Monthly Archives: November 2013

Young Albanian Filmmakers Festival in New York

The annual Young Albanian Filmmakers Festival (YAFF) debuted in New York City at the Producers Club Theatres on Friday, November 29, 2013. Founder of YAFF, director Bujar Alimani aims to bring to New York the latest creativity of Albanian student filmmakers, enrolled in Film at Academies and Art Schools in Albania and Kosovo, featuring works of aspiring young filmmakers. 

The festival is a three day screening of 19 short films. This year out of 50 films, 19 were selected to screen at the 2013 YAFF Festival in New York, with 4 prizes to be awarded on the final night: best films, best director, best script and the public award. The jury is comprised of film director Arta Kallaba, Ermira Babamusta (founder of Peace Action Foundation) and publicist Violeta Mirakaj.

The selection panel is made of acclaimed Albanian actors namely: Dhimitër Ismailaj, Luan Bexheti, Roland Uruci, Anisa Dema, Lola Luma ,Gentjan Basha, Alfred Tollja, Entela Barci and Bujar Alimani.

Lola Luma hosted the Opening Night Gala where she introduced 6 short films by the following directors: Gentjan Kurti, Anxhela Kumanaku, Franc Priska, Xhoslin Rama, Bekim Guri and Alba Stefa. After the screening, Director Bujar Alimani talked about the US Premiere of the Albanian short films. The festival continues screening this saturday and sunday at Producers Club Theatres located on 358 W 44th St, New York.

To view the program visit:

Kosovo soprano awarded the Elena Nikolai prize

The Kosovo born soprano Besa Llugiqi is breaking through bigger international stages, widening and deepening her sounds.

In a new Bulgarian opera festival from October 28-30, 2013, young singer Besa Llugiqi was awarded the Elena Nikolai prize. Interpreting the Bulgarian song “Djevoice”, Besa’s voice entered the hearts of both the audience and jury, leading to her edging out many other participants from around the world.

The jury consisted of Buna Baglioni of Italy, soprano Darina Takova, and tenor Kaludi Kaludov. They cherished Besa’s voice with its perfect vocal technique and decided her professionalism distinguished her from the other competitors. In a recent interview for KultPlus, Besa acknowledged the award as one of the most important in her career. ‘The young voice interprets of the opera festival was organized in the name of mezzosoprano Elena Nicolai, a world known name in the opera world. The festival was held in Panagjyrishte, the hometown Nicolai.

The original article was posted at the Click here to read the original article.

Elvir Muriqi: Kosovo-born boxer determined to win the World Championship title

By Ermira Babamusta

Boxer Elvir Muriqi, also known as “The Kosovo Kid” was born in Peja, Kosovo on April 1979. Then, he moved to New York in 1996 to be a professional boxer. His undeniable talent made him a hit from the beginning of his career, earning respect as the best-known boxer in America and in Europe. Elvir Muriqi has won several titles including the prestigious Intercontinental Championship at the New York Golden Gloves in 1998, NABC World Title in 2004 in Kosovo and American Title in 2009 in North Carolina for NABC (North American Boxing Championship). Muriqi has won the title as Best Top Ten in the World and aims to win the World Championship title.

Born on April 1979, in Peja, Kosovo,to Albanian parents Ramiz and Rabije Muriqi. Elvir Muriqi excelled in sports as a kid including karate, soccer, boxing, kickboxing, tennis and gymnastics. Elvir began boxing at age 9 for two years, then he started kickboxing at age 11 for five years. At age 17 he returned to his passion, boxing. Muriqi has dominated the ring for the past ten years and he proved his worth at an international level as one of the best boxers in the world. He has an outstanding record in boxing with 40 wins, 5 losses (revenged 2 losses) and 24 knockouts. Elvir has been preparing himself for the world title championship and is determined to reach his dream.

I have always had a passion for sports. Everything I did, I had to be the best at it. Even in school I was the man since 6th grade. I grew up being a leader and everyone would listen to me, including my brothers and cousins.” “Growing up I used to get in trouble a lot and would fight in the streets. I wanted to be known as the tough kid around. My dad was one of the toughest dads, I looked up to him. My dad send me to the gym. I did group sports like soccer. I was good at fighting that’s why I stuck with it. When I started boxing, I saw the golden gloves and the world champion. I have so much passion for boxing and I said I will do whatever it takes to be the best,” said Elvir Muriqi.

