Genre: War Drama
Year Released: 2015
Distributor: Makers Studio
Running Time: 18 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 15+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Men Go to Battle, Witnesses, Storm
-Bal Kan is streaming on YouTube.
-Bal Kan is the debut film from the Kosovar director Kriks Dumo.
I’m back in my short film grind. This one presented a challenge that came from an interesting story involving a trip to the dentist of all things. Trust me, there’s a connection to the review at hand. I went to the dentist one day to get some cleaning done. The dentist in question is originally from Kosovo. We talked about foreign films and I asked her if that nation had any movies. She didn’t know any although she likes foreign films. I made an effort to see if any Kosovar made a movie, so after some research, I stumbled upon this short film from this Eastern European sovereignty. Besides, I’ve never covered anything from there.
We’ll see how this film goes.
Bal Kan starts out in the rural part of Kosovo in 1988. Some children are making teams by calling on various kids in this farm town. Once all the teams are picked, everyone play fights with sticks until one side pretends to win. Two friends in particular in that game are the Albanian Ilir and the Serbian Emil. They have a healthy relationship with each other as they trade toys and goods from each other’s family. Ten years later, the heat of the Balkan conflicts is at a fever pitch. The Albanian-Kosovars and the Serbian-Kosovars are at each other’s throats with tit-for-tat killings in the same town. Unfortunately, the two friends end up on opposite sides of the same war zone.
This was certainly an intense and heartbreaking story. It’s just sad how a conflict can divide so many people who cared for each other. Seeing the contrasting scenes with the children playing with sticks before seeing adults with guns and molotov cocktails was incredibly stark. The video production was good and well-shot. It’s not Hollywood-level, but it was certainly competently shot. The friendship presented was something believable despite the brevity of the film and it had a surprising amount of depth to it with the backdrop of the Kosovo War in this former Yugoslavian enclave.
Bal Kan was an intriguing film, but not everything was perfect. I thought the scoring and sound design felt very artificial especially the sounds of gunfire. There was a slow-mo scene which I found to be choppy. The other characters besides the two friends are very underdeveloped. The Albanian-Kosovar soldier Bac gets a bit of a goal when it comes to the Serbs attacking his family, but that was it. There’s also a realization I had with the Ilir/Emil friendship. You have two people growing up as friends only to become enemies later on by the culture around them. I can’t believe I’m going to make this comparison, but some basics of the plot could be considered a mature edged and more tragic version of The Fox and the Hound (yes, I know the original book is WAY darker and more depressing, but you know what I mean). There’s also a controversy as the film got a bunch of thumbs down on YouTube and people post comments about how awesome or how bad Albania, Serbia, and even Macedonia is depending on their ethnicity. There’s still tension in Kosovo, and I don’t want to get into it, but I can see some people getting upset in the war scenes as it’s implied the Serbs make the first strike. However, I will say the ending does counteract that albeit in a very tragic fashion. Bal Kan is controversial, so you’ve been warned.
This was an interesting initial impression of Kosovo’s cinema. The story is powerful and the ending is quite tragic. It was a short, yet impacting when watching it. Bal Kan does have a controversial element given the Kosovo War backdrop and most of the secondary characters are undeveloped. This short film was worth watching and it is recommended though.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like tragedy elements in war dramas.
Subtract 2-5 points if the Kosovo War makes you really uncomfortable (particularly to anyone who’s Serbian or Albanian).
-Greatly developed lead characters
-Powerful anti-war narrative
-Mediocre sound design and soundtrack
-Undeveloped secondary characters
-Some slanted plotting
Final Score: 8/10 points
Content Warning: Older teens and up. The warfare gets intense with some blood and gunshots. Some soldiers even sing after killing a whole family which happens offscreen. The language is very rough with a few characters saying the MF-word. One character even snorts cocaine right before going into battle. The ending is very tragic and it’s violent as it’s heartbreaking.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Bal Kan is property of Makers Studio. The poster is from PicCorn and is property of Makers Studio.