Thank you all for coming! This is the fourth annual America Night at Dokufest. This is my first time hosting this reception, and I am happy to celebrate Dokufest and Dokutech and the American filmmakers, producers and festival directors joining us tonight.
I’m honored that we can do this event in the beautiful Sheh Zade House. I am delighted that places like this and other jewels of cultural heritage in Prizren are being used for events such as Dokufest. In a way, it keeps us all connected to the history of this amazing place of Kosovo. And I am very proud of the role the U.S. Embassy had in restoring this house and the Museum of Ethnology in Prizren. I saw some pictures before the restoration and the transformation is incredible.
I am particularly pleased that the Dokufest theme this year is on addressing corruption. As you may know, fighting corruption is one of my three top priorities for my time as Ambassador in Kosovo. Corruption is holding Kosovo back – it’s preventing the economic development Kosovo needs to create jobs, and undermining citizen confidence in Kosovo’s democracy. In other words, for Kosovo to reach its full potential, both economically and as part of Europe, it must tackle corruption.
And let’s not forget that the negative impact of corruption is felt most of all by the common citizen – the mother trying to get decent healthcare service for her child; the minority community member trying to get a job or municipal document; or women-owned business trying to compete for a government tender.
So, it comes as no surprise then that numerous public surveys point to corruption as one of the top issues for Kosovo’s citizens. Anyone following the news recently cannot escape the conclusion that corruption, nepotism, and patronage remain alive and well, thriving in a culture of impunity. I certainly wouldn’t want to hear the things that have been printed in the press in the past few days being associated with my own government.
Now, the real question is – what is Kosovo going to do about combating corruption? Well, for one thing, we continue to believe that appointments to boards, publicly owned enterprises, and other agencies need to be made on the basis of demonstrated ability, not party loyalty. Kosovo’s best and brightest deserve the opportunity to work for their country; and Kosovo needs the work these people can do.
Kosovo’s international credibility is enhanced when it successfully battles domestic corruption. And I am proud that the United States government is working closely with Kosovo in this effort. The entire United States mission here is committed to help Kosovo prosecute, punish, and prevent corruption. We train prosecutors, police, and judges to help build a rule of law system that can actively address corruption. We work with civil society and media to uncover corrupt practices and educate the public about how to respond when faced with corruption. We work with businesses to ensure they understand that transparent and fair business practices create far more economic development than corrupt deals and practices. And we are working with Dokufest to help get this important message out.
The film industry in Kosovo clearly has a role to play. So I applaud Dokufest for choosing to help fight corruption by organizing workshops, panels, and showing films to raise awareness. You can count on the Embassy’s continued support in this fight. And we had a speaker from the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section to talk to the panel discussion just an hour ago about real experiences in fighting corruption- and yes, it exists there [in the United States] too. It is a common problem for every single country in the world. We cannot eliminate it because people are people, and people can be flawed. But we can fight it aggressively, and we can help here, in Kosovo, to fight it by continuing to provide training and support to NGOs and public institutions that are committed to the fight against corruption
Regarding the film industry, this has been an important year for Kosovo’s film industry with the film “Shok”– And two of the stars of “Shok” are here! How are you doing, it is great to see you! Thank you both for coming, wow! Two of the stars of “Shok” are here, and there were others, tremendous people in the rest of the cast, the crew, the writers, the directors. You can’t imagine how many people it really takes, if you are not in the film industry, how many people it really takes to make a film. Everyone else is important too, and they did a terrific job. “Shok” had an Oscar nomination, you all were in Los Angeles to be there for the Oscars, what a tremendous opportunity. That was Kosovo’s first nomination, I am absolutely convinced it will not be the last. Perhaps the two of you and your friends and colleagues from Shok will participate in the next Kosovo nominated film for an Oscar.
Recently, the Kosovo short film “Home” – which was produced by some of you here tonight and supported by USAID –was just nominated for a European Film Award, after winning the Best of Festival award at the Palm Springs International short film festival.
These accomplishments show the world that film and culture are thriving here in Kosovo. That’s why the United States is so proud to have supported DokuFest from its beginnings and by bringing American filmmakers and films to the Festival. This year, we’re pleased to have 17 U.S. filmmakers, producers and film festival representatives participating in Dokufest and Dokutech!
Can I ask the American representatives to raise their hands, so other people can identify you? Don’t be shy! Thank you.
We’re also very happy to support Dokutech. Kosovo’s technology sector is growing fast. I recently visited an IT business in Pristina and I think anyone from Google would have felt right at home in that office. It was amazing, and I’m from California so I know what I am talking about. So, it is wonderful that in just three years, we’ve seen Dokutech become one of the premier innovation and technology events in the region.
To our American filmmakers, producers and festival representatives present, thank you for being here. We honor you and your work in the Festival. You are representatives of one of our most important cultural exports. But more importantly, here at Dokufest, you are participants in one of our most important cultural exchanges. I hope you enjoy the festival and your time in Kosovo, and I hope you make great connections with the talented Kosovar filmmakers that are also with us. And when you go home to the U.S. I hope you will tell all your friends and associates what a wonderful country you visited.
Finally, I want to say thank you to Nita, Eroll and Veton for all your hard work and dedication to make DokuFest the landmark event for Prizren and for Kosovo. Would one of you like to say a few words?
*A representative from DokuFest gives brief remarks*
Thank you very much. Thank you all for coming, it is great to have you here. Falemenderit shume, hvala. It is great to work with Dokufest again, thank you for allowing us to host this event and to be part of the festival. Have a good time!