Lumbardhi, from a private cinema to a multicultural institution
At the end of 1930’s in Prizren, the son of a priest from an Orthodox Church built the first private cinema. There was not a cinema projectionist, so they sent an 11-year-old orphan boy called Shefki to Italy to train to become one. When he came back, he was an expert at operating the movie projector and he showed films for few years.
When Italians came to Kosovo during World War II, they confiscated Shefki’s wealth and sent him to Peja to show films for the Italian army.
The cinema was transformed into a public institution in 1948, and Yugoslav authorities at that time called upon Shefki to work at the cinema.
From 1950 – 1990, this cinema, called “Bistrica” or “Lumbardhi,” named after the river nearby, was used as a public institution for Prizren citizens at a time when there was no TV, DVD, tapes, or even many radios. Because of that, before every movie, they would present the news for the first 15 minutes. The news would usually be about the development of communism, modernism, economic achievements, etc.
The cinema held more than 700 people together for every movie. They used to watch movies in “illegal” ways as well. Some techniques included watching from wall or door holes, watching from their neighbors’ home windows near the cinema, and even reselling tickets at a higher price.
The cinema showed a variety of films. Everything from communist propaganda films made in Yugoslavia to western movies, that had no connection to communism or other local things. The cinema showed films about the army, cowboys, karate, etc. The youth, after watching movies with karate, practiced it in real life. These western films brought a new era for the citizens of Prizren.
As for romance during this time, there was a trend for couples who made their relationship public by going to the cinema together. A lot of other relationships were created right in the cinema.
After the 90s, the interest in films fell, so in 1999 the cinema was closed. By then Lumbardhi was just a general institution, used only for cultural activities such as the music festival “Zambaku I Prizrenit” and especially the festival for documentary movies “Dokufest” (2002).
The new political leaders of Prizren wanted to destroy the cinema Lumbardhi and to delete it from the memory of the city, with the pretense that it was a communist institution. In 2007, more than 8,000 citizens signed a petition against destroying of the Lumbardhi and in 2014, with the initiative of 58 NGOs and a large number of citizens, Lumbardhi was turned into a monument of cultural heritage.
Since April 2015, the “Foundation Lumbardhi” has been trying to bring back the cinema so the citizens can watch films just like in the past. Since then, the cinema has held over 120 activities, including concerts, special programs for films, educational programs, debates, workshops, theatre plays, etc. Since April 2018, Lumbardhi is opened for daily exploitation. It is now becoming a multicultural, public-civil institution with dynamic programs throughout the year.