Sons of Cain
Various Engagements / 2021

Sons of Cain / Directed by Keti Stamo

Sons of Cain, written and directed by Keti Stamo, is a film set in a small village in northern Albania. In this place time is suspended and the severe rules of an old code, Kanun, still dictate the life and death of the inhabitants. A group of seven children obliged to live under this code, meet and discuss the story of Cain and Abel. Creating their own dream space, partially consciously and partially not, they create an analogy between their own stories and the biblical fables. Stuck in the fine line between reality and forgetfulness, this is one of the few chances they have to face their traumas and emotions.

 

Sons of Cain / Directed by Keti Stamo

Sons of Cain / Directed by Keti Stamo

The Kanun is a traditional customary law of northern Albania. Divided in twelve books, it was initially oral and got published only in the 20th century, when the Ottoman Empire left Albania. Its origin could date back to the Middle Age or even to the Bronze Age. The laws evolved over time as a way to bring order to these lands. It regulates all aspects of the mountainous life: economic organization of the household, hospitality, brotherhood, extended families, boundaries, work, marriage, land, reciprocity, and so on. Besa, personal honor, has prime importance in the code as the cornerstone of personal and social conduct. The Kanun applies to both Christian and Muslim Albanians. Some of the Kanun’s most controversial rules specify how murder is to be handled, which in the past (and sometimes still now) would lead to blood feuds lasting an indefinite period. In situations of murder, the law stipulates the principle of life for a life where the relatives of the victim are obliged to seek gjakmarrja (blood vengeance). These rules resurfaced in the 1990s in Northern Albania, as people had no faith in the power of the local government. There are organizations that try to mediate between feuding families and try to get them to adopt “forgiveness of blood” but often the only result is for men of age to stay in their homes, which are considered sacred so a safe refuge by the Kanun until forgiveness is granted.

 

Sons of Cain / Directed by Keti Stamo

Sons of Cain / Directed by Keti Stamo

“The trajectory of this path was dictated by two main events. I knew there were still families in Northern Albania, living trapped under some Kanun cultural logic. At the time, I was coming from the experience of making dream workshops with Syrian children stuck in refugee camps. This idea of being stuck in a limbo state (by something imposed culturally or legally), was the element that hit me. I thought about ‘the dream’ as an antipode to evade reality, to scratch, dig and find truth.” –Keti Stamo

 

Sons of Cain / Directed by Keti Stamo

Sons of Cain / Directed by Keti Stamo

“The Kanun is centuries-old set of rules. It emerges in the northern Albanian as the primary source of the country’s customary law. It has been orally transmitted from generation to generation until 1913, when the Franciscan Shtjefen Gjecovi became the first man to gather and write it. It was in twelve books. Every book regulates the sphere of individual and collective life, from the marriage, to the property of land, honor, blood feud, hospitality, reciprocity, etc. In my opinion the Kanun is a pearl of the heritage Balkan’s culture, considering the historical time when it emerged. Unfortunately, it returns, in deeply problematic societies because of a ‘legal vacuum’ and people’s distrust on the state of law. But that is another film.”

“I can’t really define the line between fiction and documentary, same as I can’t define the line between dream and reality. There is a hazy aura around that boundary. In Sons of Cain the story has deep roots in memories and dreams. People told their own stories. And no one ever had a script.”

–Keti Stamo

Sons of Cain / I Figli di Caino
Written & directed by Keti Stamo
69 Minutes, Color / Various Engagements, 2021
A coproduction France, Albania, and Italy:
Margo Cinema, Anima Pictures, and Young Films

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