Gent Çajani Wins Best Director with “Zoo Story”

Director and Actor Gent M. Çajani

Talented director and actor Gent Mehmeti Çajani was born in 1995 in the city of Tetovo, North Macedonia. From an early age, Gent excelled in the world of arts. He graduated from “Kiril Pejçinoviç’’ High School in Tetovo (2014) and earned his bachelor degree in “Theater Directing and Acting” from the State University of Tetovo, North Macedonia (2019, first generation class of theater directing for Albanian students in Macedonia).

As a young boy Gent Çajani had a deep appreciation for books and poetry. He had a passion for reading and wrote his own stories and poems. He earned the “Young Poet” title, winning 2nd place at the World Book Day competition held at the Koco Racin Library in Tetovo. He also won 2nd place in the poetry competition “Tetovo Celebrates November” held in 2015.

Growing up, Gent was involved in several non-profit organizations that focused on youth development, arts, and the environment. He organized the first poetry slam in 2015 as a member of “Center for Balkan Cooperation Loja”. He was also a member of ‘’American Corner Tetovo’’, where he directed the children’s play “Pinocchio” as a young teen. Gent Çajani participated in the photography exposition, sponsored by U.S. Embassy, where he was awarded as a talented photographer. In 2019 Gent was recognized as a photographer in the gallery exposition of visual arts in Tetovo “1000 words and I”.

During his higher education Gent Çajani was involved in many student films and theater plays, where he showcased his professional talent as a young actor and director. After graduating in directing and acting, Gent took more control of his projects and which stories he wanted to tell. Gent acted in “The Artists Lunacy” film (2018), written and directed by Murat Zherka, produced by “Lumiere films” in Skopje.

The audiences got to see Gent Çajani’s directorial work in fantastic theater plays such as: Zoo Story (2019, dir. Gent M. Çajani, screenplay by Edward Albee); The Accursed (2021, dir. Gent M. Çajani, screenplay by Olsa Poshka); Requiem for Musine Kokalari (2022, dir. Gent M. Çajani, screenplay by Gjergj Jozef Kola). In 2021 Gent Çajani directed the film “Stoned”, written by Artin Selmani, produced by “Iprodutcion’’ and ‘’Democracy lab”.

Gent Çajani made a name for himself with the critically acclaimed “Zoo Story”, a play directed by Gent Çajani, written by Edward Albee, starring Rrahim Ramadani, Berat Mahmuti and Granit Vela. Professors Mehmet Xhelili and Qëndrim Rijani were the artistic advisors. In 2020 Gent Çajani won the “Best Director” Award at the Othello International Theater festival for “Zoo Story”. The same year, “Zoo Story” won the “Best Actor” Award for the role of “Jerry” played by Berat Mahmuti, at the AKT Fest, International Theatre Festival in North Macedonia.

Currently, Gent Çajani is in the director’s chair again for the play “American Buffalo”, written by David Mamet.

Award-winning play “Zoo Story”, directed by Gent M. Çajani

NY Elite Exclusive Interview with Award-Winning Director and Actor Gent Çajani

NY Elite: We heard a lot of buzz about “Zoo Story” and the high praise it received. Can you tell us more about your involvement in this project and the awards it received? 

Gent M. Çajani: “Zoo Story” was a very good opportunity for me and my colleagues to represent the life of the human being trapped in to the cage of consciousness, because very few of people have the power to be empathic. It was very challenging analyzing the characters and putting them on stage to share the feeling of being a stranger in our own place. As a director, I believe I was able to show my vision on stage. I am very pleased with all the work and effort that went into it and the amazing theater team behind “Zoo Story”, namely Berat Mahmuti, Rrahim Ramadani and Granit Vela.

NY Elite: What is ‘Zoo story’ about? 

Gent M. Çajani: “Zoo Story” is written by Edward Albee, a very known playwriter in USA which represents “Theatre of absurd”. The play is about two people meeting in Central park (NY), Jerry the protagonist had escaped mental state asylum and Peter who just came at the park to write his “best seller book”.

