Ardit Sadiku‘s documentary film, “Alexander,” is a powerful and moving exploration of a daring escape that unfolded in 1990 in communist-ruled Albania. Written, directed, and produced by Sadiku, the film is not just a historical account but a deeply personal and emotional journey that sheds light on the complexities of dissent, sacrifice, and the enduring scars left by communism and war.
From the outset, it’s evident that Sadiku has a strong connection to the subject matter. His careful and thoughtful capturing and editing of the documentary reveal a story that he passionately believes needs to be told and seen by many. The film is not just a historical record; it’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the lengths one man, Alexander Gruda, was willing to go to secure freedom for himself and his family.
Gruda, now 69 and residing in America, works as a doorman in a Trump hotel. The film recounts his life-altering decision when, as a ship’s mechanic in Albania’s navy, he faced a court martial for dissent amid the oppressive communist government. Fearing for his life and the safety of his pregnant wife, Marjana, and their young daughter, Gruda, along with around sixteen others, hijacked a warship, taking soldiers hostage and navigating to the safe waters of Yugoslavia.
The documentary unfolds through gripping accounts from Gruda, his wife, and some of the individuals who boarded the ship. The inclusion of soldiers and policemen from Yugoslavia who were on the opposing side adds a nuanced perspective, giving viewers a comprehensive understanding of the events that transpired. Sadiku skillfully weaves together these narratives, following them with his camera through the scenes of the daring escape.
The risks Gruda and the others took to highlight the harsh realities of living under communist rule in Albania. The desperation that led them to seize a military warship to cross the border into Yugoslavia underscores the difficult circumstances they faced. The film effectively captures the tension and danger of the escape, presenting both the perspective of the escapees and those trying to thwart their journey.
Marjan Kola, one of Gruda‘s friends who joined him on the ship, offers a poignant reflection. While his account aligns with Gruda‘s, he expresses a sense of loss and disillusionment with life in Australia, where he settled. His regrets and admission of feeling that he wasted his youth provide a sombre counterpoint to the thrilling escape narrative.
As the documentary progresses, it takes the audience on a temporal journey, reliving the events of that fateful day. The climax, however, is shrouded in tragedy as Gruda and Marjana reveal the painful sacrifice they made. Their young daughter lost her life during the escape, a devastating revelation that adds layers of complexity to an already gripping narrative.
The film captures details of Alexander‘s remarkable bravery as he continues to steer the ship to safety, even after learning about his daughter’s death. The emotional toll on the Gruda family is palpable, and Marjana speaks openly about the enduring depression and mental health challenges she faced in the years that followed.
“Alexander” is more than a recounting of a daring escape; it is a poignant reminder of the lasting impact of communism and war on individuals and families. The scars left by those tumultuous times are etched into the lives of those who survived, a fact emphasized by the film’s portrayal of the Gruda family and their compatriots.
Sadiku‘s documentary is a compelling narrative that extends beyond the specific events of that day, prompting viewers to reflect on the untold stories of many others affected by similar struggles.
In a world where the echoes of history are often forgotten, “Alexander” serves as a necessary and powerful testament to the human cost of political oppression and the quest for freedom.
I will score this documentary film 3.5 out of 5 stars.