GFF Exclusive Review: Zana

Year: 2019
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Director: Antoneta Kastrati

Writers: Casey Cooper Johnson, Antoneta Kastrati

Stars: Adriana Matoshi, Astrit Kabashi, Fatmire Sahiti

By Calum Cooper

The Kosovan drama “Zana” (2019) is an utterly devastating watch. It is a film that intertwines the past and present to categorically display the long term effects of trauma with blistering realism. A film about pressure and expectation on top of loss, it is easy to see why it was Kosovo’s entry into the 92nd Academy Awards.

We meet Lume (Adriana Matoshi), a middle aged woman with her husband Ilir (Astrit Kabashi) and mother-in-law Remzeji (Fatmire Sahiti) in rural Kosovo. Her family are insisting on Lume having a child with Ilir to continue the family name and regaining a semblance of normal life after the horrible Kosovo War (between 1995 and 1999). Lume was pregnant once before, and had a young daughter, Zana. But the war took her child, and Lume has been infertile ever since. This does not sway her family’s wishes, and thus Lume finds herself caught between what she wants and what her family is demanding of her.

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“Zana” is a brutal example of how the past as well as ignorant and dated traditions can have horrendous effects on individuals. Even without her infertility, Lume does not wish to have another child. How can she when she is still mourning the loss of her first? But her voice is drowned out and oppressed by the demands of her family, who subscribe to patriarchal ideas that she is only there to create children for Ilir. Doctors, and even mystic healers, are consulted in an attempt to “fix” Lume’s infertility and yet Lume’s opinion is not once asked for.

“The Kosovan drama “Zana” (2019) is an utterly devastating watch. It is a film that intertwines the past and present to categorically display the long term effects of trauma with blistering realism.”

A downward spiral is inevitable as a result of this, as mental health is overlooked and ignored in favour of running towards the future. Director Antoneta Kastrai’s handling of the characters is compassionate and sensitive. Even though it was Lume’s daughter that was killed by the war, she very much portrays Lume as a victim as well. The war may be over for Kosovo, but it is still fresh for Lume. However Kastrai’s handling of Lume’s family is just as effective. Whether it’s Ilir or Remzeji, they are portrayed as victims too. By trying to orchestrate the birth of another child – essentially forcing the next generation into being – they are attempting to give their family something new to experience. They are trying to move on from the war, whereas Lume is still haunted by it. The family’s methods are not condoned, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t somewhat understand their stance.

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Astrit Kabashi in Zana (2019) © crossingbridges

“Zana” is hardly light viewing, but it is one of the better post-war dramas to emerge in recent years.”

Kastrai’s craftsmanship and the strength of the cast come together to add to the film’s strikingly realistic feel. Kastrai has made a career from making documentaries, and this talent translates into the fictional story marvellously. The community feels genuine and the rich, almost obscure details are captured entrancingly to create an air of authenticity. This could be a documentary in another world. Meanwhile, the performances, particularly Adriana Matoshi as Lume, delicately unveil the complex emotions of the film’s characters and the unseen damage war can have on its survivors.

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Adriana Matoshi in Zana (2019) © crossingbridges

Using this as a platform, the film examines the fine lines of familial pressure and how the horrors of war seep far beyond the battlefield and into domestic life. The detail of this can often be excruciating, but by remaining sensitive in regards to Lume and her situation – while simultaneously acknowledging the family’s perspective without endorsing it – the film is impactful and riff with melancholy. “Zana” is hardly light viewing, but it is one of the better post-war dramas to emerge in recent years.

4 stars

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