Kako ubiv svetec (How I Killed a Saint) (2004)
Director: Teona Strugar Mitevska.
Starring: Labina Mitevska (Viola), Milan Tocinovski (Kokan), Dzevdet Jasari (Nadir), Lea Lipsa (Ana), Silvija Stojanovska (Stojna), Kiril Korunovski (Pece), Riste Stefanovski (Dedo Kole), Petar Mircevski (Mihajlovic), Toni Mihajlovski (Teodor), Emil Ruben (Atase), Judy Harris (Suzan), Dorotea Ognjanovska (Ivona), Bajram Severdzan (Sredovecen covek), Ertan Saban (Bojan), Blagoja Spirkovski-Dzumerko (Bogdan).
2001 ethnic conflict in Macedonia involving the country's Albanian minority seen through the eyes of two siblings with opposing views
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film. Includes curse words.
Macedeonia 2001. Three Albanians put up a banner over the highway. One of the fellows is Nadir and the other is Kokan. The woman with them is Italya, a singer. Kokan throws a big stone onto the highway in front of a vehicle and the collision makes a huge noise that chases all three people away.
A blonde woman named Viola retrieves her luggage at the airport.
Outside the terminal she is greeted by her family. She greets her mother
and her little brother Kokan who is now all grown up.
Viola has been in the United States. Mom is surprised to see that Viola is not heavy like the Americans. Viola answers that she is not American.
On the radio the news is that fighting continues between the Macedonian army and Albanian separatists coming from Kosovo. Border police are reporting frequent movements by paramilitary forces. NATO continues to investigate the situation. The family wants to know how was it in the USA? She says it was fine because there they have work, money and freedom.
Driving back from the airport they see the big banner laid out the previous evening. It says: NATO go home! Kokan says the British are on the scene so something big must have happened.
Viola asks whose car are they using? The front seat passenger says that it belongs to Teo, the driver, who is a "big man" now. Teo explains that he works for a diplomat at the US Embassy. He is a transport officer or rather a chauffer.
Some small boys throw mud onto the car side windows. They think the passengers in the car are American diplomats.
The new prime minister is to be inaugurated as well as the multi-ethnic parliament in the capital of Skopje. Back at home she tries to say hello to grandpa, but he is hard of hearing. Mother says that some days grandfather doesn't recognize anyone. Viola gets upset when she sees that her old bedroom has been turned into mother's new office. She tells her mother she wants to be alone. Mom tells her: "The world can't wait on you."
Viola asks Kokan how are things and her brother says: "People are killing one another." A little later Kokan tells Viola that he has to go to work. Out in the streets people are scrambling to get goods from a truck. Kokan gives the finger to the British saying that they think this is Vietnam. He runs into his friend Nadir. He asks if Nadir has seen Italya? He has not. The friend then tell Kokan that they killed a NATO soldier last night. The two fellows go into see the boss. They bring him some drugs and say they did not run into any problems. The boss says now the two young men will go to the border to pick something up for him. He warns them to watch out for land mines and he pushes an envelope over to Nadir. He then says that someone threw a rock onto a car on the highway and killed a NATO soldier. The guys don't say anything about this to the boss.
(There was an insurgency in Macedonia from January to November, 2001. The ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) militant group attacked Macedonia's security forces with several dozen casualties for each side. A peace treaty known as the Ohrid Agreement was signed in January 2002. The Macedonian government pledged to improve the rights of the Albanian population (25.3 percent of the population), make the Albanian language the second official language and increase the participation of ethnic Albanians in government institutions, police and army. The Albanian side agreed to give up any separatist demands and to fully recognize all Macedonian institutions. The NLA was to disarm by handing over their weapons to a NATO force.)
Mother tells Viola that when she goes back to the USA she must take Kokan with her. Viola doesn't seem to like the idea. Father tells her that Kokan can study and Viola says that American universities are very expensive. Viola sees some friends in the street below their apartment and she rushes away from the window, kneeling on the floor and covering her ears. Mother looks out the window and sees a young man walking with a young woman. She goes over to her daughter and tells her to stop being so silly and get up.
At work the boss and the two friends have a drink of liquor. They drink to Macedonia. Outside Kokan tells Nadir that he just can't continue working like a slave for the boss. He resents having to be an errand boy. His friend changes the subject saying that things are getting worse in Macedonia. He himself is an Albanian and remarks: "We're no longer on the same side." This upsets Kokan and he asks Nadir who cares about his being Albanian, as long as the friend is not a coward? Kokan takes the envelope from his friend and tells him they will meet up later and do the job.
Kokan and Viola go into a disco night club. They meet the girl singer who sings nationalistic songs on videos. Kokan tells his sister to behave herself. She says she's always nice to people. Kokan doesn't seem to agree. Teo comes over to visit with the two siblings. Viola goes out on the dance floor to dance by herself as she sips her drink. Nadir greets Kokan and Teo. Then the friend goes out onto the dance floor to say hello to Viola. He welcomes Viola back home.
