News

Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum | Bonn, Germany, 2018 © European Endowment for Democracy
Back to news

Hit series Family Markovski holds a mirror up to society in North Macedonia

10 January 2020

The show pulls back the curtain on the life of a family of five living in Skopje and their day-to-day struggles in a country plagued by rampant corruption and nepotism. For many, it hits very close to home and it has opened the door for a frank public discussion on the political and social reality of life in this Western Balkan country.

© ART PROEKT LAB

Hit series Family Markovski holds a mirror up to society in North Macedonia

Our country is in misery. It’s hard to manage and the money is hard to come by...our whole lives we pay huge amounts of money to contribute to a better health system but instead it is spent on political propaganda and things that aren’t a priority...even though we are living in the 21st century it feels like we are two centuries behind.”

So writes one of Family Markovski’s many fans when commenting on the programme’s YouTube Channel. This North Macedonian TV series has become nothing short of a cultural phenomenon since its launch in 2017.

The show pulls back the curtain on the life of a family of five living in Skopje and their day-to-day struggles in a country plagued by rampant corruption and nepotism. For many, it hits very close to home and it has opened the door for a frank public discussion on the political and social reality of life in this Western Balkan country.

The show’s first season attracted over 2 million viewers both inside and outside the country, and it has even been selected for inclusion in three film festivals – an unusual feat for any TV show.

It is easy to understand why this show has resonated with such a large audience. The show’s creators cater to viewers of every age group and background, and people from all sectors of society can relate to the protagonists’ life and travails. This is exactly as visionary producer Emilija Chochkova intended it.

“It’s a family drama. There are five characters with different interests and different ages. This was the goal, to reach an audience who are demographically diverse,” she says.

Family Markovski Season 1 Trailer

 

Bringing taboo subjects into the light

When Chochkova speaks about her work, her passion for her craft is palpable. A seasoned producer with over 15 years of experience, 10 years of these as for national television in North Macedonia, she saw a need to create a space for independent filmmaking and decided to start her own production company – ART PROEKT LAB in 2015. At this time, North Macedonia was going through what she describes as an ‘undemocratic’ period. 

“There were few TV stations hosting debates or showing what was really happening in the country. Most of the stations were pro-governmental. We wanted to produce something that reached people on both the left and the right,” she explains.

In the early stages of development, she decided that the show would tackle difficult and controversial subjects usually absent in the mainstream media. That way, the issues covered in each episode could prompt wider discussions on issues such as the country’s broken health and schooling systems, corruption, gambling, the urban mafia and violence against women. 

The show has become known for its bravery in revealing uncomfortable truths and facilitating discussions on these otherwise taboo topics.

In one episode, it is revealed that one of the characters is in a gay relationship, prompting a discussion on LGBT rights and challenging widely accepted heteronormativity in North Macedonian society. After the episode was aired, the show’s social media was inundated with negative comments. “‘Remove these scenes’, ‘my kid is watching this’, ‘you’re just being provocative’,” Chochkova recalls.

But Chochkova is unperturbed. This is exactly what she wants. “What makes me happy is that in the trailer for the new season, we see that this couple are still together and there is even a kiss – young people, especially those on our Youtube channel, are discussing among themselves homophobia as an issue. This was the point,” she explains.

Edutainment

Chochkova also attributes the show’s success to its ability to both entertain and inform viewers. “The show is fun, and people won’t realise when watching it that we are trying to inform them objectively of what is happening in the country,” she explains. 

This responsibility to inform the viewers is one the show producers do not take lightly. Events in every episode are inspired by real-life issues and are grounded in thorough research conducted by the script writers, who draw their information from investigative articles produced by local NGOs, including the Centre for Investigative Journalism ( SCOOP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).  The producers also include links to relevant articles in some of the episodes and as part of the show’s promotional campaign.

Mounting pressures

But not everyone is happy about Family Markovski’s success. The show has come under pressure from politicians and other pressure groups who claim that it is biased, and Chochkova was hounded by politicians and and other prominent individuals who resented how they were represented on the show. She almost considered pulling the plug on the project at one point, such was the pressure.  

“To be honest after the first season, I didn’t think we would make a second one, because it was a stressful experience. Partly because we were dealing with topics that exposed North Macedonian politicians who recognised themselves in the work. But after a short break, I realised we needed to continue our work because we had a great audience with the first season. It was important for us to continue to inform them in this way,” she explains.

As the show’s viewership continues to grow, Chochkova is grappling with the challenge of finding suitable channels for distribution. In its first season, the show was funded under the condition that it was broadcast for free. It aired on national TV Kanal 5 and on YouTube.

Now Chochkova is seeking a way to generate revenue for the show. Prospects are looking good and during a recent screening at a film festival in Sarajevo, distributors in the region expressed their interest in buying the show.

For now, Family Markovski has been moved to an online platform, Cinesquare where it will be published the day after it is broadcast on TV. The first season is available for viewing on Cinesquare for free as well as the first episode of the second season, which has been produced and translated to English, Albanian, German and Serbian with EED support. Subsequent episodes, can be purchased with a modest fee of €2. 

 

Disclaimer: This article reflects the views of the grantee(s) featured and does not necessarily represent official opinion of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED).

Stay in touch

Sign up for all the latest news, stories and events straight to your inbox.