For the past ten years of his successful career, Elvir Muriqi has maintained the spot as the Best Top Ten Boxers in the world. So on January 31, 2014 Elvir Muriqi of New York will fight on the world stage against Hungarian boxer Zsolt Erdei in a ten round fight as the main event of the Super Brawl for the light heavyweight category. The big fight will be featured on ESPN, Friday Night Fights and is taking place at the Richard Codey Arena in New Jersey.

Bersant Celina scored twice for Manchester City’s U18

Young Bersant Celina, Manchester City U18 team, created headlines earlier this year when he was part of Kosovo’s U20 National Football team that played in the Swiss Valais Cup. He may be the next up-and-coming player to watch, after Adnan Januzaj, a fellow member of the Albanian Diaspora of Kosovo origin, made a brakethrough in the English Premier league with Manchester United.
This weekend, 17-year-old Bersant Celina, a citizen of Norway, scored twice for Manchester City’s U18 team when they hosted Bolton Wanderers. Celina was not on the first XI at first, but came in as a substitute in 70th minute. It took him 5 minutes to score City’s third goal, and another 15 minutes until he ended the game with another strike. City won 4-1,and the English team added its fourth win in a row.
Young Celina created headlines earlier this year when he was part of Kosovo’s U20 team that played in the Swiss Valais Cup. Kosovo finished last. Even though it did not go that well for the young Kosovo team, these young boys wrote history since it was the first time it participated in an official tournament as a National Team.Midfielder Bersant Celina might be a part of Norway’s U-team too. But since he’s already showed us that he’s interested to play for Kosovo, maybe he is a potential national team player for the future.

An Insider Perspective of the Albanian Film Week 2013: Theodhora Rexhepi

Albanian Film Week (AFW) Marketing Director Theodhora Rexhepi was a vision in green at the opening gala of AFW 2013. Passionate about promoting Albanian art and culture, Theo speaks to Kosovo Diaspora about the evolving film industry, her favorite films, and AFW 2014.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Born in Fier, Albania, I moved to Greece when I was 15 years old. I became more involved with activities concerning Albanian when I moved to New York. Soon after, a family tragedy narrowed my focus on children. Not only do many Albanian families have trouble providing for their sick children, but also medical care is scarce and very difficult to access. Thus my goal is to eventually create a foundation to support these families.

How did you get involved with AFW? What are your motivations for being part of this amazing event?

Co-organizer Ariot Myrtaj’s (Ari) inspiring passion for cinematography drew me to join the AFW team. I want Albanian culture to be presented through the vivid colors of art. We have a rich artistic world– a treasure– and the United States should be introduced to it. I am very proud of my culture, as I am sure every Albanian is.

Do you consider AFW 2013 a success?

The mission of AFW 2013 is to share Albanian culture and connect people through art. I believe that the festival fully accomplished its goals. Expectations were blown away at opening night. The movies allowed people to further appreciate Albanian cinematography. At the award night, we had many important guests and a full house. I have also received numerous emails from Albanians in Boston, Chicago and Michigan congratulating us and requesting we bring something similar in their cities. Indeed, AFW’s success is due to the work of our wonderful team.

AFW 2013 offered a diverse selection of films. What was your favorite film? Why?

The directors have done an amazing job. Each film portrayed a different aspect of Albanian life. I really liked the short movies The Last Confession and the Superintendent. I also liked Agon because I lived in Greece for 5 years and could relate to the story. Angus Deus was about a modern tragedy that deeply touched me. The film showed some very painful times and some members of the audience were very emotional. Lastly, Right to Love portrayed a reality that exists not only in Albanian Culture but also everywhere in the world.

In your opinion, how has the Albanian film industry has evolved?

The Albanian film industry has become more successful and contemporary. Directors have become bolder in their art and in screening real life stories. Director of Agon Robert Budina expresses that directors need more funds and encouragement to produce more movies. Currently, while neighboring countries such as Italy might produce a hundred films annually, the Albanian film industry only produces four. This will take time to develop, but I quote Abraham Lincoln regarding the growth of Albanian Cinematography: “’I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.’” We must charge forward and not walk back.

What will AFW 2014 look like?

