Thursday, February 4, 2016
‘Dear Albania,’ by Watertown’s Eliza Dushku, airs on WGBH
Actress Eliza Dushku doesn’t call “Dear Albania” a documentary.
She says the film, which she made with her brother, Nate, is more of a love letter to her ancestry, and hopefully an introduction for those who’ve only seen Hollywood’s take on the country.
“You’ve seen ‘Taken?’ ” she asks, of the Liam Neeson action film franchise. The villains in those films are Albanian, she explains. And then there’s Barry Levinson’s “Wag the Dog,” where the US’s confusion about Albania is one big punch line.
Dushku, known for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Bring It On,” and the upcoming season of “Banshee,” said she felt it was her responsibility to make “Dear Albania” because so few Americans know the country as she does.
“We wanted to show the beauty, and I think we did,” Dushku said.
“Dear Albania” airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on WGBH. The hourlong special will feature the Watertown-bred Dushku siblings exploring more than 15 locations, including the capital, Tirana, and beaches on the Adriatic Sea. There’s talk of the history and politics of the country, but the story is a more of an intimate look at family’s discovery of its background.
The Dushkus’ father, Philip, was raised in the South End by his parents, who were from Korçë, Albania. Eliza said she understands that his background was isolating at times.
“He could never be loud and proud about it.”
Dushku, who is also Danish, said she’s in a good position to tout her background, and that Albanian-Americans have been thrilled with the representation. In the 2003 horror film “Wrong Turn,” Dushku wore a shirt with the double-headed eagle that appears on the Albanian flag. She didn’t think much about it, but the wardrobe choice was noticed.
“After that, the floodgates opened. People started coming out of the woodwork.”
She’s since been invited to tour the country, and was welcomed when she and her brother filmed the “Dear Albania” from 2011 to 2015. She was able to secure more than $65,000 in Kickstarter support, which she said came from Albanians — and loyal “Buffy” fans.
Her latest accomplishment is securing distribution with Albanian broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar.
As for Thursday, Dushku will be live-tweeting the WGBH broadcast while she watches with her family. Dushku moved back to Watertown two years ago be closer to her parents and siblings, and to pursue a sociology degree at Suffolk, where her mom, Judy, has been associate professor emerita in the Department of Government. She’s splits her time between acting projects, volunteering, and going to classes. She said it’s been good to be home.
“I take the T in to school most days,” she said, smiling. “I love it.”