These two characters represent each other in a verry strange position because they try to understand each other but that turns wrong at the end, because Jerry was never understood by others which drove him mad, and Peter a middle class man who is very conservative person had escaped from his house just to chill and find peace from his wife and his daughters.

There Jerry gives Peter his life story which he thinks Peter would make a verry good book from it, but Peter was stunned by Jerry’s touching story and didn’t write a thing. Jerry tries to get Peter’s attention by steeling his bench and asking him to leave. Peter who had his only place of peace stood up to fight for it and then Jerry finds his opportunity to get his knife out and stab himself, so that he can be free forever.

NY Elite: Who else was part of Zoo Story?

Gent M. Çajani: Berat Mahmuti played “Jerry”, and Rrahim Ramadani played “Peter”. We also had Granit Vela the guitarist who played the guitar as “Jack”, a homeless man who watched the whole story and wrote a song about it. They did an outstanding job in bringing out the raw emotions that captivated the audience.

NY Elite: Congratulations on being named Best Director and Best Actor! What was your experience like at the Othello International Film Festival and Akt Fest Shkup? What films did you represent at these two festivals?

Gent M. Çajani: I am very thrilled to have won the “Best Director” award with “Zoo Story” in Othello International Theatre Festival North Macedonia 2020. Berat Mahmuti won “The Best Young Actor” award with “Zoo Story” in AKT fest Skopje 2020. We are very excited and thankful for all the recognition and praise “Zoo Story” has received.

NY Elite: What films/theater shows have you directed?

Gent M. Çajani: My artistic career began in 2019 with the play “Zoo Story” and it has been going very well since I graduated. In 2021 I directed the “Stoned”, a young citizen film project that represents the life of young people in North Macedonia and in the Balkans.

The same year, in 2021 I directed  “The Damned”, a play based on a true story that represents the life of three emigrants, who were betrayed by their friend. They left their home for a better life in Greece, but were faced many difficulties. They were imprisoned and killed by the state police.

In 2022 I directed “Requiem for Musine Kokalari”, a documentary theater play, which represents the life of Musine Kokalari (The Albanian Icon), the first female writer in Albania, and the first lady that created the Social-Democratic party. She was politically persecuted by the dictator of the dark era of communism in Albania. First he killed her two brothers, she had been imprisoned and kept captive for 36 years. She died alone in august 1983 from the battle with cancer.

NY Elite: And in which did you act? 

Gent M. Çajani: In 2018 I acted in the the film “The Artists Lunacy”, directed by Murat Zherka Skopje, “Lumiere films“ in North Macedonia.

NY Elite: Do you have a favorite project and why?

Gent M. Çajani: All my projects were made with full of joy. I love all of my projects and collaborations that I have had until now.

NY Elite: What is your educational background? What did you study? 

Gent M. Çajani: I am the first generation student of Albanians who studied “Theatre Directing and Acting“ in Macedonia. I graduated from the State University of Tetovo, North Macedonia. I would like to thank two extraordinary professors who made it possible for students with the same ethnicity like me, to have the opportunity to pursue our dreams in art and film: namely professor and renowned director Mehmet Xhelili from Albania, and my terrific mentor, Qëndrim Rijani, professor and director from N. Macedonia.

Being part of the first generation Albanian students to study theater directing and acting is quite historic and memorable for me. I am grateful to experience the artistic path, which I am very passionate about. I look forward to what the future holds for me professionally and I am very thankful to my two professors for their immense support and life lessons.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creativity in any other ways?

Gent M. Çajani: I love expressing my art in a lot of ways. I paint time after time and work as a sales agent for a great artist in Europe. I also I love photography and participated in exhibitions as a photographer. I do a lot of stuff trying to express my feelings in other ways of doing art, like writing poems, singing and traveling.

NY Elite: What are you currently working on? 

Gent M. Çajani: Currently I am working on the next project for this year that will take place in Theatre. It is a play with three characters named “American Buffalo” by David Mamet. I cannot say much about it, as it is currently in the works. I am excited to be working on this new project and to share it with the audience soon.

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