Why did I want to make this film? The armed struggle in Kosovo has far from ended. In 1999, after mediation by the UN, the Serbs and Albanians reached a ceasefire, but the Serbs want to retain control over the region and the Albanians (90% of the population) continue to strive for independence. A disarmament campaign has failed. Kosovo is ready to explode again. Florin Krasniqi, the main character of the film, was born in Kosovo and lives in Brooklyn. He is willing to do anything to gain independence for Kosovo. But this time there are barely any Serbs left to fight against. Florin and his comrades consider NATO and the UN as their new occupiers. This time they will probably use high power sniper rifles against “the Internationals.”
Stacy Sullivan and I met five years ago. I was working on a documentary and approached Stacy because I was looking for a war correspondent. She was then working on her book Be Not Afraid, For You Have Sons In America. Her main character was Florin, an owner of a roofing company in Brooklyn, NY. During the war (1997-1999) he collected millions of dollars from the Albanian community in the US. With this money, weapons were bought that were subsequently smuggled into Kosovo via Albania. Stacy introduced me to him, and I was immediately convinced: charming, charismatic, funny and ruthless at the same time.
Coming from a country where you cannot own a weapon, this story shocked me. Not only the easy access to weapons but also the mechanism of the political lobby: you pay for politicians and they will pay you back. And on top of this the fact that one can export weapons legally to wherever one wants to go. And not just small arms, but sniper rifles, which can shoot down a helicopter and kill a person from a mile away. We had no funding, I was over 8 months pregnant, and Stacy, the cameraman Martijn ‘t Hart and I were convinced we needed to make this film. We went to Albania, traveled to Kosovo and with the footage we shot, our Dutch executive producer George Brugmans convinced the public television in the Netherlands.
In the film we tried to find an answer to the question of where all those weapons actually come from. A new war seems to be drawing near. We followed Krasniqi in his private life and “regular” work and at election meetings, where he carries out his lobbying activities. To me the most striking thing about the story was: here you have gun laws which make it possible to build a guerrilla army in the US, and now you have the situation in Kosovo where they are ready to fight ‘the internationals.’ While on the surface the US acts as a mediator, the conflict is covertly sustained because large quantities of money and arms are received from the same America.
I like to make documentaries where the viewer can have their own thoughts. In this case I was fascinated with the character of Florin: is he a freedom fighter or a terrorist? The line is very thin, and I wanted to show the complexity of this. He is a great guy, a charmer, but he can be ruthless as well. Is he a terrorist in the sense that he has killed civilians for his cause? No, I don’t think so. Is he capable of it? Yes, I think so. He is radical, he wants to have independence for Kosovo and he will do whatever it takes.
— Klaartje Quirijns