The First Film Footage of Albanians

Shqiptaret e N Pazarit


Albanians in Novi Pazar | 1904



The following film footage, dating from 1904, is probably the first ever to show Albanians. It is part of a longer documentary film made by the British political figure Arnold Muir Wilson (1857-1909) from Sheffield in Yorkshire, and the early British cinema director Frank Mottershaw (1850-1932), also from Sheffield. Wilson, a member of the Sheffield City Council and of the Conservative Party, also served as honorary consul for Serbia in Sheffield and promoted trade ties between the two countries. In 1904 he travelled to Belgrade and worked with Mottershaw to film the coronation of King Peter I Karadjordjević of Serbia on 21 September of that year. The resulting 35 mm silent film – 54:19 minutes and 1,480 metres in length – was first shown in London in December 1904 and in Serbia in April 1905, with English and Serbian subtitles. It was restored in Bologna in 1999-2004 and is presently preserved in the Yugoslav Film Archives (Kinoteka) in Belgrade. It is said to be the oldest film shot in Serbia and contingent territories. The “Albanian” portion of the film, beginning at 42:10 and being no more than 1:16 minutes in length, shows Albanians and other people standing about and walking through the courtyard of an inn and in an adjacent market street in the Muslim town of Novi Pazar, now in southern Serbia. In 1904 Novi Pazar (Alb. Pazari i ri or Tregu i ri; Turkish Yeni Pazar) was the capital of the Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar and indeed, from 1881 to 1912, the region was part of the Vilayet of Kosovo. This may explain the presence in the film of so many Albanian figures, recognisable by their white felt caps and distinctive clothing, in a region which today is inhabited by a large majority of Muslim Slavs (Bosniaks), with only a very few Albanians. Thanks go, in connection with this presentation, to Bardh Rugova, Associate Professor of Albanian at the University of Prishtina, for his research on the background to the film.

Robert Elsie