 We aim to do better every year. Ari and I are already planning for AFW 2014.  We will have a bigger theater since it was a full house with over 300 attendees at our opening night. We also plan to tell more people about the festival. Lastly, we are eager to see a warm reception from the Albanian Community. While they were cautious about embracing us this year, we strive to have their full support in 2014.

Mikey Boy Movie – A story about an Albanian-American pizzeria worker

Mikel Dusi, star of ‘Mikey Boy,’ set for Times Square premiere on Friday. Film has united the Albanian community — including the nation’s president!


Mikel Dusi, star of ‘Mikey Boy,’ set for Times Square premiere on Friday. Film has united the Albanian community — including the nation’s president!

Mikel Dusi, whose semi-autobiographical film “Mikey Boy” opens Friday, shows off the skills that made him one of the city’s legendary Albanian-American pizzeria workers. A pizza boy from Ozone Park is hoping to be the next big Albanian-American star and lift the country’s profile in the process.

Expats of Albania — who emigrated from the Cold War redoubt following the 1985 death of communist dictator Enver Hoxha and subsequent civil unrest — are rallying behind Queens-bred producer Mikel Dusi, 32, who will star in his first feature film “Mikey Boy,” debuting on Friday.

For a country that has dealt with a century of instability and strife, Dusi’s humorous and heartfelt take on the Albanian experience has galvanized one of the city’s most close-knit cultural enclaves. “We’re all excited,” said Marko Kepi, president of the group Albanian Roots, which has been tapping its 5,000 members to make sure the premiere is a sell-out. Films that have portrayed Albanians as kidnappers and criminals such as the “Taken” franchise have put a black eye the Albanian image, Kepi said. And few could forget Hoxha, who ruled the country with an iron fist — or, more actually, a flint one, given that he took the country back to the stone age. The good news is that since his death, the country has bounced back, even joining NATO in 2009. But cultural triumphs in America have been few and far between. “We’re finally looking forward to something positive,” Kepi said of Dusi’s film.


The comedic mockumentary follows Mikey, a pizza shop worker in Queens, as he tries to shop a full-length film across three-continents and wiggle his way out of an arranged marriage in Albania.

The forced union is fictional, but the rest of the plot was borrowed from Dusi’s personal life. The energetic filmmaker has marinara sauce running through his veins after spending his entire childhood slinging slices at the family-owned Galleria Pizza on 101st Ave. in Ozone Park. “I grew up performing behind the counter at the pizzeria,” said Dusi, who now lives in Los Angeles. His filmmaking journey began after his license was suspended in 2010. With no way of getting around, Dusi had to get creative. “When inspiration meets desperation, the rest doesn’t matter,” he said. “I created my own films so I can have the [production assistants] drive me around.” He cast many of his friends from Ozone Park as well as his parents, Joe, 63, and Marta, 53. “Since he was a 4-years-old, he always stood out,” said the proud papa. Albanians are no stranger to making their dough from pizza.


The film, set in a pizzeria, is drawn richly from Dusi’s life. The Albanian community has come out strongly in support.

Pizza empire Famous Famigilia Pizzeria is owned by the Kolaj brothers, who immigrated from the European country. A majority of the shops in the Bronx’ “Little Italy” on Arthur Ave. are Albanian-owned, said Kepi, the Albanian Roots president. “They go from being bus boys to waiters to owners of the same restaurants that they were working in,” said Kepi. Dusi, a “proud” Albanian, went on a tour this week of the U.N. Embassy and met with several dignitaries, meeting with Albania’s President Bujar Faik Nishani at one point. The outpouring of support from his fellow countrymen doesn’t surprise Dusi — it’s the nature of the Albanian culture. “We are a small community. We’ve had communism, war and genocide,” he said. “If we didn’t stick together, we’d be extinct.” Long-time friend and “King of Queens” actor Larry Romano told Dusi he was “crazy” for trying to produce his own film. The two shared a celebratory slice at Galleria on Wednesday, which was prepared by Dusi. “I give him a lot respect, he made it through,” said Romano. “He’s got talent.”

