Zana – Antoneta Kastrati (Kosovan Brutal War Trauma Film)


Kosovan film has remained largely marginal in spite of attempts to expand its market. This is pretty much the curse of most Eastern European cinema post-Soviet power, leaving the curating critic with a difficult path. Without notoriety, how can one find the gold? You like, just have to check out their stuff, bro. Scraping through the variety of announcements and such, I happened upon this poorly-analyzed film by Antoneta Kastrati, Zana, which, unlike many productions of former Yugoslavia, is far more adapt at connecting with the viewer. The central issue with many films of the region that pick at the scars of the Yugoslav Wars is that they lack a connection outside of their home turf; simply put, if you don’t get it, like you won’t get it. Zana, as you likely expect, is the exact opposite of this cultural trend.


The basic plot follows Lume (Adriana Matoshi), whose difficulties with bearing another child after her daughter’s tragic murder during the Kosovo War have led her to folk healers and witches as her husband, family, and friends attempt to navigate grief and cultural expectations. The murdered daughter, Zana, is but a specter for the majority of the film, reappearing only in brief, nightmarish moments (including a child’s brains being shot from her head). The expected tragedy of war is here, but Zana is far more effective at how it tells its story. The cinematography opts for a clean, naturalistic approach with occasional, extended shots and bleak, peaceful landscapes, but its true power is the story of Zana herself, which draws the viewer into a sense of uncertainty as it is slowly revealed. Lume’s grasp of reality, at times peaceful, is tainted by the unsettling potential for the sudden regurgitation of the next horrific memory. This effectively blends scenes of modern Kosovan life with hallucinatory grief to the extent that the viewer becomes uncertain where reality starts and ends. As such, Zana presents a horrific picture of the lasting effects of the Kosovo War without relying on knowledge of it to be effective, making this a true gem that reveals the uniqueness of the Eastern European market and its ability to extend beyond its own boundaries.


Zana Official Website

Written by Stanley, Devourer of Souls

Zana (2019, 2020 US)
Antoneta Kastrati
4.6 / 5