Who Wants to be an Albanian?
Do you remember 1999? From today's perspective, it seems very hard to imagine how the world looked like in
The Hornet was a project produced by
independent production company, Cinema Design,
but also supported by the main national TV station (Radio Television of
Serbia), television strongly controlled by Milošević’s regime in that moment.
The public had great expectations about this work: it has been a really long
time from the last movie where it could see a story about Albanians, and Serbs
and Albanians. Also, the team working on it was a very well known one; the
casting was perfect. The producers couldn’t find a better moment - it has been
shown in cinemas during ‘hot’ year of 1998, at the moment of culmination of
Serbian and Albanian conflicts, but when the possibility of reconciliation of
two sides still had existed. One of the most important reasons for such high
expectations was that among 12 movies produced in that year, only this one had
the ‘courage’ to start this issue of war that was about to happen.
Unfortunately, the expectations were completely betrayed.
Without analyzing its artistic achievements, the story seen in the movie was a
great disappointment. The surprise of Serbian public was even greater having in
mind the fact that it was directed by Gorčin Stojanović, known as strongly
‘anti-regime’ and ‘pro-democratic’ theater and film director.
The screenplay was inspired by a novel,
“based on the true story of the Mafia executioner, code named 'The Hornet', an
Albanian from the Yugoslav
When we read some more details on this movie, we learn that "The Hornet is a first film co-production
treating the subject of Albanian mafia, powerful and uncatchable network of
criminals ruling the drug transport from the
Her name is Adriana; she is a young and innocent Serbian, or
He is a generous
and elegant young man with sophisticated taste and habits. He is taking out his
beloved one from Belgrade 'in war', going with her right to Swiss lake,
relaxing her in a jacuzzi-bath, having dinner in a sushi restaurant, presenting
her spectacular intimate dinners with candles and classic music in his 'modest'
villa. They perfectly speak English, the only language they can communicate
with. Nevertheless, during a romantic drive in a boat, she suddenly discovers
that he is not 'an Italian count', but just a 'common' Albanian from Kosovo.
His name is Miljaim Isa; he is damning the Balkans and its 'poverty' and life
in 'ghetto', promising her to save her from. We find out that he was forced to
eat ground as a little boy, as he starved to death. So that's a reason why he wants
to forget the Balkans, to get the Serbian language out of his mind that is, as
we may assume, the main reason for this Balkan 'misery'. He teaches her that
the first thing in freedom is to "learn to speak English", the
universal language of human rights and freedom. Our young heroine has no
problem with this discovery, and she is completely giving herself to the
passion. Nevertheless, their cute love nest soon becomes her prison as well.
Due to the cultural rules he was brought up in, he doesn't see this
'imprisoning' of women within the house walls as a problem. But she starts to
choke and loses patience, waiting for him to change something. They can't find
their happiness neither in
On 'us' and 'them' – The police and the mafia
The parallel story is following the life of Miljaim's older brother, Abaz, who has crossed to the other side, e.g. as a member of Serbian police forces he fights against 'his own people'. This level of narrative is providing us with a lot of interesting details. Abaz's commander, Mr. Boban, had decided to fight to the end with 'Shiptar Mafia'. The coincidence is that Adriana's father asks this same commander for help, since he used to be his professor of biology in secondary school. As a personification of 'intelligent' and 'joking' Serbian policeman fond of basketball, Boban doesn't approve of his former professor and his ''liberal'' upbringing of his daughter. This kind of upbringing brought us to the fact that she has escaped "with a Shiptar". When we see Adriana's father next time, he is got a bruise on his eye, after some 'encounters' with local boys, trying to find some trace to his daughter. When Mr. Boban sees him, he asks him, laughing, if he has gained this 'souvenir' at the public demonstrations. After this one, we can conclude that Serbian police is highly organized, disciplined, professional, and effective, in dealing with problems of missing daughters, interventions toward 'disobedient' citizens/students/professors, or breaking the international chains of drug trafficking.
