the 13th century local landmark castle, already damaged by a late 2016 earthquake in Ioannina, neighbouring Greece, some 90 km off Gjirokastra.

Zeqo has warned it is categorically prohibited to intervene in the city’s historic center with modern time elements because of destroying the unity of the historic centre.

“This is also determined by law. We cannot intervene because of ruining what is known as the address of the city’s memory. This must not be allowed. It’s wrong,” says Zeqo, adding that the concrete work and its weight pose a severe threat to the already weak geological structure of the foundations where the castle and the city itself lie.

Inscribed on UNESCO as a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period, Gjirokastra, situated in the Drinos river valley in southern Albania, features a series of outstanding two-story houses which were developed in the 17th century. The town also retains a bazaar, an 18th-century mosque and two churches of the same period. The 13th-century citadel provides the focal point of the town with its typical tower houses.

Government officials claim the introduction of a bypass road will have a direct impact on the traffic in the historic centre of the UNESCO heritage city, which set to turn into a car-free zone.

“This project aims at improving vehicle circulation and returning the historic center back to its identity. Once completed, the bypass will serve all citizens and visitors of Gjirokastra and keep the historical center activities undisturbed by the traffic,” the government says.

Gjirokastra is the hometown of internationally renowned writer Ismail Kadare whose home turned into a museum house in early 2016 hon te writer’s 80th birthday.

Late dictator Enver Hoxha also grew up in Gjirokastra with his home currently housing the local ethnographic museum.

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005, Gjirokastra attracts one of the biggest number of foreign tourists in Albania.

Earlier this month, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee inscribed Albania’s Gashi River and Rrajce as the first two Albanian natural sites on the World Heritage List. The two sites were inscribed as an extension of the World Heritage site of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133290" align="alignright" width="300"]pannuci 2 Christian Pannuci signs a contract in Tirana. Photo: Albanian Football Associatiion[/caption]

TIRANA, July 19 - Italian Christian Pannuci has been officially introduced as the new Albania coach, replacing Gianni De Biasi in a tough bid to make another surprise Euro qualification as hopes for a World Cup qualification are almost over.

Speaking at a press conference in Tirana on Wednesday, the former 44-year-old former AC Milan, Real Madrid and Roma defender said he wanted to follow in De Biasi’s footsteps.

"De Biasi has done an extraordinary job. He has made history for Albania, but now we will start something new and I will try to do something important here," said Pannuci.

De Biasi led Albania for the past five and half years, becoming Albania’s most successful coach after managing to take the national side to a first ever appearance to a major competition such as the Euro 2016. He unexpected resigned last June following an impressive 3-0 away victory with Israel in a World Cup qualifier, overcoming a shameful five-game losing streak the national side had not experienced in more than a decade.

"The goal is to make it to the Euro 2020, it's the sole big target we have. This is what we have to do, I am convinced we have the right team to make it,” said Pannuci.

The 44-year old has little experience as a manager, but his young age and modest financial criteria seem to have led to a deal. Pannuci’s managerial experience started in 2012 when he served as assistant to Fabio Capello, one of the greatest Italian coaches, when he was leading the Russian national side. Pannuci also managed Serie B sides Livorno, Ternana in the past couple of years.

"It was quite easy for me as being Albania's coach is really prestigious and an important opportunity,” said Pannuci.

The Italian, who has signed a 48-month contract will reportedly earn about €20,000 a month, half of what De Biasi was paid in the past couple of years.

Albania’s Football Association President Armand Duka said he was confident Pannuci is the right manager for Albania.

"We made the best decision, we picked one of the world's greatest players who has huge experience as a player, but maybe modest in coaching," said Duka

"We have made a very good choice. For me, he is a man with a great will and desire. I am convinced that together we can make it to the Euro 2020,” he added.

The Albanian national side was also considering Italians Paolo Di Canio, Giancarlo Camolese, Filippo Inzaghi, Alberto Malesani, Valter Zenga and Dutch Clarence Seedorf for the post.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 19 – Russian directors have started working on a movie tracing the fate of more than a dozen Russian women who were trapped in Albania in the early 1960s when Albania broke up with the former Soviet Union.

The movie is based on the “Sorkadhet e trembura” (Frightened gazelles) screenplay written a decade ago by Ismail Kadare, Albania’s internationally renowned writer, who also studied literature in Moscow in the late 1950s.

“When two countries clash, the fates of many people found in-between turn upside down. But when the clash happens between two communist countries, everything is twice more dramatic. This is the story of dozens of foreign women who the same to the frightened gazelles, suddenly found themselves amid the clash between two countries of the communist bloc. This movie is a requiem for those women,” Kadare has said about his screenplay.

Hundreds of Albanians went to study in Russia in the 1950s in the honeymoon with the former Soviet Union. Some of them even married Russian women and brought them to Albania

Alexander Sokurov, the international award-winning Russian filmmaker, will be the artistic director of the movie that is directed by Yuri Arabov, known for his long-lasting collaboration with Sokurov.

Speaking in an interview with Albanian media during a recent visit to the country, Sokurov said the movie traces the well-known story of many Russian-Albanian families who suffered the communist paradox. "It was a tough chapter not only for the former Soviet Union but also Albania," Sokurov has said.

The 66-year old is hailed as Russia's most distinguished living film maker. He was a Golden Lion winner at the 2011 Venice Film festival for his film “Faust.”

