In 1990, a mechanic in Albania named Alexander Gruda undertook one of the most daring feats in recent human history. After being fired by the navy for dissidence, he hijacked a warship in order to gain freedom for himself and his family.
Alexander is the International Feature submission from Albania. The country of Albania was a one-party communist state from 1946 to 1991. The country was ruled mainly by Enver Hoxha, who established Albania as a totalitarian state, causing it to be one of the most difficult countries to visit, let alone leave. During this time, life in Albania was extremely tough, as people lived under total restrictions, poverty and a dictatorship. Alexander Gruda and his family lived in Shkoder during this time, and they felt that their only way to survive was to somehow flee the country. This is their story.
Alexander was a former wrestler, who then became a ship mechanic for the navy. When he was fired by them for dissidence, he decided to hi-jack a warship and head north to what is now Montenegro. The events took place on September 11th, 1990. Along with Alexander, and his wife, Marjana, who was pregnant, and his daughter, fifteen other individuals were involved in the escape. And the documentary is a re-telling of the events, including the unfortunate death of his daughter, the sole casualty during that unforgettable day.
No other country in Europe has gone through such a turbulent period like Albania, making it one of the poorest economies in the area, with almost half its citizens at risk of poverty. The situation in Albania was so bad during the early 1990s that people were willing to risk getting killed by trying to flee to neighbouring countries. With everyone trying to leave the country, it caused heavy political instability, while at the same time dealing with incompetence and heavy corruption from their leaders.
Alexander is the story of its titular hero, but the film is more about the grief and sorrow for having lost a child. More than thirty years have passed and Alexander can’t forgive himself for what happened that day. The guilt and pain has never gone away. Albania became free of communism two years later, in 1992, and perhaps knowing that things would get better slowly has always caused Alexander to perhaps regret his decision to leave Albania. But one can never know the future, and for him, at that moment, it was the right decision. Her soul saved everyone else, but on that day, his soul died too.
The silence has a meaning. It has its own history of a place, of something that happened. For Alexander, the silence is the tombstone of his daughter.