On Saturday night, November 24, 2012, I had the privilege of attending a special screening of actress Eliza Dushku's documentary, Dear Albania, a cinematic love letter to the country of her grandparents. She visited the Mediterranean country with her brother Nate and with renowned Albanian photographer Fadil Berisha, tracing her roots and embracing her heritage. The highest praise I could give the film is that as an Albanian-American myself, it inspired me to want to visit the nation of my own ancestors.
The screening took place at Manhattan's opulent Russian Tea Room, which is owned by Albanians. The documentary features cameo appearances by some well known Albanians who have made their mark in the arts and in other achievements. Its message is not to boast that "we are the best," but rather to boldly declare that "we exist" and showcase the beauty of the land, the richness of the culture, the importance of its history, and the nobility of its people.
The cinematography is amazing, highlighting the majestic mountains and pristine beaches. Eliza travels through 15 cities to tell the story of Albania through her eyes as she discovers a soccer player who shares her name, tracks down a lost relative, and receives dual citizenship from the president of Albania himself. Along the way we see Albanian villagers, singers, theater performers, and sites such as the Albanian Riviera and the ancient ruins of Apollonia, a vestige of Albania's historic days as Illyria.
Here is a trailer that offers you a glimpse of what to expect in the documentary:
Hunt it down when it's released, either on television, movie theaters, or DVD. It will definitely motivate you to visit this incredible country.