Kokan takes the singer Italya into the bathroom to kiss her, but the singer tells him that his sister is waiting for him.
Teo comes over to Viola and tells her he knows both why Viola is here now and why she left for America. Viola tells him to mind his own business. She goes over to the bathroom door, knocks and tells her brother to come out. When Kokan doesn't move, Viola leaves saying that she is going. Kokan and his girl get into a nasty fight with Kokan busting two mirrors with his right fist and the girl crying. The girlfriend rushes out to get help from Viola. Meanwhile, a bodyguard has grabbed Kokan and is preparing to throw him out of the club. Viola, the girlfriend and Nadir now gang up on the bodyguard saying they will handle Viola's brother. The bodyguard wants to know who will pay for the broken mirrors? Viola says she will.
At Nadir's home Viola lays on the long couch. The Albanian sits by her. As she sleeps, he slowly pets her blonde hair. She awakens and bolts up and away from Nadir. She yells for Kokan to get up, while the friend goes into the dining room. Kokan figures that Nadir must have done something to his sister to make her act in such haste. Outside, Nadir shouts down to Kokan that Italya won't see him anymore.
Kokan is on the bus with Viola. He is a bit upset with her when she waves at the policemen. Farther along the road, gun fire is heard. Viola tells Kokan to change to the other side of the bus because a stray bullet could hit Kokan in the head. She finally gets him to move over. They reach the Federal Yugoslavia Border Crossing. Viola asks why are they coming here? Kokan doesn't tell her why. They get off the bus and walk over to a run down village. A civilian guard stops them. Kokan tells the guard that he wants to see Bodan. The guard says that Bodan has disappeared, but a little later he says he will try to find Bodan for him.
Viola says the men around here are thugs and she wants to know why Kokan is hanging out with guys like these? She starts crying, so Kokan tries to soothe her a bit. He says she has been acting kind of weird ever since she came back from America. Why? Sister says that she now has a three-year old daughter and her name is Ivona. And Ivona lives here in Macedonia. Moreover, there is no husband in the picture. The boss Bodan comes and finds Kokan. He wants to know who the woman is? His sister. Bodan says she looks real nice. She wants to go with the men but two guards hold her back.
Bodan gives a bag to Kokan. Kokan calls for his sister indicating they they are leaving.
On the bus radio comes the news that EU commissioner Xavier Solana visited Belgrade today. The topic of discussion was the delivery of war criminals to the Hague World Court. The bus stops and two security people come to check the riders' papers. They order everyone out. Kokan has to strip naked. One of the guards says that his bag is a woman's bag with lipstick and other items. He asks if Kokan is a pervert or maybe a faggot? The bus leaves, but the guard detains Kokan. He tries to put lipstick on Kokan and write on his chest with the lipstick. Kokan pushes his hand away. After awhile, the guard says Kokan can go. He also says: "You're all faggots in Macedonia." To get away from the guard, he says yes, all the men in Macedonia are faggots. That pleases the guard. Then he warns Kokan: "War, there will be war." Kokan is released and he runs after the bus.
Viola pleads with the bus driver to stop because her brother was detained back there. The driver says he can't because this is No Man's Land. He refuses to stop. Viola goes and sits back in her seat. She goes through her bag and finds out that this is the bag Bodan gave her brother. Inside there are items that look like C4 plastic explosives, but they could be drugs also. A man sits across the aisle from her and starts saying she looks very beautiful and very sexy. Viola wants nothing to do with the fellow and changes seats.
Kokan is walking home. The guy gets behind Viola and starts grabbing at her. She finally has to bite his hand to get him off her.
At home, grandfather listens to the news on the radio. "Macedonians declare 90% percent of their homes were destroyed by NLA Albanian terrorists. Meanwhile, Albanians point the finger at the Macedonian police. Regarding the death of the NATO soldier, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski insists that the government will do everything in its power to ensure the security of the Alliance."
Albanian terrorists seize the bus that Viola is on. They say the bus is now theirs. Everyone else will walk 20 km back to Skopje. Poor Viola has to walk still being shadowed by the man with the touchy-feely hands.
Meanwhile, Kokan tries to find a telephone with no success. He starts walking home again.
The family has guests over for dinner and everyone seems to be having a good time.
Amidst the sound of battle, Viola is crying again. Her brother is near the weapon's fire too. He pushes through a corn field and comes to yellow tape marking where not to go. A soldier one row of corn over from Kokan walks right past him without seeing him. Kokan takes off his shoes and throws them away. He is in a mine field and has to be careful of where he steps. He just misses setting off one of the mines.
Viola sleeps laying against the side wall of a building. She wakes up when it dawns. Now Kokan can see where he is stepping and he can make faster progress through the mine field. He gets out of the field and starts walking along the dirt roads. He finally runs into Teo and his car. Teo drops Kokan off back home.
Kokan says hello to grandfather and adds that today is the big day. He puts some explosive C4 plastic in his jacket pocket saying he will show that coward guard what's what.
