Tag Archives: art

The Albanian Cinema Project

Viktor Gjika’s “Nëntori i Dytë”  (“The Second November,” 1982) and Fatmir Koci’s “The Land of Eagles” (2007) are showing March 29 at the Directors Guild of America Theater.

Viktor Gjika’s “Nëntori i Dytë” (“The Second November,” 1982) and Fatmir Koci’s “The Land of Eagles” (2007) are showing March 29 at the Directors Guild of America Theater.

The film scholar and critic Cole Hutchison from Brooklyn, New York has written a fascinating article on the History of Albanian Cinema and a movement called the Albanian Film project which strives to preserve and restore Albanian film.

Please take a look at this article at Cinespect for more information:


Albanian Art Exhibit Comes to Boston

My friend and Art teacher, Bill Commerford is preparing An Albanian Portfolio, a series of Albanian themed watercolor paintings. When he finishes them, I want to exhibit his collection somewhere in Boston.

He sent me this beautiful card and tribute with a copy of one of his Albanian paintings.
An Albanian Portfolio Bill Cummerford2
I will let you know where you can see his entire collection as soon as he finishes them!


A Resource for Albanian Artists

Get Rough With Me art poster

An ArtSake event, image courtesy the ArtSake website.

ArtSake is an art community and resourse that Albanian artists should explore. An example is an event coming up for a few days this week illustrated in the image on the left.

According to their “about” section, ArtSake is hosted by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state’s art agency. They encourage readers to participate in the advancement of Massachusetts arts, especially their own.

For more information, please visit the ArtSake website at:


Albania Slide-Show Presentation in Quincy

Learn about Albania through slide-show presentation

The Thomas Crane Library is inviting local residents to come out and learn about the small Balkan country of Albania.

The free slide-show presentation will take place on Tuesday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m. at the Crane Library, 40 Washington Street in Quincy.

During the 2009-2010 school year, world traveler and photojournalist Barry Pell and his wife lived and taught English in Tirana, the capital of Albania. Mr. Pell will discuss the experience of working and daily life in Albania. Pell has traveled widely over the past 40 years, visiting and documenting landscapes and cultures in 155 countries.

Mr. Pell also lived and traveled in China for two years and in eastern Europe for one year. He currently lectures on international cultures at schools, universities and institutions in the Boston area.

For more information, visit thomascranelibrary.org or call 617-376-1301.

Sterio Voskopoja Painting Exibition at Holy Trinity Church

It’s short notice, but here’s a great opportunity on Sunday for both Albanians and non-Albanians to see – up close – the works of Albanian artist, Sterio Voskopoja, in South Boston!!

Sterio Voskopoja Painting Exibition at Holy Trinity Church

Posted by: “PD” pdhima@yahoo.com pdhima

This coming Sunday after the Liturgy, in the hall of Holy Trinity Albanian Orthodox Church, the famous Albanian painter, Sterio Voskopoja, will exhibit his art work for the first time in Boston.

Bishop Ilia will open up the ceremony.
Everyone is welcome to join us.

Coffee and refreshments will be served.

Holy Trinity Albanian Orthodox Church
245 “D” Street
South Boston, MA 02127

Van Christo Uncovers Two 18th Century Operas about Scanderbeg, Albania’s greatest hero

Author: Del Brebner

Liria’s annual dinner dance celebrating Albania’s historic Independence Day
(Dita e Flamurit) was held Sunday, November 24th, at the world-famous Anthony’s Pier 4 waterfront restaurant. On that occasion, an announcement was made that bears cultural significance to the Albanian people in Albania and to people of Albanian origin throughout the world.

Master of Ceremonies at the Liria dinner, David Kosta, made the following announcement after guest speaker, Van Christo, had just finished his talk. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Kosta said, “Van Christo has just informed me that he will soon donate photocopies of the two Skanderbeg operas by Vivaldi and Francouer, along with English translations to, first of all, the Fan Noli Library, the Skanderbeg Museum in Kruja, Albania, the Department of Music at Harvard University, the School for the Arts at Boston University, and the Boston Conservatory of Music.”

This striking announcement was the fitting climax to years of search and research on the part of Van Christo, Boston’s well-known steward of Albanian culture and proponent of cultural unity among Albanians of differing political persuasions.

Van Christo, owner and President of the Van Christo Advertising Agency, and in recent years, creator/director of the popular WCRB and WBUR radio programs, the Van Christo Radio Theatre, has held as a major personal responsibility, the preservation of the art and culture of Albania. From 1979 to 1983, he regularly made weekly trips from Boston to Worcester where he served as conductor and musical director of Kor’ i Usterit which translated into Albanian means “Worcester Choir.” Many remember the impressive concerts of that Albanian mens’ chorale group in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and several other cities in New England.