The specific 'spice' in
this police story we have after the entrance of Swiss detective Helmer, looking
more like philosophy professor than like a policeman, in comparison to his
Serbian colleagues. Before his arrival to these 'dangerous' parts of the world,
Helmer is telling to his Swiss friend that they (the 'West') has no interests
in finding out what these Balkans' wars are about. They just want to break the
chain of drug trafficking; the rest should be left to the domain of 'human
rights'. It seems that nobody really cared about this Balkans' 'situation'. It
was left to be solved by itself, so the bloody outcome was inevitable. During
his visit, Helmer is completely confused about what he sees, but we have Mr.
Boban to help him understand. He finds out that Shiptars are, in fact,
"Albanians that calls themselves Shiptars, but getting insulted when Serbs
do the same". We see that every bakery / pastry shop
was just one more point in this organized drug trafficking, that it seems that
every Serbian penny paid for a cake was invested in weapons and opiates from
the East. It looks like Serbs were stupidly eating sweets and peanuts, giving
money to Albanians that were wisely investing into 'right' things. The Serbs
took the wrong way - liberalism, and the Albanians were holding strongly among
themselves and their relatives, and the moment of rebellion of 'hungry, poor,
and oppressed' people has come. They are fighting against Serbian language,
Serbian 'hegemony', they have learned English and became free. But, as we all
know, you need 'two for the fight'. In our case, we see victims on both sides
and relativism of responsibilities of both for the deeds done is just a shortcut
to erase the responsibility for all of it. Both sides must be capable to
understand the truth from the other side.
policeman, as ‘an outlaw’ in the Albanian eyes, had to be punished, sooner or
later. The person chosen to 'eliminate' him is his own brother, Miljaim. In the
beginning, Miljaim refuses to do this, but he meets their father saying that
this would be the way to lose them both (Abaz has already been lost, in a
'symbolic' way). He kills a boy that had the task to eliminate him since he
hadn't obeyed the demand to kill his brother, and changes his decision. After a
modest dinner in quite a rich interior of the house of ' an Albanian policeman
somewhere in the Kosovo province', Miljaim kills his own brother. Nevertheless,
effective Serbian police realizes very soon that their policeman is being
threatened, surrounding this house in the very moment, but Miljaim commits
suicide by activating a dynamite, laid all over his body in front of the eyes
of the policemen, Albanians, Swiss detective, his beloved one and her father.
Where, in fact, are the Albanians?
As already mentioned, one of the things connected to this movie is, almost totally, lack of the reaction of the public and culture establishment. It looks that a Serbian culture establishment comes to a dead-end when it should react or criticize work of the authors considered to be the representatives of the alternative and 'democratic' point of view. This situation is one of deep amnesia and blindness in front of the ongoing problems and has no excuse; it is far from representing more different way than dominant 'nationalistic-chauvinistic' politics. Considering this, we should pose the question of authors' responsibility, of so-called representatives of democratic values in today's
When we analyze
this movie in a deeper way, it might look like a little childish psychodrama where
Serbs pretends to be Albanians. It means that almost every role is played by
famous Serbian (or, more precisely, Serbian,
Seen this way,
we find these words of anthropologist Aleksandar Bošković as a suitable
illustration of the problem: “In the projection of our origin backward, we came
to the ethnical groups that have lived in the
question, with no answer, here is the reason for the failure of this love
story. We should remember the love story of the Macedonian man and the Albanian
woman shown in the movie Before the Rain,
a relationship full of tensions and clearly pointed obstacles for the
realization of their love from their youth days. Here, we see no such thing: Adriana is a liberal
If we keep aside
a 'domestic', Serbian public opinion, we might ask ourselves about the possible
reception of this movie in the 'West', or try to answer why this movie didn't
have much attention abroad, having in mind its ‘hot’ subject. The Balkans is
seen as a place of poverty, misery, blood, ashes, sticky fog from the Hades.
