UC Professors visits Film Festival in Albania


Franc Zhurda

Professor David Chanatry (left), Kujtim Çashku (center-left), Professor Theodore Orlin (center-right) and Professor Thomas Crist (right) at the film festival, which took place in Tirana in. Photo provided by Professor David Chanatry.

Ethan Babcock, Special Assignment Reporter

His trip served to support the long-lasting relationship between UC and Albanian film school.

Professors David Chanatry, Theodore Orlin and Thomas Crist attended the International Human Rights Film Festival in Albania, which ran from Sept. 16 until Sept. 21. The festival is an important and meaningful event for the Utica College faculty members involved in the prosperity, freedom and exploration of Albania. 

The profundity of this event impacts UC as the college has been a long-time donor to the film school, “Akademia e Filmit dhe Multimedias Marubi” (the Marubi Film Academy) in the country’s capital city, Tirana.

David Chanatry, professor of journalism, is also considered a founder of the festival and attended the event this year like he has many times before. He said the atmosphere in Albania and the festival itself has changed drastically over the years.

“I remember sitting in a coffee shop with no heat, writing the ‘blurbs’ for the pamphlets of the festival,” Chanatry said. “We had no idea how it was going to turn out but opening day the place was jammed with television stations and people. The prime minister even showed up.” 

Chanatry describes the change of Albania as drastic, from the infrastructure, to the culture, to the freedom of the citizens. The first day was 14 years ago and now the festival is much different as it has become larger and holds some status in Albania. 

Chanatry said he enjoys all aspects of the festival and especially appreciates the beauty of the opening ceremony. He also stated that the people who give speeches are a special group of people and it is a treat to talk with them and hear them speak. 

“This festival is an important event that focuses on human rights, which is important to the country and Utica College has a great connection with Albania and have supported this cause since the beginning,” he said.

Chanatry is a filmmaker himself and is currently working on a documentary about refugees in the city of Utica called “Utica: The Last Refuge.” 

Retired UC Professor Theodore Orlin is an original founder of the festival who is labeled as a “Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Human Rights Advocacy” on the film festival’s website. 

He is now honorary president of the festival and maintains his role in the event as well as providing lectures for students at the film school. 

Harold T. Clark Jr., endowed professor of anthropology and anatomy, and Thomas Crist were also in attendance at the festival and have been going for many years. Crist runs a field school in Albania for students interested in forensic anthropology.

Crist described how much of a great opportunity the festival was, not only to himself, but the citizens of Albania and the Film School. 

“It was a real treat to travel with Professor Chanatry and participate in the film festival to experience the legacy of Orlin and Chanatry and that of Kujtim Çashku [the Executive Director at the festival],” Crist said. 

The films were compelling and Crist said he enjoyed the experience immensely but was also very struck by the topics and nature of the films. He went to experience the impact of the festival as well as reconnect with some of the people from the field school. He also went to make new connections with political figures and ambassadors from around the world. 

“It is great to talk with the directors of the films as they often are there to talk about what they had in mind when producing these human rights advocacy films,” he said. 

Crist said his favorite part of the trip was interacting with a husband and wife from Hungary who had directed one of the films. He also added that it was great to have dinner and get to know these great people and their film to fully understand some of the issues in human rights today. “I am very proud that Utica College has had such a long relationship with Albania and we are able to make large impacts with the faculty and students that decide to travel there,” Crist said.