The Da Vinci Code

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The BIRN-organised “Life in Kosovo” TV debate show, which is rapidly becoming the most popular current affairs programme in the territory, this week took a break from analysing news to examine Kosovars’ reaction to the bestselling novel the Da Vinci Code and the recently-aired film based on the book.

Adopting a format similar to the BBC’s cultural slot Newsnight Review, the programme asked why so many Pristina movie-goers were going to see the film and what religious and non-religious Kosovars felt out about the controversy surrounding it.

To discuss the issues thrown up by the book and the film, BIRN invited a panel of four prominent Kosovars: Dukagjin Gorani, from the Kosovar Institute for Journalism and Communications; Iliriana Loxha, an artist; Milazim Krasniqi, a writer; and Anton Berisha, an engineer.

Gorani said that the popularity of the film in Pristina, as in the rest of the world, was down to its incorporation of numerous religious dilemmas in a “populist thriller” format.

“For me as a Catholic, the Da Vinci Code is not interesting at all,” said Berisha. “This book has no facts and no analyses, nothing but unproved claims.” Berisha reckoned the book was an insult to Catholics the world over.

Gorani disagreed, saying it allows readers to question biblical stories, in particular whether Jesus was the son of God or an extraordinary human being with great leadership and oratory skills.

Discussing whether the controversial assertions made by the film could be defended as freedom of speech, Krasniqi said this right ends the moment it is used to offend, upset or ridicule others. He drew parallels with the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which so enraged Muslims.

The panelists contrasted the big local interest the Da Vinci Code generated with the generally low turn-out for other cultural events in the territory.

Krasniqi pointed out that a bookfair held this month served to highlight the low level of interest in reading. “There is a huge cultural crisis happening in Kosovo at the moment,” said Krasniqi.

He described the Da Vinci Code as something of circus which will do little to encourage local audiences to buy books or go to the theatre and cinema more often.

* The RTK debates are moderated by Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo Director.