The Director of International Relations of medicusmundi mediterrània is on a service mission in the Balkans taking him from Northern Macedonia to Bosnia. It is a documentary film aimed at raising awareness on the right to health, on the fight against gender violence: all these elements combine and throb to life in a polyhedral region already in itself. These are the kind of insights and experiences coming out of such missions.
When you’re an example of nothing, then you’re an example of something.
The Balkans are like this. Constant bursts of energy, creativity and struggle, from its history that goes back millennia, until its most local daily life scenes. It is one of these regions which show you how not to do things, and at the same time, without even noticing, passes onto you great life lessons.
They know here, better than in almost any other region in the planet, what living in conflict is like. It seems as if this was the price a country at the very heart of Europe has to pay for multiculturality and the mixing of peoples. Every now and then, confrontations, the fighting among brother peoples, the clash of cultures which have been living together for centuries.
Tetovo is a small city in Western Skopje, the capital city of the newly-appointed Northern Macedonia. Strolling along her streets, I feel it’s like a small Sarajevo. Around every corner there is a clear evidence of the diversity of its people: mosques, orthodox churches, street signs in Cyrillic, in Latin alphabet, in Macedonian language, in Albanese… as well as people from Romania: an endless cultural, linguistic and ethnic wealth which still remains and manages to live together.
But “All that glitters is not gold” and here again the clash among people has been fuelled. In 2000-2002 a war was fought in these lands. And afterwards, there were confrontations, apartheid between populations from Albania and those from Slavic origins, clashes with the Romani population and other migrant peoples. The unprecedented and yet relentless human characteristic of making an offensive weapon out of diversity, by overstating what keeps us apart, by pointing at our differences, was re-enacted. Power-greedy politicians started raising flags, twisting history, embracing regionalisms in order to seek supports. The neighbour was always the one to be blamed for every wrong.
And here, amidst this suffocating propaganda which stubbornly strives to occupy every single nook of public space, was born LOJA, the Centre for Cooperation in the Balkans, a real oasis for the freedom of expression, for interculturality, for conflict resolution. In such a hornet’s nest, which was more likely to become a new Bosnia than to come out with flying colours as a brand-new country, LOJA has made a virtue out of miscegenation, and with this formula, in a land where nobody is free from historical breeding, it is obvious that it was doomed to be a success, even though the process would be slow. It has emerged to become a hub for exchanges, a space where the expression of difference is a synonym for beauty, for personality, for creativity, for freedom. The people working at or for it, as well as volunteers and collaborators, women and men, all embrace internationality and multiculturality as a need without which it would be almost impossible to understand what this region and even the world is all about.
And in their desire to continue nurturing this idea, over eight years ago now, they launched the Watch Out International Film Festival. Since then, productions from Kosovo, Sweden, Romania, the US, Spain, Serbia etc., were displayed there in order to vindicate art and culture as a brotherly language. This 2019 edition has indeed been the one in which our documentary “La Fiebre del Oro” has been granted the Best Film Award of the Festival.
With Bujar Duma, Director of LOJA and Watch Out – Tetovo Film Festival organizer, receiving the 2019 Best Film Award.
In the headquarters of the Museum of the Communist Party of the former Yugoslavia, an open-air amphitheatre surrounded by vineyards, laurel trees, taken over by cats enjoying the dropping of temperature at dusk, I was able to watch the images of the Northern Mozambique mines, the struggle for survival of thousands of miners, the negative impact of this activity on their environment and their health. On the screen, I could watch a documentary I had myself devised, thought up and shot with my great friend Director Raúl de la Fuente (Kanaki Films), two summers ago, during two weeks of hard work in the Mozambican savannah. We did it just for this, so that our message could reach any place in the planet. Yesterday I was aware once more of what the word “mankind” means –or I’d better capitalise it and write “MANKIND” – and of what unites us as a species. In the faces of our friends, women and men from Tetovo, we could sense that expression which translates as: “what are we complaining about, why have we been fighting so far… what really matters is something else”.
The Amphitheatre in front of the Communist Party of Macedonia
This is the globalisation in which I believe. It is the one created by people who think up spaces, who look at you in the eyes when you tell them about other regions in the planet, who want to know, who see in differences what makes us equals, who see in the fragility we have as a species, our most valuable strength. That’s how I felt in Tetovo, merged among twin souls who have been lucky enough as to be born in distant corners of our planet and even more fortunate as to get to know corners located even more far away.
I truly believe that with our documentaries we are not only fighting for a human right. We are indeed looking for allies, male and female, sisters and brothers who know no frontiers, in the same way as health knows no frontiers, people who in the past might have fought for borders and ended up full of void and nonsense, thus discovering they are not part of the DNA of MANKIND.
Ivan Zahinos Ruiz
International Relations Coordinator