Documentary Film on Dardan Islami

Merita Zhubi (London, UK) is assisting the UK/US production of  a feature documentary film TELL ME MY STORY, based on the life of Dardan Islami, a well-known Kosovo public figure. The film is produced by Dardan Islami and Alush Gashi, directed by acclaimed Albanian artist Adrian Paci, while INIT (the Kosovo-based production company behind the film) has received initial funding and approval by the Kosovo Cinematography Center (QKK).

Due to the film's complexity and evolution into a bigger production between Kosovo, Albania, US, UK and Canada, we are trying to raise an additional £100,000 to proceed with the production as planned. We would appreciate if you could take a few minutes to read the film's synopsis and hopefully decide to take part in the production by making a donation towards our humble effort.

Direct all inquiries regarding this fundraiser at:
[email redacted] (Official Email)

On the surface, the film tells the story of Dardan Islami, a Kosovo war veteran, who has led an eventful, often chaotic, life growing up in the former Yugoslavia and in the traumatic years following the birth of his country’s independence. 

In some ways, Dardan’s story is a metaphor for many of the momentous historical changes in the Balkan region.  Dardan’s personal journey has intersected many of these dramatic moments in time and the very fact that he has lived to tell them is symbolic of the survival mechanism of us all.

Islami is the son of a renowned journalist who first worked in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, and then in the capital of Kosovo, Prishtina.  In 1974, Dardan’s father packed his baggage and took his family off to Beirut, Lebanon where a violent civil war soon erupted. 

It says much about the character of Dardan that he spent the first five years of his life listening to the continual sound of pounding gunfire and falling bombs.  Some of Dardan’s earliest memories involve a balcony view of wounded refugees moving slowly from one side of war torn Beirut to the other.

After he returned to Kosovo, the hyperactive Dardan had a difficult time concentrating on his school studies.  The streets of Prishtina were filled with Albanian demonstrators protesting the harsh nationalist policies of the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia.  Islami grew up, stones in his hand, in a decade of civil protest marked by the sound of whizzing bullets and tear gas. 

Eventually, war tore apart the former Yugoslavia and Dardan emigrated to London in the early 1990’s.

For the next five years, Dardan worked behind the bar of one of the most exclusive nightclubs in the British capital, rubbing elbows and serving drinks to superstars.  During this time, the energetic Dardan developed a dangerous love for drugs and lived the end of his time in London caught up in the wild night life of the metropolis.

The end of the decade found Dardan and his Kosovar fiancée living quietly in Toronto, Canada. Thousands of miles away in Kosovo, the news was grim. Even in Canada, Dardan watched television news and read in the newspapers about Serb ethnic cleansing, the burning down of Albanian villages and the massacre of men, women and children.

Dardan was drawn to reports about a group of Albanian guerillas, the Kosovo Liberation Army, who were fighting with any weapons they could find.  From all over the world – from Albania, from the United States and from Canada, Albanians were joining the KLA to return to fight over in Kosovo.  Dardan made the fateful decision in 1999 to leave Canada behind and return to his Balkan homeland.

On his first day as a soldier, Dardan was caught up in the crossfire of a Serb offensive to take back territory won by the KLA. It also happened to be the night of the heaviest NATO bombing in Kosovo since the war began.

Some of the most intense fighting of the conflict took place over the next several weeks.  An Italian photographer from the famed Magnum agency and a French journalist were with Dardan during the fierce back and forth attacks that finally brought about the Serbian withdrawal from most of Kosovo.

Dardan returned to the destroyed capital, Prishtina to find his father had suffered a stroke.  Despite the victory, Dardan fell into a lengthy addiction to heroin that threatened to destroy the lives of himself and his wife and children.  Somehow, Dardan managed to lift himself from the abyss of drugs.  Over the next few years, he re-invented himself as a radio crusader, sometime journalist and even a popular stand-up comedian speaking out against the widespread corruption in the now independent Kosovo. 

Adrian Paci, the prestigious Albanian artist and innovative video maker has signed on as a director of TELL ME MY STORY.  But from the beginning, Paci was not at all interested in confining himself to a standard documentary profile of found footage clips and boring talking head interviews. 

Instead, Paci has designed a unique series of standing sets surrounded by an enormous video screen built on a soundstage in the Albanian capital, Tirana. Paci’s concept involves placing the middle-aged Dardan Islami onto these sets, pushing him to recall forgotten aspects of his entire life while images from the past play on the oversize monitor. 

Amid these tableaus, Paci will also have several real-life actors recreating some of the faces that Dardan has seen over the many years in his long journey.  One character will be that of an haunted old Albanian woman, one of the memorable faces Dardan saw on the road to his first battle.  The last of these dramatic figures will be a young man who bears a resemblance to Dardan as young man.  This character will continually try to keep himself afloat in a small pool of water – a recurring nightmare for the real Dardan since he was a little boy.

Adrian Paci’s TELL ME MY STORY will be a vivid, unconventional retelling of the life of one man. Using unique studio sets and video projection, Dardan Islami will recount his own experiences while confronting the artist who is trying to provoke and capture these memories. This documentary will tell the complex story of Dardan Islami - freedom fighter, journalist, bartender, stand-up comedian, father, husband - in his own words and in the images he has seen.


As a reference to producers' previous work, below is the link of "Rescue in Albania", a film about the Jewish rescue in Albania during World War II.

"Rescue in Albania" (YouTube Link)

This is a story told by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, who speak about the nobility of the Albanian people who put their own lives in danger in order to save those of their visitors. It is a touchy recollection of events and ordeals that Albanians and Jews went through before, during and after WWII.

Official Screenings:
August 2009 / Dokufest Film Festival / Prizren
May 2010 / SEEFest / Los Angeles

Educational Screenings:
October 2009 / Marubi Academy / Tirana
January 2010 / Anthology Film Archives / New York City
January 2010 / Yale University / New Haven
February 2010 / Kehila Kedosha Sinagogue / New York City
April 2011 / United States Holocaust Museum / Washington
May 2012 / Yad Vashem Museum / Jerusalem
November 2012 / ASAT / Trieste

Governmental Screenings:
May 2009 / Maison de l’Europe de Paris (patronage of President Sarkozy) / Paris
April 2010 / House of Commons / London
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    • £250 
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    • £300 
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Merita Zhubi 
London, Greater London, United Kingdom