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Slogans by Gjergj Xhuvani

 

  • Synopsis

 


Hansome young Andre arrives in a remote mountain village for his new teaching post at the local elementary school. Under the tight rule of the school Principal, Andre is surprised to discover that the only item on his first faculty meeting agenda is assignment of a political slogan for each class. Between "UP WITH REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT" and "AMERICAN IMPERIALISM IS ONLY A PAPER TIGER," Andre catches on that shorter slogans are preferable. In a physically demanding task, the teachers and young students must form the letters with rocks on neighboring hillsides. This "political duty" dictates life in the village towards ironic and unexpected results. Among them, a love story between Andre and pretty French Teacher, Diana.

Director

Gjergj Xhuvani was born in 1963 in Tirana, Albania. He graduated from the Academie des Beaux Arts in Tirana with a focus on Theater . Xhuvani is a writer with several animated films and two children's novels to his credit. Slogans is the first Albanian film to screen at Cannes.

Filmography
1996 Tirana
1995 Le Dernier Amour

  • Review

Over the years, the enterprising Directors' Fortnight selectors have brought to Cannes a series of surprising films from countries whose cinematic art is rarely seen. This year, however, Jacques Gerber, whose beat includes Eastern Europe, had netted a true original: the first Albanian film to screen at Cannes in living memory (or at any rate in the failing memory of this writer).

Slogans marks the second feature from 38-year-old Tirana-born Gjergj Xhuvani, whose 30-minute short feature, Funeral Business, screened in Venice in 1999. The new film is set in the late 1970s, when the Hoxha regime held Albania in an iron grip and the frontiers were all but closed. It tells the story of André, a young biology teacher who leaves Tirana for an elementary school in the mountains, where the headmaster's main job is to allocate revolutionary slogans to each class ­ "Glory to the Revolutionary Spirit", "American Imperialism Is a Paper Tiger" ­ that kind of thing. The catch is, the class then has to outline the slogans in stone on the mountain side, and any mistakes are severly punished. So, the shorter the slogan, the better.
"In Albania at the time," says Xhuvani, who studied theatre in Tirana before his first short in 1991. "There were all kinds of pompous ceremonies organised when members of the politburo went past in their cars, as the Party Secretary does in the film. Everything was done to make it look spontaneous, but of course it was nothing of the sort."

Making a film in Albania, even with the help of French co-producers, was never going to be easy. But Xhuvani faced problems of a different kind. "Democracy has only existed since 1991," he says. "It is so fragile and the past is so close that, when people saw their children wearing red scarves and building slogans, they were torn between a moment of doubt and a certain nostalgia. It was their life. You can't deny a part of yourself. Some of the older ones asked if I was a communist or a democrat. I just said I was making a film."

Nick Roddick

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