Review: Displaced (2021)
Can an individual effort bear fruits in country that has a lot of systemic problems? Is resistance futile? How could a sane person believe that if they try hard enough in these circumstances, they will eventually be rewarded? Those are the questions raised by Samir Karahoda in his second short film Displaced that blends absurdist comedy, societal tragedy and documentary-quality anecdotes about the fortunes of a ping-pong club from Prizren, Kosovo and the struggle of the two men to keep it going.
Displaced premiered earlier this summer at Cannes’ short film competition. A regional tour is happening right now, with stops at home turf of Dokufest and Sarajevo Film Festival. The universally accessible topic and Karahoda’s unique style and craft should secure it further bookings.
The trouble with the mentioned club is that it does not have its own space. In the opening shot, from afar and in counter-intuitive 1:1 aspect ratio, we see training happening in a garage that is barely big enough to hold the ping pong table inside. The garage is, however, a temporary solution and probably the least bizarre place where we can find the table. By the end of the film, it will travel to a wedding hall, to some storage space, to the side of a swimming pool and to a church basement.
In parallel with that, we also get to meet the two guys, Jeton Mazreku and Ermegan Kazazi (played by themselves) who hold the club afloat with their sheer enthusiasm and super-human efforts. We get a bit of a sneak peek into their background stories, hopes and dreams, as well as the toll their “hobby” takes on them, while they keep struggling.
Displaced is a docu-fiction work. Its basis is documentary, or at least truthful, filtered in the way to keep the focus on two of them and their work. Since the “story” with the club has been taking place for years and is still not definitely finished, Karahoda had to reconstruct the most memorable moments from it, and in order to do that, he asked the subjects to become the actors by playing themselves. Their line delivery might be a bit stiff, after all, they are not professionals, but the emotion they radiate is quite real.
The film is also beautiful to look at. The very narrow aspect ratio might serve its purpose in close-ups and selected parts of situational cinematography, but here it works perfectly as a metaphor of one good thing being constantly put under pressure and exposed to anxiety, and as a challenge to Karahoda (who shot the film himself) how to frame such a wide thing as a ping-pong table within its borders. The deft editing by Enis Saraçi makes the gradually built absurd highlighted and keeps the film equally interesting to look at from the first moment to the last.
Displaced is a short film that works on multiple levels with good storytelling, inventive and precise in execution and pure in its emotion.
Original title: Pa vend
Directed by: Samir Karahoda
Written by: Samir Karahoda
Cast: Jeton Mazreku, Ermegan Kazazi, Rifat Rifati
Cinematography by: Samir Karahoda
Editing by: Enis Saraçi
Music by: Memli Kelmendi
Sound design by: Memli Kelmendi
Sound recording by: Gëzim Rama
Produced by: Eroll Bilibani
Production company: SK Pictures
Supported by: Kosovo Cinematography Centre
Sales by: Radiator IP Sales, Ben Vandendaele