At the beginning of the film “Paftuar” (Uninvited) text reads: “Based on a True Story”. The events depicted in this film took place in 1992 in Greece as witnessed and experienced by co-author Julian Biba. In the film his name has been changed to “Alex” played by Albanian actor Albi Dhima.Anyone who has seen “Paftuar” saw “Alex” hold a small wooden sculpture in his hands and probably wondered what it means and why it is there. Alex drops the sculpture on the ground before being hit and mistreated by “Sargent Palacos” played by Laert Vesili.The small wooden sculpture shows a man holding his arms crossed in front of his chest. The sculpture is a symbol of a man’s prayer and painful journeywhile being mistreated as an undocumented immigrant in Greece near the border with Albania in 1992.“The position of Alex (Albi Dhima) kept while being hit by Sgt. Palacos (LaertVasili), it is a position I really held when the soldiers would take me to the torture section. This was captured masterfully in the handmade wooden sculpture carved by the very talented artist AltinRizi,” said eyewitness Julian Biba. Julian says that holding the arms crossed in his chest was his message to the Greek soldiers for them to stop torturing him. “I realized that position covered mystomach and other areas of my body not to get hit. I prayed that they would stop.”
“Every time I see that sculpture, it reminds me of those days when I and many other innocent immigrants were being mistreated by the Greek border patrol units, for the only wrongdoing we committed: crossing the border into Greece to build a better life for ourselves and our families,” added Julian Biba, co-producer and co-writer of “Paftuar”.
“The role of Alex was the first for me with such heavy meaning and importance. I connected to the story of Alex immediately as I read the script. A great help for getting inside the world and emotions of this character was scriptwriter Julian Biba whosetrue story film is based on. I wanted to bring Julian’s story as real and lively just like it happened to him during his immigration past in Greece,” said Albi Dhima who plays Julian Biba as “Alex” in “Paftuar” short film.
“The events that happen in Paftuar depict a story that all Albanians are very familiar with, including those who have experienced it themselves as immigrants similar to Julian in Greece,” added Albi Dhima.
Artist Altin Rizai had to work for two days to carve the sculpture using a small chisel knife. “The idea about the statue came from talking with director RolanUruçi, inspired by Julian’s true story. Sometimes good things come out bad situations. The sculpture is a fellow traveler, a symbol of faith, belief in self and God for help. Help for humans by nonhumans. It is an idea, the belief that gives you comfort in times of needs. I worked several hours for two days straight to make the sculpture. It is carved out of wood and I used a small carving knife. Then I painted it in walnut color,” said sculptor AltinRizi.
Producer Julian Biba says that his story is still relevant today for many immigrants who experience human rights abuses around the world. There are documented cases of immigrants dying due to torture and mistreatment in Greece.Julian plans to make the short film into a feature film in the near future. He is thankful to those Greek families and individual soldiers who showed him acts of kindness during the torture he experienced. Julian Biba is also grateful to be in the United Statesand being given full rights, liberties, tolerance, dignity, and equal treatment regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. Biba says there is a noticeable contrast between his reality in the US and what he experienced in that country.
“This drama is still present today in Greece and other countries with similar issues. That’s why weare considering the making of the full feature “Paftuar”, as a tool that would bring more attention to the human rights issues globally.”
“When we make the full feature “Paftuar” (Uninvited), you will see that there was some light in that whole darkness. We met Greek people who took us in their house; one even spoke Albanian. One of the Greek soldiers that didn’t agree with his superior’s orders was helping some of us secretlyby giving us water and taking us away from the soldiers who were going to torture us. There is good and evil everywhere…!” said Julian Biba.
“Paftuar” is competing in several international film festivals. Paftuar is an official selection at the World Film Festival “Short Cup” held in five cites: Florianópolis, Brasil; São Paulo, Brasil; Bogotá, Colombia; Medelim, Colombia, and Montevideo, Uruguay.
The film will screen in Washington DC at the premises of the Albanian Embassy on Thursday, March 3rd, 2016 at 7:00pm, followed by Q&A and reception.