A docufiction about the value of friendship and humanity
We would like to draw the attention of our audience to a very interesting project entitled ”Eyes”. Our Central and Eastern Europe Center is a media partner of this docufiction which is looking for some funding.
Eyes’; Making people see. Based on a true story
A Dutch optician leaves for Albania just after the fall of Communism in search for formerly prosecuted political prisoner Osman Kazazi, after reading an article in the Dutch national newspaper (Parool). It marks the start of a friendship between these two men, and of an impressive amount of voluntary work by the Dutch man to help many Albanians with poor eyesight.
1992. After reading an article in one of the Dutch national newspapers, Paul, a 35 year old optician, is so moved by the stories about the hardship and poverty caused by the Communist time that he decides to visit the country in order to provide some help. Shocked by what he sees from the moment he arrives in a completely dark airport of Tirana (the power had just gone off), he starts to offer support by sharing his professional skills for free. What starts as a one-off visit, turns into a magnificent 12 year voluntary job. Paul would come to Albania twice a year, measure 250 pairs of eyes each time, find funds to pay for his work at home, and return with 250 personalized glasses 6 months later, when the next 250 people where already waiting to be checked by him. In total he brings 6000 pairs of glasses to Albania. He enters deep into the Albanian society, providing support within the Roma community, and in schools for blind children.
Paul’s very first client is Osman Kazazi, 74 years of age, a formerly prosecuted political opponent of Enver Hoxha, with whom he develops a beautiful father-son relationship. A joy for Osman, who never had the chance to become father because of his imprisonment of nearly 40 years. The stories of Osman’s time in prison are painful to hear and see, a gross violation of human rights. They still deserve to be heard and recognized today, even after 30 years. Paul is very moved by the fact that Osman has not become bitter and revengeful but only more passionate about the value of democracy.
Due to Osman’s deteriorating eyesight, Paul decides to take him with him to the Netherlands and pays for his eye operation. It’s at this point that the journalist Joop Holthausen, who wrote the initial article that sparked Paul’s desire to go to Albania, makes his entrance in the story. Paul invites him to his house so he can write a follow up article on Kazazi.
From that moment on Paul and Joop visit Albania together. One as a journalist who makes people see through his writings in the newspaper, one as an optician who makes people see literally. Both men have a talent for giving. Joop is often escorted by photographer Wubbo de Jong, who adds another dimension to ‘seeing’ as he sees through his camera. His photos have won national prices and a WordPress photo. His black and white pictures of Kazazi make it to the Naarden Filmfestival.
When Paul is in the country, several Albanians who speak English, help him communicate with Osman’s family and the eye patients. One of these translators is Vladimir Pasku, a former professor at University, degraded by the regime to becoming headmaster of a high school in Berat. Joop meets him while he travels the country looking for stories to report. It’s the lack of windows (another type of glass!) in his school that makes Joop stop. Pasku receives him warmly and treats Joop as a family member from that moment on. Little by little not only the men develop a friendship but their wives and children too. They spend summer holidays together in Albania, Italy and The Netherlands. Through Pasku both Joop and Paul enter even deeper in the Albanian society around 1997. Pasku has writen a book about this, years later. The ties between the Netherlands and Albania become even stronger when Pasku’s children, teenagers, are able to find refuge at Joop’s house after the collapse of the pyramid schemes and period of human trafficking in Albania in 1997.
The stories of the main characters intertwine beautifully and result in a kind of climax after the death of Osman Kazazi. In 2002 a bust of this man is revealed just behind Skanderbeg square. It’s Paul who has got the idea and financed an artist to materialize Osman’s face and shoulders as a symbol of the suffering of all persecuted people during Communist times. Dutch singer Stef Bos composes a song called Liria for the moment of revelation of the statue. You find it on his album Licht en Donker, that also features two other songs he composed in Albania.
