Denis – The Filmmaker

Denis – the filmmaker

Inside Roma reality in Kosovo

by Nadine Kreuzahler, Emilie Sok, Dardan Zhegrova

Plemetina is twenty minutes by bus from Prishtina, but these twenty minutes take you to a parallel reality. Here lives Denis Mustafa (16), still in high school, living together with his parents and his sister. In this small town which is known for its polluted air as a result of the power plant Kosovo A and B, Denis the young filmmaker wants to stay.

Plemetina – the place that used to be a camp for displaced people during the war, is now a place where people live, even though the green areas are turned into trash areas, 80% of the inhabitants are living off social welfare, and the pollution in the air is 74 times higher than European standards allow.

Born and raised here Denis fell in love with the people and the landscape. As a child he was really active. Exploring and making people “nervous“ was his favourite part of the day.

His interest in movies started when he was young, his uncle was directing a film called „One Sun, One Nation“- a film project for and by Roma people, and for him it was like entering a beautiful until then unknown world.
“I was 11 years old when I saw my uncle working with the camera, I observed that, I went with him in fields and at that time I was fascinated by it“ says Denis.

The life in Plemetina is not that easy, sometimes it is even boring- as Denis says, but he still wants to live there. He really wants to experience and to document the life of Roma.
“Roma people are the same as everyone else“, is what he wants to tell through his movies.

Entering that wonderworld of film making, made him curious and willing to experiment with the camera. After a while he had the opportunity to make a film – as a participant in the workshop of the peace organization GAIA “Art in Action“. His short film called “Toxic Fun“ in which he tells the life of a Roma family from Plemetina won the first prize in the Rolling Film Festival in Kosovo and in the Depok Festival in Budapest in 2011.

“This success motivated me to continue and to love the film even more“ says Denis.

In the village, everyone was saying hello to Denis, they were all proud of this optimistic and funny guy. We walked to this green area near the Sitnica lake, where he also filmed some parts of the film “Toxic Fun“. It is one of the areas where people go fishing, having picnic and it is one of his favourite places to go.

“Sometimes I come here by myself, I just want to sit and hear the birds, it inspires me.“

Not only with his movies, but also with NGO-work in Balkan Sunflower(BSF) and GAIA, Denis wants to overcome all the stereotypes for Roma people.

Balkan Sunflowers is an international grassroots organisation founded in 1999 to help the Kosovar refugees. Doing what money can’t do, they wanted to help with person-to-person contact, so Denis as an independent human rights activist wanted to be part of this organization.
Now he is one of the tutors in Plemetina’s BSF, working in a program which aims to help the children‘s education as well as the integration of their parents. Also he wokes for the (Roma) Rolling Film Festival in Prishtina, where he does a reportage on the enrollment oft he festival.

Even though Plemetina is not a well known place to live, there are a lot of talented and ambitious people like Denis who want to break stereotypes and change life for the better.

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