So, we can assume that 'Western' spectators would like to see this kind of
pictures, but the movie has failed to fulfill their desire. We hear our heroes
talking all the time about this 'misery, poverty, ghetto and the ground you
must eat if want to survive', but we see nothing such on the screen. All
characters ('Serbs' and 'Albanians') are very well fed, urban, driving (more or
less) luxurious cars, clean, ironed; there has no difference between social
classes (the apartment of our 'liberal' professor of biology is luxurious just
as a house of 'Albanian policeman somewhere in the Kosovo province'). Their
'war' looks more like childish game compared to the well-known scenes of
violence seen in the (documentary) movies on the life in LA. So - where did
disappear so wanted blood, ashes, bones, cruel crimes, rapes, poverty, and
chaos, imagined by the 'West'? We hear them speaking about it, but see no
evidence that this has really existed. There are two possible answers: or
nothing of this has ever happened, or our authors have never left their
comfortable armchairs in the very heart of
Where to go from here?
The situation in which we have founded ourselves in the Balkans at the end of the 20th century has clearly showed us the mechanisms of producing/constructing the image of the 'Other'. The construction of the Other as a main opposition on which the creation of the Self is based has become the symptom of all 'conflicts' we had. The creation of 'ethnic' Others (Serbs vs. Croats, Bosniacs, or Albanians) or the 'Other among us' (spies, students, and the others 'paid by the West') was a precondition for the creation of every conflict situation. Thus, the question of the Others, of the mechanisms that are creating it, has to be the main question in the all-Balkans' public. In this movie,
Maybe we wouldn't
be so surprised to find historical data like this one that during
centuries Albanian families have guarded Serbian churches, monasteries and
sacred places all over Kosovo,
the fact well hidden by both sides. Maybe such facts wouldn't be so strange to hear
if we have all tried to find examples of life in peace and harmony of Serbs and
Albanians in the past when they didn’t mind to learn the language of the
others, instead of searching for the examples of conflicts. It is still a
question when these sides 'in conflict' will start a dialogue again, since we
see no readiness on the both sides to fight against these artificial pictures
of the Other. Conservatism, hostility, animosity is breaded on the both sides,
from a different background but with the same aim: to keep this conflict alive,
and the (ruling) radical political parties on the power. We should be scared by
the fact that we have on the both sides persons considered to be the leaders in
the 'democratic' future that are actually just the pupils of the same school,
the old school attended together with the persons from the replaced regimes. If
we managed, so easy and so fast, to learn English (as a language 'of freedom',
not the language of the contemporary most powerful 'Empire') and became free,
it may be reasonable to try to do something different from what they thought us
to be. To learn Albanian (or Serbian), to look into the dictionaries and get
surprised when we see so many equivalent words. If it hasn't become too late.
 The first, shorter version of this essay was published in ‘Prelom’, No.2-3, January – June 2002, Journal of the School for History and Theory of Images, Belgrade 2002
 It was filmed as Serbian-Italian co-production, sponsored by Avis and Diners Club International also. See more in: Andrew J Horton, Vignettes of Violence: Different Attitudes in Recent Yugoslav Cinema, Central Europe Review, Vol.1, No.18, 25 October 1999, www.ce-review.org/99/18/kinoeye18_horton1.html
official number of people that have seen it in
 Screenplay by: Zoran Popović (also the author of the novel), Srdjan Koljević, and Faruk Begoli.
 The information from the official web site also.
 It was really a problem to find film critics or daily newspapers analysing this movie; the both sides, pro-regime, and opposition, were silent.
 Although we are forgetting this all the time, since Mirjana Joković, an actress that plays her is almost twice as older of the character she should be.
During the 1990s, people in
 He is speaking of the civil and students protests in the winter 1996/97 raised against the stealing of votes on the elections. During more than 3 months, the police forces were sent to beat civilians and students.
In the former
 Except Enver Petrovci, an Albanian actor, in a supporting role, seen by the Serbian public as a 'domestic actor'.
Aleksandar Bošković: Kosovski bozuri,
Magazine Arkzin 06,
 The night when 'NATO intervention' began.
 After 1999, most of them were destroyed by Albanians (or, more precisely, Kosovo Liberation Army).