Albania 1943: After the Italian surrender, the Germans occupy the country, so the peoples' situation becomes more and more chaotic. Harun Bonata, a clever trader with a big heart, hides three fugitives in his cellar: the partisan Quazim, the Jewish watchmaker Hoakin and the Italian soldier Giulio. Nevertheless, he makes a good deal with the German officer Franz.
The second film from Gjergj Xhuvani continues his chronicle of modern Albania and places him among the great directors of Balkan cinema. Xhuvani’s debut feature, Slogans—the first Albanian film to premiere at Cannes and a hit on the festival circuit—sarcastically detailed the inane effects of Cold War-era communist dogma on everyday people living in a tiny Albanian hamlet. Like Slogans, Dear Enemy is culled from a real-life scenario that falls into the truth-is-stranger-(and sadder) than-fiction camp. Toward the end of World War II, Harun, a merchant modeled after Xhuvani’s grandfather, delicately conducts business with Nazi occupiers, while hiding an Albanian partisan, a wounded Italian soldier and a Jewish watchmaker in his home. The pressing of enemies into close quarters leads to a comedy of manners, where petty but personal squabbles about the outside world remain trapped in the close confines of Harun’s basement. The absurdity of taking sides is made clear and allegiances are eventually displaced in favor of day-to-day survival. In this way, Dear Enemy is made in the tradition of favorites such as No Man’s Land. Disguised as cynical comedies, these films often give way to deeply felt meditations on dignity in the face of irrational suffering.