Two cultural organisations – Dokufest in Prizren and Fond B92 in Belgrade – have teamed up to put together young people from Kosovo and Serbia and let them see if their beliefs about each other hold ground. So far, about 40 youngsters had a chance to challenge their prejudices in the “How do I see you?” project.
23-year-old from Prizren, Ismail Myrseli, explains his reason for signing up for the activity: “I wanted to know what a young Serb is interested in – and I found both similarities and opposing opinions about our societies.” During his field trip, Myrseli spent time with people from Kruševac in Serbia, which to his surprise looks a lot like his hometown. He spent only a fraction of the time on how life in Kosovo is and to respond to curious peers from Serbia. For the rest, he talked about what matters most to him: his interest in movies, theatre, and culture. “I believe if we fill the information gap with universal values, we leave no room for any kind of division.”
And indeed, the organisers made sure that the project participants kept their focus on culture, both as a way to explore but also as a way to express their experience in a creative way. There were workshops, there were visits to cultural sites, and finally the creation of videos that answer the simple question of how meeting their peers face to face changed the way they see them. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the first group from 2020 had to limit themselves to online video calls but their film-making creativity still shines in the short videos they produced about one another.
The “How do I see you?” project manager, Zana Arapi Xheladini, says such projects are what young people need to really get to know one another, in both Kosovo and Serbia. The scarcity of information is what provoked the whole idea of the project, she explains. All started when members of the Dokufest team attended a festival in Serbia and people there were surprised to hear about things happening in Prizren – which until then they had known nothing about. Zana adds that an important part of the project is monitoring the media for conflicting narratives and sharing them with project participants to compare different points of view.
One participant from Serbia says that this experience was one of the best of her life. Sara Ećimović, 20, instantly connected with someone her age from Kosovo. Before they actually met, they talked on the phone for days about shared interests, such as European films. “I learned about his family, the music he made, and his plans for the future,” says Ećimović, who was also among the first group to take part in the Dokufest short-film and documentary festival in Prizren. All the participants’ short videos have been exhibited for wider audiences at the festival. “At last, I get to visit Prizren and Kosovo,” she adds. Later in 2021 she and her fellow participants will show their videos at the Slobodna Zona festival in Belgrade. This is thanks to the same cultural exchange programme.
She sums it up, “We are just young people, having fun and enjoying these meetings and film”.
About the project
The project “How do I see you?” has been conceived and implemented by two civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia: Dokufest and Fond B92. They aim to create a window of opportunity for the youngsters from both countries thus engaging them in meaningful exchange that goes beyond the simple dialogue. This will be implemented by project partners through exchange camps attending workshops, discussions, meeting cultural practitioners, visiting cultural sites and producing 2-minute videos. The project has received funding from the pre-accession funds of the European Union, as part of the Civil Society and Media Programme for Kosovo 2018-2019.
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