The original article was posted at Click here to read the original article

Meet Valmir Berisha, they call him ‘the new Zlatan’

Meet Valmir Berisha, they call him ‘the new Zlatan’

It has been a great year for 17-year-old Swedish born Valmir Berisha, a young football star whose fame has expanded so much more in the past couple of weeks. His last name may be common amongst Albanians, but this Kosovo-Albanian kid, who has roots in a small village in the Deçan municipality, stands out. Just like his idol, a certain Mr. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, this youngster has been a very important piece of the Swedish puzzle.

Berisha was first called up by the Albanian U19 team last year but had to turn them down due to an injury. When he got better Sweden called him up for the annual camp that they were Swedish National Youth Team coaches try to find new talents and since he impressed coaches so much they decided to bring him in to their U17-team.

The journey started earlier this spring when his equalizing goal in the Elite Round gave Sweden’s U17 team a ticket to the U17 World Cup that was held in the United Arab Emirates this fall. This was actually the first time a Swedish team participated in U17 World Cup, and they had Berisha to thank. Before the World Cup, the Swedish U17 team played in the Euro Cup but it did not go as well as hoped for. Berisha received a serious head injury during one of the games but continued to show us the warrior he is by returning to the team very quickly.  However, the Swedes weren’t that lucky; they made it to the semifinals but lost against Russia after a penalty shoot-out (though Berisha did score one of the penalty goals).

But this was not the end for Sweden – they had a World Cup to prepare for!

Last month Sweden’s U17 took a long  flight to the United Arab Emirates with their young Kosovo-Albanian duo Berisha and Gentrit Citaku, a midfielder from the Swedish team IFK Norrköping. Sweden ended up in the same group as Iraq, Mexico and three time WC champions, Nigeria. Sweden began the tournament with a 4-1 win against Iraq without any goals from the Kosovo-Albanians, but we didn’t have to wait long to see one of them score.  In the second game against Nigeria, the game ended 3-3, with Berisha scoring two goals only eight minutes apart, though the two teams split the points. In the final group stage game Sweden lost to Mexico but was able to go through to the 8th final as the best group of three, which meant Japan would be the next contender.

In the 8th final against Japan, Berisha scored the first goal after 11 minutes and Sweden won 2-1. The next phase was the quarterfinals, and this time Sweden was playing against Honduras. Though Honduras scored the first goal in the 68th minute, Sweden was able to equalize only a few minutes later thanks to Citaku’s assist. Sweden was fighting for survival and at the end Berisha once again came to the rescue, scoring the final goal for another 2-1 win for Sweden – and what a goal it was! A Zlatan Ibrahimovic-like goal with his heel, talk of the goal soon spread all over the world and was even nominated as “Goal of the Year” in the Swedish Football Award.

Afterwards, Sweden prepared for the semifinal in which they faced Nigeria once again, the team that Berisha had scored twice against, but this time Sweden was unable to score. Nigeria’s 3-0 win in front of legend Diego Maradona, who watched the game from the bleachers, took them to the finals. Sweden on the other hand had a third place final to play against Argentina in which young Berisha showed what he was capable of by scoring a hattrick! Sweden won 4-1 and Berisha was later awarded with the Golden Boot Award as the top goal scorer with his 7 goals, a prize he received from FIFA president Joseph Blatter himself.

Even though Berisha’s goal against Honduras did not win the Swedish Football Award, he got to give away the award to the winner, who happened to be his idol, Zlatan Ibrahimovic himself.

Whereas earlier in his career Berisha has been on trial with the Scottish team Celtic, now teams in both Sweden and all around Europe are lining up to get his signature. We’re all excited to see where this current Halmstad BK player will end up next.

After all, you’ll want to remember this guy: they call him ”the new Zlatan.”

Networking of Diaspora Businesses in Austria

The Kosovo Ministry of Diaspora held the forum “Networking of Diaspora Businesses in Austria” in  Vienna with Albanian businessmen who have invested in Austria.

At this meeting, officers of the Ministry of Diaspora spoke about the importance of maintaining the forum, with the aim of creating a network of Albanian businesses in Austria. The purpose of the forum was to promote the possibility of investing and doing business in Kosovo, as well as networking of diaspora businesses in Austria. Discussions regarding the possibility of approaching capital investments in Kosovo and job creations also took place.