-This documentary will reconstruct with interviews and shooting scenes the story of Paul Luyf, a Dutch man with a profession of ophthalmologist, who came to Albania after the fall of the communist wall. For two decades, he did humanitarian work to help Albanians with the eye-project, helping hundreds of blind or visually impaired people, poor and unable to take care of their health.
-This story is not known in Albania and has not received the proper attention of the public. This documentary will aim to honor his humanitarian work and encourage the local authorities to honor his humanity.
-His friendship with one of the most emblematic Albanian political prisoners, Osman Kazazi, is the main story of this documentary.
-This friendship will symbolize in the documentary the friendship between the small country isolated from the world during the dictatorship with the European peoples.
-Thousands of political prisoners and all Albanians locked behind the iron curtain of the dictatorship dreamed of Europe and European values.
-With his work, Paul symbolizes these values and returns the love that Albanians had for half a century for Europe, its values and culture.
-The documentary will bring to the new generations the point of view of a European citizen about communism, Albania and the Albanian people.
– It will show young people the values that represent the European citizen, the Netherland and the Dutchs and also will contribute to dispelling the wrong myths raised in recent years about the Albanians in the Netherlands and about the feelings of the Dutch towards the Albanians.
-The friendship between Paul and Osman shows that both peoples are Europeans, that humanity is the highest value that unites us.
Janneke Geurts lives in Albania since 2020. She is a psychologist who is interested in (intergenerational) trauma. The story of optician Paul Luyf came to her by a kind of coincident. The more she researched it, the more she saw it emerge as a film in front of her eyes.
Until today many stories about the communist period in Albania remain hidden from the public discours. School curricula are only now starting to be adapted with more real stories about that time. Many people are nostalgic about communist times, not realizing enough what attrocities took place. Many families who suffered during those times are still suffering their trauma’s today, waiting for several forms of recognition & reconciliation.
Osman Kazazi is an example of wanting to move forward, striving for democracy, and not being resentful towards his past.
This film will raise awareness and knowledge about this man and part of Albanian history and aims to provide a form of recognition for those who have suffered intensely. It also celebrates friendship and support across cultures and physical boundaries.
This film will also be a recognition to Joop, Stef and Paul, who have been providing ongoing support to Albanians in many ways since the moment Albania came out of Communism.
This film will be made together with assistance of www.Kujto.al (Kujto Foundation – an non-profit organization in Albania – online archive for crimes and victims of communism) and will hopefully have its premiere in September 2023.
The fact that Paul Luyf, Joop Holthausen en Stef Bos are still alive make this project even more interesting. They will contribute to the production. Stef Bos will write new music for the documentary. Also family members of Osman Kazazi, and other ex-political prisoners and people who were helped by Paul will be interviewed.
We are currently looking to find sponsors for our project which includes research, scriptwriting, filming in two countries, involving some actors, editing, translating, voice overs, renting Millennium for the premiere in September 2023. We are aiming to find support from local and foreign organizations from the profit and non profit (NGO) sector. The Dutch Embassy in Albania is behind this project and will help with a part of the finances. If you would like to sponsor us, we can offer:
-your logo at the end of the documentary with subtitles: “This documentary was made with the support of … (company name + logo).”
-The logos of each donor company will be on invitations, posters, cinema banner and any other forms of marketing that will be used for the documentary.
– Short-stories will be prepared on kujto.al social networks – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; The story of the company’s arrival in Albania, the activity it performs, the impact on the community and the reason why they support this documentary. Why is it important to tell the history of Dutch-Albanian relations etc.
– These short stories can also be published in online media, cooperating with Kujto.
– Every post on social networks about the documentary will be tagged with the page of the most important donor company.
Notes: The visibility in Kujto.al networks is high; The website www.kujto.al has an average of 50,000 users. The Facebook page has about 16,000 followers with a visibility level of up to 100,000 people. The facebook group has 2000 members. The YT channel has 7,7800 subscribers and 3.7 million views in total. Instagram has 1000 followers and the Twitter page is new but very active and posts only in English.