Teo lets Kokan ride with him to pick up the American diplomat. He takes the brief case of the diplomat and opens it. He then puts the C4 into the brief case.
Viola tries to get a taxi driver to drive her back to the border. The taxi drivers says no way. It's too dangerous out there.
The diplomat tells Kokan that his sister used to work for him. Kokan asks Teo how old is that bastard's daughter? Teo says nothing so Kokan asks the diplomat in English. His daughter is three years old. Kokan is obviously thinking that the daughter could be his niece. Kokan resets his watch.
Bodan comes in to visit with Kokan's parents, since Kokan has not contacted Bodan as of yet. Bodan tells them that Kokan took a lot of money from him, so he is not the bad guy here. He goes on to tell the parents to have Kokan contact him as soon as they see him.
Teo reaches the church where there is to be a special showing of religious relics. The diplomat tells Teo to never again let that monkey (Kokan) ride in his car. As the diplomat heads up to the church Kokan shouts out: "Macedonia! You're all a bunch of faggots! You're all criminals!" The guards toss Kokan around and then push him away from the sidewalk.
Nadir shows up and talks with Viola who asks him if he knows where Kokan is? He doesn't know. Kokan goes home. He sits down with his parents at a table and watches the religious ceremonies on television. He tells them: "You'll see what I've done to NATO." Mom now really starts balling Kokan out. She tells him a couple of thugs paid them a visit while he was out. Mom then gets after dad for not controlling his son more. So dad slaps Kokan upside the head and tells him that he is going to get them all killed with is crazy ideas. He also wants to know what mess has Kokan gotten into? Kokan leaves the apartment, saying that he doesn't really need them anyway.
Kokan marches over to the studio. He asks where Italya is and then marches into the studio. A guy tries to stop him, but Kokan goes around him a couple of times. On the second occasion he tries to sweep Italya up in his arms, but she struggles against him. He tells the studio people that because of them NATO is screwing the country. He shouts to Italya: "You made me kill a saint! I killed a saint! I placed that bomb. Fuck all of you."
Nadir takes Viola to a restaurant. She keeps asking him about Kokan and he keeps talking about if Viola has a boyfriend in the USA or maybe they could go on a date. Viola realizes that Nadir doesn't know where Kokan is. She starts to leave. He grabs her arm to make her stay a little longer. He tells her that war is coming and then no one will know who they can trust. He now tells Viola that Kokan killed the NATO soldier. She tells him that this just cannot be.
Viola runs by a wall on the border of the embassy zone. She grabs a large, empty oil can. She climbs on top of the oil can and then goes up and over the wall. She drops her purse, but decides not to bother with it. She drops onto the other side of the wall. She walks up to the home of the ambassador she knows so well. She knocks on the door and Ivona opens it. Viola is very happy to see how big her daughter is already. The step mother comes and soon Viola and the step mother are fighting for control of Ivona. Soon the step-mother stops fighting. She pleads with Viola not hurt the little girl. Viola takes Ivona with her.
Bodna is watching TV. He sees footage of Kokan invading the TV studio and trying to take Italya away. The announcer says that the young man took responsibility for today's bombing of Parliament. Kokan shows up. He tells Bodna that at the border he had to switch bags with his sister. They drink a toast to Macedonia. Then Bodna tells Kokan to come closer. When Kokan does so, Bodna slaps him on the right side of his face. Kokan now gets up and tries to get out of the building, but every exit is locked. Bodna and his thug now corner Kokan. Kokan grabs a pipe, but the thug has a pistol. So Kokan keeps backing up as the thug comes closer to him. The guy tells Kokan to get on the bus. He also asks him where is the money?
Now Kokan gets aggressive and moves toward the thug, who backs up and fires a bullet into Kokan's mid-section. Kokan stands there for awhile and then falls down into a sitting position. From there Kokan gradually falls over onto his right side.
An air siren begins wailing. Overhead, planes are dropping bombs somewhere.
Viola shows her daughter Ivona to grandfather. Grandpa strokes the little girl's hair.
Rather short film at 77 minutes. I enjoyed it. It kept my interest throughout. I was wondering if something bad was going to happen to the main characters Viola and her brother Kokan. The film is set against the Albanian insurgency in Macedonia in 2001 when NATO had to be called in. One thing I'm confused by is why would a non-Albanian Macedonian male want to damage the Macedonian Parliament building and other Macedonian landmarks? His family is not anti-Macedonian. Maybe Kokan is just not right in the head. He is what they call the lone wolf terrorist. He did all his own planning and he told no one. But that leaves the audience wondering what is Kokan's motivation. Maybe he just wanted to be famous or rather infamous?
You get some idea of the mistreatment of the Albanians in Macedonia, but not enough I think.
Labina Mitevska (as Viola) also starred in the film Jas sum od Titov Veles (I am from Titov Veles) (2007) as Afrodita. She was very good in both performances, but in How I Killed a Saint, she looked much prettier because she wore her hair long and she wore attractive clothes. She was in Before the Rain (1994) too, as Zamira.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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