Xhanfize Keko

1928 – 2007
Airing Tomka and His Friends (1977) on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 9:15 PM on TCM

Long overlooked because of her gender and her thematic focus on films for younger audiences, Xhanfize Keko was Communist Albania’s only female director and premier creator of children’s films. Through recent reevaluations, however, her work is praised for possessing a sensitive approach to her material, a technical facility outstripping her contemporaries and a highly original voice. After studying documentary techniques in Moscow, Keko co-founded the New Albania Film Studio in 1952. She spent the next two decades editing and filming a variety of documentaries until she made her first truly personal film, the documentary short A, B, C…Zh (1971), which follows students through their first day of school. 

Keko developed a stable of non-professional children she closely studied in order to incorporate their behavior into films like Beni Walks on His Own (1975), about an overly protected child who learns self-reliance and maturity, and Tomka and His Friends (1977), in which a group of children sabotage Nazi invaders during World War II. When the Albanian government stopped funding film production in the 1980s, Keko stopped making films. She passed away in 2007. Only recently, Western scholars have begun studying her work, which is featured in Mark Cousins’ documentary Story of Children and Film (2015).

Select Filmography

Mimoza Ilastica (1973)
Beni Walks on His Own (1975)
Tomka and His Friends (1977)