THE DELEGATION is a film psychologically charged, halfway between a thriller and a social drama. Set in the early nineties when Albania was experiencing a historical turning point leaving behind the long-running communist dictatorship to enter in the world of democracies. The film is a patchwork of conflicting characters, three ideal-types depicting together Albania’s political context of that time: a political prisoner (Leo) a ruthless cop from the old regime (Asilan) and a big wig of the communist political environment (Comrade Spiro).
Is this story based on real events?
Yes, it is. The film is set in Albania in 1990, when tragic events were taking place in Romania. Albania was the last stone of the domino of communism. We had the most repressive regime among communist countries. In those years many foreign delegations came to Albania to verify its progress towards democracy. The government tried to negotiate and join the democratic system.
It was not easy of course, in Albania the communist grip on people had been very tight. In this respect Asilan is the typical example of that. Communism didn’t end in Albania during the nineties, it was just transforming itself from inside out over the past. After 1991 it was people like Comrade Spiro who took over the country, once again.
To my opinion Comrade Spiro is the worst character, a man who cunningly tries to ride the wave and survive the change.
Exactly. There is one detail in the very beginning of the film where I highlight his nature. I wanted to give the audience this feeling by filming a close-up of their shoes, of Asilan and Comrade Spiro’s, showing their different way of walking. Clumsy and heavy the first, watchful and light on his feet the second. For me this shot shows the clear-cut difference of these two characters.
It is not the first time you set a film in a prison and look into the life of inmates. I think of Amnesty, your first feature film. Have you ever visited a State prison in Albania?
No, never. I have always two elements in my films: prisoners and water. In my second film Khrom there is a lake where kids often go to. Water…I don’t know why I feel attracted by water. I like water, water is life. Maybe because of my Zodiac sign, I am Aquarius. The prison in The Delegation was built from the ground. It didn’t exist. In Amnesty instead we shot in a real prison.
What about Sasha? The old close friend of Leo, the chief of OSCE delegation that has to assess the Albania’s progress in implementing democracy.
Sasha pretends to believe all the build-up the government officials are playing before his eyes. He is perfectly aware they are mocking at him and nothwithstanding he plays the game. I built the scene in the pretended house of Leo like “theatre in the theatre”.
Depicting the character of Sasha as a powerless and compliant European official did you mean to criticise the European institutions for the way they faced with Albania transition and the political class of that time?
Yes, I did. For me Sasha represents “the West”. All Europe on different levels played one game with 1990 Albania. The political power pretended to change in one day and now after so many years we are in the same situation as before.
Without revealing the plot we can say that in the fight between good and evil the latter is supposed to win. Is it your personal feeling, your disappointment at the way the events turned out?
No, I don’t agreed with your interpretation. For me it is not about the fight between good and evil, but the sense of sacrifice of good people. All three film characters are victims. Also Asilan is a victim of the system. Leo is a political prisoners. After the new regime granted amnesty to political prisoners what became of them? They remained on the sidelines, out of the so-called new course. Nothing changed in Albania, it is still a dire situation. That’s why in my films I tell stories of human resistence.
How was The Delegation welcomed by Albanian audience?
As winner of the Best Film Award at the Warsaw Film Festival the film was enthusiastically celebrated but there has been no debat about its narrative differently from what happened in Poland. Public opinion in Albania is not used to open debates, people are not very responsive.