In 1982 Christo was reading a newly-acquired book, “The Albanians” by Anton Logoreci, an Englishman of Albanian origins. It was with a great sense of excitement, of discovery, that he read the following paragraph: “Scanderbeg’s posthumous renown was by no means confined to his own country. Voltaire thought the Byzantine Empire would have survived had it possessed a leader of his quality. A number of poets and composers have also drawn inspiration from his military career. The French sixteenth-century poet, Ronsard, wrote a poem about it, and so did the nineteenth-century American poet, Longfellow. Antonio Vivaldi’s list of rarely peformed compositions includes an opera entitled Scanderbeg.”

Van Christo admits that on reading the paragraph he was virtually trembling with excitement. A Vivaldi opera about Scanderbeg, the 15th century Albanian folk hero who for 25 years successfully repelled, vanquished and baffled the Ottoman hordes in their attempts to conquer Albania? The Scanderbeg who, in effect, created Albania through his military genius and his extraordinary leadership that made a strong and unified nation from a discordant mass of feudal lords and unruly tribesmen?

Image of the cover of the first Vivaldi Scanderbeg Opera

Image of the cover of the first Vivaldi Scanderbeg Opera

Van Christo’s mind raced with questions. Did the opera still exist? Where could it be? How could one find it? Not one to sit back and wait for answers, Van Christo embarked on what he calls “the search.” For the next three years he committed emotion, time, and money to finding and preserving the Vivaldi opera.

He found that the opera was originally performed at the Teatro de la Pergola in Florence, Italy, on June 22, 1718. The occasion was the re-opening of the theatre, to this day a pearl among Florentine theatres. For the event Vivaldi had been chosen to produce an opera, testimony to Vivaldi’s standing in the music world at that time. That Vivaldi had selected Scanderbeg as the subject of an opera especially composed for that momentous opccasion confirms the impact that the Albanian folk hero still had on the civilized world almost 300 years after his heroic life.

This, Van Christo learned along with other details from consultations with musicologists in England, Italy, France, and the United States, from a voluminous correspondence extending over a three-year period with music librarians in Italy, from extensive research, and numerous paid consultants.

Complicating matters and adding further excitement was another discovery. In the course of his research on the Vivaldi opera, Van Christo uncovered another opera entitled “Scanderbeg,” this one by the 18th century composer, Francois Francouer. While still hunting down the Vivaldi, Van Christo also initiated the search for the Francouer opera, encountering many of the same difficulties and frustrations he was experiencing with the Vivaldi search.

This time, though, from sources in Paris, he was eventually to find the entire opera (both the original plus a revised version by Francouer), librettos and musical scores, and to learn that the Francouer “Scanderbeg” had been given in command performance before their majesties, King Louis XV and Queen Marie Charlotte Leszczynska of France at Fontainebleu on October 22, 1763.

Van Christo believes it is entirely conceivable that, properly presented to various opera companies in the United States and abroad, several of them would accept the Francouer “Scanderbeg” for performance. In an interview following the Liria dinner he was asked about the possibility.

“It has both historical and musical value,” he said, “I have had it evaluated and authenticated by a qualified musicologist, Dr. Graham Sadler of the Department of Music at the University of Hull in England. It is intact. Ready for production. It is imperative that opera companies honor their expressed responsibility to restore and preserve masterworks of former times. The Francouer “Scanderbeg” is a sure bet for successful revival.”

He was then asked about chances of a revival of the Vivaldi “Scanderbeg.” Van Christo muses. “In my heart of hearts,” he says, “I’d like to be able to retain someone of — let’s say — the stature of Gian Carlo Menotti to compose a new Scanderbeg opera based on the Vivaldi libretto and incorporating the four authentic remaining Vivaldi arias. These have been evaluated by an eminent Vivaldi scholar, Professor Michael Talbot of the University of Liverpool, and I have his recommendations for revitalizing and exploiting the work.” Christo adds that a composer of Menotti’s reputation would, clearly, lead to performance by major opera companies in this country and elsewhere.

Image of the cover of the second Vivaldi Scanderbeg Opera

Image of the cover of the second Vivaldi Scanderbeg Opera

“My consultants tell me that it would cost about a quarter of a million dollars to engage someone of the caliber of Gian Carlo Menotti.” He tugs thoughtfully as his crisp beard. “What is needed is for a significant number of American-Albanians to come forward and help, especially the younger generation who can bring vitality, imagination, and sophistication to the project.” He smiles into space. “Imagine! A Vivaldi-Menotti collaboration on a Scanderbeg opera!” He closes his eyes. Dreaming?

“Ah!” he says suddenly, “It could be done. It could be done.”

