Albanian hospitality at “Babai”

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The first entry on the Cinematography category I wanted to reserve it for a special one, and recently, my attention was sparkled by Babai, a Kosovo movie of 2015. Even though seems like a low budget, €1.7 million are quite a lot of money for a Kosovo movie, which as far as I know, is the most expensive movie for both Kosovo and Albania.

This movie is set in the early ’90s depicting a boy that is living with his father (hence, the title of the movie*) after being abandoned by his mother. They are living in the family of a relative of theirs. The father of the boy tries a few times to go to Germany to work, and he manages to do so, and soon after, in a dangerous and emotionally intense journey, the boy follows and finds him. Written and directed brilliantly by Visar Morina, starring a great name such as Astrit Kabashi and others, and with an outstanding performance from Val Maloku (in the role of the boy), this movie will show you how the people of Kosovo escaped their country long before the Kosovo War of 1999 in search of a better life in Western Europe.

Anyways, most probably I’ll write a longer review on the movie, but what I wanted to write about here is actually the scene in the video below:

They are having a wedding, and according to the Albanian customs, the people that are going to be invited to the wedding (complicated how; will cover on another post) are obliged to come beforehand to pay their respects. What happens is that basically, the hosts show the guests in, and after everybody sits (in a patriarchy-hierarchy order), the hosts get in a line in the same fashion and start meeting all the guests one by one. As you see from the subtitles, they actually say almost the same things, asking and answering each other. The man of the house goes first, and then his wife and then goes on, but they ask the same questions, receive the same answers as the person before them and the same thing goes on until all people are met.

Just like that boy there, when I remember myself as a child, I was very confused of all this. It didn’t made any sense to me because the guests knew what they would be asked and the hosts knew what were the answers. It seemed very unnecessary, especially when I was the one being asked or having to ask. But what I have come to understand is that this is part of the Albanian traditions. Even though many people, and even though that seems needless, the explanation I have found is that this is a way to show respect to your guests. It might not seem fair now, but since centuries, the Albanian society has been patriarchic and still this isn’t vanished from the society in Albania. And besides this, all have to be treated with respect. And when the hosts meet and talk to everyone, they are offering their respects to their guests almost equally and somehow creating a bond with all of them.

This phenomena and much others are clear in this movie. Being set in the ’90, there are many cultural feats that were much more vivid back then rather than are today, as globalism has it’s effects. And besides the scene where Nori (the boy) meets his father in Germany, this is one of those scenes that made me write it down, as it reminds me again of the Albanian culture and traditions.


*”Babai” is the Albanian word for “the father”