Named “Gjirokastra,” after Albania's UNESCO World Heritage site, the movie focuses on relations between a young couple, a Russian woman and an Albanian man, who decide to live in Albania after graduating in Russia, only for their lives to take a sudden U-turn following the sudden cut of relations between the two countries in 1961.

Asked about when the movie will be released, Sokurov believes shooting will finish by the end of this year and if enough funding is secured and the Albanian government supports the project, the film could make its launch by next year.

The movie will feature an almost all-Albanian cast with only one Russian actress picked to perform the lead role of Katya.  The whole movie will be shot in Albania, in the cities of Gjirokastra and Tirana.

Yuri Arabov, the movie’s director, has earlier noted the movie is not a story about the past, but about the present and the future.

"I think Russia and Albania had the same fate. We lived for a long time under the Stalin rule, the same like you suffered for many years under Enver Hoxha's dictatorship. It's almost the same story of persecutions, killers and killings,” Arabov has said.

“I am doing this job with a strong desire and I think it is important that this story is confessed as it is not a story about the past, but about the present and the future. This movie will speak up for freedom, but also the same fate of people from different countries under communism, but will mainly be addressed to youngsters," he added.

The Kadare screenplay is based on real stories as the writer consulted investigations into Russian women in Albania from the notorious archives of the Interior Ministry. Among them, there were also tragic stories of Russian women who escaped persecution in Russia to find love in Albania before ending up in prison to suffer the same tragic fate.

More than a dozen of Russian women were imprisoned in Albania after the two countries broke up in the early 1960 and dozens of others interned just like dozens of thousands of Albanians suffered under 45 years of Stalinist dictatorship.

Citing Albanian statistics, a Russian study says there were nearly 400 mixed marriages between the ethnic Albanian men and Russian women from 1947 to 1961.

“Most of these women moved to Albania permanently with their husbands. In fact, this is the only time that we can speak about the emergence of a full-fledged Russian diaspora in Albania, says the Russian government-funded Russkiy Mir Foundation in an article on “The tragedy of Albania’s Russian community.”

“For a variety of reasons, however, about half of the Russian women remained with their husbands in Albania and as a result were completely cut off from their homeland. Moreover, anyone who had studied in the Soviet Union was declared to be a spy – along with their family,” says the Russian Foundation.

Many of the Russian women were imprisoned for 15-20 years and sent to perform hard labor in remote mountainous regions of Albania.

“All correspondence was banned, it was impossible to make phone calls, and moving from one city to another was not realistic, because there were roadblocks everywhere. And there were mountains all around,” recalled Luiza Papayani.

In 1950, Luiza Papayani, maiden name Melnikova, led a group of Soviet lawyers who created the first Albanian forensic laboratory. She also became the first Russian director of Radio Tirana.

“We all (Russian women) completely lost contact with our country and were isolated from the world and our relatives. Those were the circumstances we had to survive in and raise families, hoping for better times,” she is quoted as saying.

Albania-Russia relations date back to the late 1940s when the two then communist countries developed close ties until 1961 when they broke over ideological grounds.

 
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, July 24 - "Daybreak," an Albanian drama about moral compromises, has been selected to make its world premiere at the upcoming Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the leading movie events in South East Europe.

The Albanian-Greek co-production directed by Albania's Gentian Koçi is one of the three world premieres selected to showcase in next August's festival.

"The Sarajevo Film Festival is one of Europe's most important and the most important one in the south-east region. I think having the world premiere in such a festival, is an achievement not only for me personally, but also for the Albanian cinema's effort to have a stronger voice internationally," says Koçi, a 37-year-old director who is also making his feature film debut.

"I feel privileged I will be part of a competition with directors whose works I have followed and appreciated much. I would like to single out renowned Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu, the 2010 Berlinale Golden Bear winner, whose latest ‘Grain’ movie will also make the world premiere. I believe it will be a tough race among seven very good films,” Koçi has told reporters.

Starring Ornela Kapedani and Suzana Prifti, the Albanian-Greek co-production follows a single mother and her one-year-old son, who live in dire economic circumstances. They move in with an old, immobile woman whom they have to take care of.

In an earlier interview with Cineuropa portal, the movie director and screenwriter described “Daybreak” as an intimate drama that takes place in a flat, in Tirana’s urban setting.

“The pivot of the story is the very fragile relationship between the young and the old woman, a relationship swinging between empathy and pragmatic aims. One of the most important challenges for me as a writer and director was to keep a subtle balance between these two opposing aspects of their relationship: affection and pure pragmatic interests,” said Koçi.

Commenting on challenges facing young directors in Albania due to lack of sufficient financial support, Koçi says international co-productions are still vital in order for film productions to reach a successful conclusion.

The “Daybreak” project, developed with the financial support of the SEE Cinema Network, was also supported by the Albanian National Center of Cinematography (ANCC), the Greek Film Centre, Eurimages, the Albanian Ministry of Culture, the Albanian Public Radio-Television and the Municipality of Tirana.

The film is expected to make its Albania premiere next September.

The 23rd Sarajevo Film Festival, scheduled to take place from August 11 to 18, will showcase 55 selected feature, short and documentary films from around the world. The festival will pay tribute to Oliver Stone, a three-time Oscar winner.
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