Two timelines link a family secret in The Land Within, a Kosovo-set film from writer/director Fisnik Maxville. The film receives its UK Premiere at the 2023 Raindance Film Festival.
Ever since the former Yugoslav states claimed their independence in the 1990s – some more peacefully than others – the legacy of the ethnic conflicts of the time continues to raise its head. The Land Within takes a look at the devastation caused to a community in Kosovo and the attempts of two young people to face up to their past.
Remo (Florist Bajgora) is a young Kosovan now living in Switzerland as a refugee. After ten years, he reluctantly returns to his foster family home in Kosovo for a family emergency and reunites with his adoptive cousin Una (Luàna Bajrami), who is caring for her dying father. At first, there is mistrust on both sides; why did Remo not stay and fight? Why are those who survived unwilling to move on? But a visit to an organisation charged with exhuming mass graves to identify the victims of genocide means that a long-held secret can no longer remain buried.
Written and directed by Fisnik Maxville, who himself was born in Kosovo and lived as a refugee in Switzerland, The Land Within combines two timelines which intertwine to gradually reveal a decades-old truth. It benefits from a scintillating performance from Luàna Bajrami, who some may recognise from her role as the maid Sophie in Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but who is also a filmmaker in her own right, having written and directed The Hill Where Lionesses Roar which was screened at the 2021 Raindance Film Festival.
Perhaps the unravelling of the secret was a little too obvious in the end, but nevertheless, the opportunity to remind people of the horrors committed during this turbulent time is taken seriously, and Maxville’s work (he’s nominated in the Best Director category) hints at a promising future.