Dozens of works (sketches, drawings and paintings) featuring portraits, exteriors, interiors, etc.), selected from the decades-long creativity of artist Shyqyri Sako (painter in motion movies), were included in the exhibition “Painting Film”, held at the Centre for Openness and Dialogue (COD), from July 18th to August 31st, 2019 in Tirana.


The exhibition itself was a mosaic of the most prominent Albanian cinematographic creations, such as: “Operacioni Zjarri”  (1973), ”Toka Jonë”(1964), “Prita” (1968), “Horizonte të hapura” (1968), “Njësiti gueril” (1969), “Kapedani” (1972), “Rrugë të bardha” (1974), “Dimri i fundit ” (1976), “Tomka dhe shokët e tij”  (1977), “Mësonjëtorja” (1979) , “Fundi i një gjakmarrjeje” (1983), “Shpella e piratëve” (1990), “Përdhunuesit” (1994)  etc., thus providing a complete overview of the artist’s creativity, as the first professional painter in Albanian movies.

Shyqyri Sako has been awarded the “Distinguished Artist” award for a number of collaborations in the field of cinematography. He has worked for 40 years, in 40 films, whose scripts paved the way in which every other element involved in the movie production had to follow. Although for many viewers the closest and strongest bond happens with the actor (s), it is worth re-stating that there’s a whole army of people that works very hard to create a movie, an army within which an extremely important role is also that of the movie painter.

It is thanks to his work that all the creations shown in the exhibition testify to be a perfect fit with our cinematographic memory. Movie posters are faithful representations of when movies first came out in theatres, while some of the drawings and paintings that accompany them are mainly movie inspirations or later experiences on them. For the first time, the latest series of posters repainted by artist Sako in 2018-2019 emerge as nostalgic experiences that meticulously recall beautiful moments from some movies.

The beloved and hated characters, the historical-social background in which they are set, or the spiritual shock they have experienced are there through the artist’s creative ability. And despite the ideology with which the cinematography of the socialist realism period was moulded, now overturned (except for historical themed productions), empathy and nostalgia are inevitable. Despite human sensitivity, the erotic side of it, has been almost absent, as in the cinematography of those years, as in the exhibition in question. Even further: it is impossible not to notice the insufficient or unequal representation of the female figure compared to the other gender. Even when it does appear, it is conditioned to be what it should be rather than what it wants to be.

Nor the masculine character of these works is pristine by the influences of those times. In general, the protagonist is bound to have the portrait of the morally inviolable man, a lie mandatory for all, always within the worldview of the past. The protagonist’s morality (must be) was strict, the look tough and the feeling deeply subdued. This is also the feeling these creations convey. However, with all the diversity of generations, social strata and different gender characters featured in the exhibition, a time both near and distant permeates right through. It is the journey of our society, a time not without ideals, not without sacrifices, not without people with good and high intentions, beyond any ideological pressure and the attempt of the unnatural. The greatness of the warriors of knowledge is there, in the posters of the movie “Mësonjëtorja,” the colours of the flag are there in these movies seeking freedom.

* Shyqyri Sako was born in Kolonja in 1937. He took his first drawing lessons at the “Shtëpia e Pionierit” in Korça by painter Guri Madhi and at the “Shtëpia e Kulturës” by Vangjush Mio. In 1951-1955 he completed the art school “Jordan Misja”. In 1958 he began his studies at the VGIK Institute of Cinematography in Moscow, where he studied for three years. After the  relations with the Soviet Union reached their breaking point, Shyqyri Sako returned to Tirana and graduated in 1962 as a film painter at the Instituti i Lartë i Arteve. During 1962-1997 he worked in the film production studio “Shqipëria e Re”, producing sets, costumes and posters of Albanian movies. As a costume painter and later as a painter of about 40 feature films, he has made a valuable contribution to the history of Albanian cinematography and is regarded as one of the artists who laid the foundations by creating the decor physiognomy in Albanian movies.