Mr. Hamdi Krasniqi, owner of construction company “BHK” in Vienna, thanked the MoD for this initiative that has been missing for years to the business community in Austria. He stated that “We know that in every meeting with people from Kosovo, they ask help from us, but a meeting with such a purpose and idea like this today, concrete is the first of its kind. Therefore, it motivates us and makes feel good and gives us the courage to make bigger investments in Kosovo.”

The original article was posted at the Ministry of Diaspora webpage. Click here to read the original article.

“Right to Love” Wins the Best Feature Film

The feature-length movie “Right to Love,” directed by Paul Kurti,was screened as the last movie for this year’s AFW event. “Right to Love” brings a moving love story of a Muslim girl, Amina, and a Catholic guy, Tony, who struggle to overcome their religious and ethnic differences. But despite these dissimilarities, we see love, respect, honesty, and dignity that the lead characters share for one another. The remarkable cast of “Right to Love,” the honorable Albanian actress, Pavlina Mani, as well as the lead actors, Amina Zhaman and Shpend Xani, brought a stellar performance that sparked the Producers Club’ audience on Thursday night.

“Right to Love” also portrays family respect, especially when Tony (Shpend Xani), an Albanian businessman, cannot convince his mother (Pavlina Mani) to accept his Muslim actress-girlfriend (Amina Zhaman) he loves so much. Rather than the traditional romantic ending, where the boy gets the girl, “Right to Love” left the audience with questions on why the couple did not end up together. In the end, Tony chose his mother’s values before his love, proving the strong family values and ties the Albanian culture shares.

“Right to Love” was nominated as the best feature film on Thursday night, September 14, 2013, during the closing of the AFW festival. Amina Zhaman, Shpend Xani, Pavlina Mani, Luan Bexheti,Ariot Myrtaj,  among others who were in the “Right to Love” cast were present during the award and celebrated with everyone their achievements and success.

The Albanian Film Week 2013, put forth an amazing event this year. The AFW team with their hard work and dedication showed how successful art can be the cultural bridge for Albanians all over the world. The media, publicity, and articles during this year’s AFW event, portray the attention that the festival got as well as the outstanding work put forth from everyone who participated and organized the event.

A Night of Laughter and Understanding at Albanian Film Week

By: Yekta Karimi

As an Iranian-American, attending the Albanian Film Week was an enriching cultural experience where I was able to get a sound glimpse of the Albanian culture. At the festival’s premier, I felt fortunate enough to watch the film Agon and have a conversation with the director, Robert Budina, regarding his thoughts, inspirations, and motivations behind creating the film. On Tuesday, November 12, at the Producer’s Club theater, myself and another non-Albanian gal-pal watched four short films: Out of Sight, Amerika, Tie, and The First Tunnel.

Although unfortunate, we had to do a bit of interpretation for Out of Sight because the subtitles didn’t translate well through the computer. The cinematography of this film, however, was unique and captivating and despite not understanding the voices of the children, I felt touched because through their words, I understood things like dreams, goals, fears and felt like I was able to put pieces of the puzzle together. From my understanding (which was confirmed by the film’s description), the short film’s purpose was to capture the thoughts and lives of children and teens throughout Albania in different socio-economic strata. Coming from a developing country myself, I felt that I was able to relate to these children and sometimes even thought I was watching a distant cousin speak.

The other three movies were all over the board in regard to theme and motifs. A mix of comedy, tragedy, immigrant stories, and morbid love story gave for an interesting set of films. Tie was particularly interesting because I think it gave some insight into Albanian humor. Many times in the short 10 minutes, I found myself slightly confused as the crowd roared with laughter. But overall, I was able to understand and enjoy the film and definitely caught myself chuckling many times. I felt a lot of emotions and I think it may have been nice if each night had a theme for the movies. A night of comedy followed by a night of drama, perhaps.

Overall, I have to commend all those involved in founding, developing, organizing, and managing the Albanian Film Week. I was very happy to see such a film festival dedicated to such a strong and culturally rich group of people. Each night that I was in attendance, there was an enthusiastic crowd of viewers and all the films that I was able to watch were modern, yet authentic and made with superb quality. Kudos to the Albanian Film Week crew.

Yekta Karimi is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She is studying international relations with a focus on finance and economic policy. Yekta obtained her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and business and focused her research on microfinance and lending models in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Prior to coming to New York, Yekta was deeply involved with nonprofit work in California working with youth leadership organizations as well as small business development centers.