If it can be done, one senses that Van Christo is the person who could make of the project another successful labor of love and perseverence.

Academy Award Nominee: Colonel Bunker (Kolonel Bunker)

Albanian Film: Colonel Bunker (French-Albanian-Polish)
A 3B Prods. (Paris)/Orafilm (Tirana)/Film Studio Dom (Warsaw) production.
Produced, directed and written by Kujtim Cashku, Camera (color), Afrim Spahiu, Jerzy Rudzinski;
Editor, Kahena Attia-Roveill; Music, Andrez Krause; Production Design, Shaqir Veseli:
Costume Design, Astrit Tota; Sound, Ilir Gjata.
Reviewed at the Thessalonika Film Festival, Greece, Nov. 12, 1996. Running time: 103 Min.

Muro Neto (Colonel Bunker)…………….Agim Qirjaq
Ana, his wife…………………………………Anna Nehrebec
With: Cun Lajci, Guljem Radoja, Kadri Roshi, Petrit Malaj

Film Review: VARIETY, Dec. 9-15, 1996 A dark-hued political parable based on fact, “Colonel Bunker” shows in stark detail the lengths to which an insanely paranoid regime will go to terrorize its own people. Occasional technical weaknesses, and one or two self-consciously poetic interludes, do blunt the film’s grimly humorous impact. Director Kujtim Cashku’s ninth feature (submitted by Albania for the forthcoming best foreign-language pic Oscar) deserves to put his country’s little-known movie industry on the map.

In 1974, the hard-line Stalinist Enver Hoxha regime, having quarreled with virtually every other state in the world, retreated into sulky isolation. A program known as “bunkerization” was instituted with 700,000 semi-subterranean concrete bunkers to be built for the population of 3 million in case of hostile action by any of Albania’s myriad enemies. The program, which calls on virtually the entire economic resources of Europe’s most impoverished country, is to continue until 1981.

Cashku’s film focuses on the man chosen to organize this concrete nightmare: Muro Neto, a professional soldier who becomes known as “Colonel Bunker.” Secretly skeptical about his task, he nonetheless obeys. However, the same day that he’s assigned the job, Albania’s politburo decides to abolish all military ranks, thus thwarting him of an expected generalship. When Neto finally displays his resentment publicly, it brings about his downfall.

Early on, there’s a scene — in darkness cut by flashing lights and wailing sirens — where a panicky populace is hurried down into underground shelters by uniformed figures. What makes the familiar sequence so bizarre is that the people are bewildered peasants driving their cows and goats along with them. The deranged response of Albania’s leaders to an imagined external threat underlines the film’s message that the true enemy of the people was their own government.

As portrayed by Albanian actor Agim Qiraqi, Neto is no stone-faced appararatchik but a troubled figure, forcing himself to go along with a policy he knows is insane. His one anchor is his love for his Polish wife, Ana, played with moving dignity by Anna Nehrebecka.

With its moody lighting, Afrim Spahiu’s lensing enhances the film’s atmosphere, though occasionally shaky editing and continuity mar the effect. Inclusion of some confusing, would-be lyrical episodes involving a pair of English-speaking youngsters making love in the bunkers is a mistake, as is a clinched ending, in which Neto dies. (The real-life Neto is still alive, and helped with the making of the film). However, such lapses matter little, given the revelatory power of the story the pic tells. — Philip Kemp


— Winner “Le Prix de la Critique” Mediterranean Film Festival, Bastia, France, 1996
— “Special Jury Prize” International Film Festival, Izmir, Turkey, 1996
— Official Entry OSCAR-96 for the Best Foreign Language Award, 1996
— “Selected Official Competition” Montreal World Film Festival, Canada, 1997
— “GRAND PRIX” Eurofilm Festival, Saint Etienne, 1997
— Premio-CICT-IFTC (UNESCO) 1998
— “Grand National Prix” Albanian Film Festival, Tirana, 2000

*Colonel Bunker was among 39 films selected for the Oscar prize. Before arriving in Los Angeles, the film was sent to Montreal, Canada where it was selected for showing at the A Series Film Festival, and then to the International Film Festival in Salonika, Greece, and the Strasbourg European Film Festival in Germany.

The Albanian School of Venice

Author: Signorina Sandra Rossi

A relief sculpure

A relief sculpure commemorating the seiges of Scutari in 1474 and 1479. The Sultan, Mehmed II, turbanned and crowned and accompanied by his Grand Vizier, stands holding a scimitar below a cliff on which is perched the fort of Scutari.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the beautiful city of Venice in Italy was settled by progenitors of the Albanians, the Illyrian tribe of the Veneti, around 1200 BC. Equally interesting may be the fact that an Albanian School (Scuola Albanesi)in the sense of a lay confraternity dedicated to charitable works was established in Venice in 1479 by Albanian refugees who fled from the Turks after the fall of Shkodra, and that the famous Venetian artist, Carpaccio, was retained by them to paint the decorations of their building. Although the school building, now unmarked, exists today as a residential dwelling, it still retains its bas relief sculpture (shown below) over the front entrance commemorating the
Turkish seiges of Shkodra in 1474 and 1479.

Distinguished painters who emerged from that Albanian community in Venice were Mark Bazaiti, Viktor Karpaci, and Francesco Albani. Below is a description of the Albanian School:

“The Scuola di Santa Maria degli Albanesi had been founded in 1442 for the special benefit of the Albanian community. Following the fall of Scutari (Shkodra) to the Turks in 1479, a number of refugees fled to Venice, where they received assistance from the Signoria (Government of the Venetian Republic). In 1497 the group resolved to build a meeting-house next to the church of San Maurizio, observing that ‘even the Armenians have their own hostel and we have none.’

“When it came to the decoration of the building, Carpaccio was the chosen artist. His six scenes from the Life of the Virgin indicate, however, that other commissions may have had first priority on his attentions. The paintings for the Albanesi are of low quality by comparison with those of the Scuola di San Giorgi, and were probably carried out to a large degree by his workshop. A document of 1503 noted that the majority of the members were artisans and mariners, indicating that the financial resources of the Scuola were very meagre. Carpaccio must have been at the height of his fame during the years in which he painted for the Dalmatians and the Albanesi.

“In a final decorative flourish that documents their long memories and continuing concern for the fate of their homeland, the confratelli of the Albanesi completed the facade of their building around 1530 with a relief sculpure commemorating the seiges of Scutari in 1474 and 1479. The Sultan, Mehmed II, turbanned and crowned and accompanied by his Grand Vizier, stands holding a scimitar below a cliff on which is perched the fort of Scutari. The heroes of each battle — respectively, Antonio Loredan and Antonio da Lezze — were honored by the inclusion of their coats-of-arms. “*

* Pages 70-72, Venetian Narrative Painting in the Age of Carpaccio, Patricia Fortini Brown, Yale University Press, New Haven and London The Frosina Foundation wishes to express its gratitude to Signorina Sandra Rossi of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum Collection in Venice for providing access to the above information.

Mira KuÇuku/ Albanian Ceramicist Extraordinaire

Mira KuÇuku ceramics

Mira KuÇuku ceramics

Upon entering Mira Kuçuku’s exquisite gallery “Albqeramik” on Bulevardi Zhan D’Ark near the center of Albania’s capital, Tirana, it’s as if you’re suddenly transported to New York’s Park Avenue or Boston’s Newbury Street. Indeed, her gallery would fit in perfectly anywhere on those two elegant confluences of American haute culture. Its contemporary appearance and subtle decor provide an enchanting backdrop for the display of ceramic potteries and sculptures that Mira has hand-fashioned to tantalize both the eye and taste of the most discerning art critic and buyer. The gallery is divided into two rooms, the larger one as you enter where most of her works are on display, and then a smaller one just behind it which serves mainly as storage and some display of finished pieces.

Mira, a dark-haired attractive woman with bright eyes and a quick smile, is serious about her craftsmanship as she points out and describes features on several of her hand-made creations. Her work, encompassing a variety of sizes and shapes ranging from smaller, decorated potteries, plates, and sculptures to impressively-large, floor-standing vases, are distinguished by intricate appliques set off by warm, earth-colored glazes that are oven-fired to last for an eternity. She maintains a rigid work schedule to replenish the stock of the gallery and to fill especially commissioned projects and orders.

A prolific artist (no two pieces of Mira’s art are exactly alike), she keeps exploring new themes by frequently reaching back into her Albanian roots and culture. The ever-changing four seasons of the year are of great interest to her, and one of Mira’s favorite subjects is her young daughter, Bora, whose visage is rendered either in full-face or profile on various pieces as the perfect motif for Spring (Pranvera). A graduate of the Academy of the Figurative Arts in Tirana, Mira was employed for 17 years as a Modeling Sculptor at the Migjeni Arts facility until she established her own gallery/studio in 1993. Her ceramics are considered first-rank, and, unquestionably, they deserve to be exhibited at art and cultural centers in the USA and elsewhere.

With the advent of democracy in Albania in 1991 and the long-awaited freedom of artistic expression, Mira Kuçuku is already making her mark in several countries of Europe such as Denmark, Greece, and Croatia where her ceramic exhibitions garnered rave notices.

Excerpted from an article in LIRIA by Van Christo, October/November, 1995