Thessaloniki Doc Fest’s Meet the Future Spotlights Emerging Serbian Talents
Art and Experience:
Amid the celebrations and retrospectives when the Thessaloniki Film Festival hosted its 60th edition in 2019, the organizers unveiled a new program, Meet the Future, designed to look ahead to the next generation of emerging film talents set to make waves in the host nation, the region, and beyond.
For its first edition, Meet the Future showcased 15 promising young Greek directors who are developing their first feature films; a year later, the program trained its lens on up-and-coming Greek talents behind the camera. This year, at the 23rd Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, the spotlight falls on up-and-coming documentary filmmakers from Serbia, with five projects currently in post-production being presented to industry guests.
Yianna Sarri, the head of Thessaloniki’s industry arm, Agora, says that it’s the culmination of a growing trend she’s witnessed in the Balkan nation. “In recent years, especially documentary, Serbia has had many talents to show, and on many different topics,” she says.
Some of those talents have passed through Thessaloniki en route to wider recognition. Three years ago, Marta Popivoda’s “Landscapes of Resistance,” which traces the life of one of the first female partisan fighters in the former Yugoslavia, appeared in Thessaloniki’s works-in-progress section, where it took home an award. This year the film premiered at IDFA and will screen in Thessaloniki as part of the Film Forward International Competition.
“It’s a project that we watched from the beginning,” says Sarri. “From that point on, we realized that in Serbia there are many very talented, young documentary filmmakers that are now creating very good documentaries, and we really wanted to put them on the stage.”
Here are the five filmmakers and projects selected for this year’s Meet the Future program:
Diary of a Serious Offender
Producer: Mira Janjetovic (Association Osmica)
Director: Danilo Cekovic
Synopsis: A visual journey through the eyes of an offender doing community service at a Belgrade public pool. Danilo spends 40 days with his girlfriend, Mira, shooting a movie on his smart phone and trying to overcome his issues through emotional and physical development. During that time, his relationship with his coworkers starts to change. Mira diligently follows Danilo each morning to work, filming his new friends in action. In the afternoons, they film each other, creating a diary of their relationship. But instead of getting closer, they start to grow apart.
Janjetovic: “Entering the editing room was very therapeutic for both of us. We saw who we were at the beginning of the filming and we saw how we ended up. This film is truly a rollercoaster of emotions. After participating in different workshops and programs we realized that this story communicates not only with young audiences but also with anyone who remembers the struggle that maturing brings. We all have that certain difficult but wonderful moment in life.”
Producer: Andrijana Sofranić Šućur (Nana 143)
Co-producer: Set Sail Films
Director: Tea Lukač
Synopsis: Sitting in the back of a moving car, different passengers go on the road on the edge of a vast forest. They carry tales about hornet’s nests, petitions against nuclear waste, loneliness, carnival treats, folklore traditions, cemetery visits and roads leading home. The forest, serene in the sun, mysterious in the fog and wild on the river, frames the seven stories as they pass by. Containing elements of documentary, ethnography and fiction, “Roots” is a strangely wondrous and often exhilarating film.
Lukač: “This was a deeply intimate film for me to make, as it is shot in my hometown I no longer live in. I wanted to preserve what I felt were stories struggling not to be forgotten. But even though all stories and people telling them are real, we wanted to add to them by creating an experience of a dream-like world, both universal and isolated, in which fragments of life are contrasted with the eternity of nature.”
Producer: Srđa Vučo (Ranč Production)
Director: Luka Papić
Synopsis: After 45 years of single-party communist rule in Serbia, political parties gained legal status in 1990, and the first multiparty elections in Serbian history were held. Five ex-presidential candidates, today’s misfits, bring back memories of the elections and relive that crucial event, not realizing that they played only supporting roles. “Summoned” is a ready-made comedy, which aims to push the viewer to assess the current political situation and the ongoing process of democratization, and to investigate the basic nature of politics.
Papić: “Srđa introduced me to the material he discovered while he was researching the subject for an exhibition called ‘Voting Machine.’ I was intrigued, and after some talk we realized that what we have at our disposal may be a historical, ready-made comedy with tragic consequences—the story frame, characters and amazing, Monty Pythonesque archive material are there—and what we had to do is choose the right one of the possible narratives in order to tell the story the way we want to do it. ‘Summoned’ will in a humorous and, hopefully, entertaining way make the audience question the current political momentum, and what is it in human nature and ego that makes people dwell in politics in the first place.”
Producer: Marija Stojnic (RT Dobre Nade)
Director: Nemanja Vojinović
Synopsis: Fifteen kilometers south of Belgrade, Serbia, on an archaeological site of the ancient Vinča civilization—a cradle of Neolithic Europe—lies the biggest landfill of the Balkans. Unsettled by an inextinguishable fire, this toxic land is the workplace of a group of plastic bottle collectors, called bottlemen. Through intimate portraits of its members, we follow the last days of this unlikely community before their jobs become obsolete.
Vojinović: “At first I wanted to make a poetic and abstract landscape film, about the clash of two archeological sites: one of the ancient civilization from the Stone Age, and one of the present civilization, filled with garbage and plastic, a true mirroring image of contemporary civilization. The first time I actually visited the landfill, I saw a new world, completely unknown to me, and I felt like I was in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. I got to know this post-apocalyptic landscape and the community of plastic bottle collectors: bottlemen, hard working people, living and surviving in the most brutal conditions, yet resilient and authentic, full of life. I wanted to show this world of bottlemen and tell their stories, because they will be forgotten.”
Producer: Andrijana Stojković (All Inclusive Films)
Director: Vanja Kovačević
Synopsis: Brian was born in Belgrade, “the same year R’n’R was born in America.” As a young man he moved to London, describing himself as a “working-class photographer.” Like the music industry in which he’s been employed, daring to believe that his mission is to get stars closer to fans, Brian’s work is coming to an end. The main story is set in the present, when true stardom is despairing, and through stop-motion animation uses Brian’s photos to show his past. This is a documentary about the fading away of a professional rock photographer and a career; a story about the death of the big star, a supernova. It’s also the story of positive emigration and the fulfillment of childhood dreams, though at the same time a story about the inability to leave Belgrade and Yugoslavia, and the life-long search for “home.”
Kovačević: “I met Brian, the protagonist, at a film festival where he was a jury member and I competed with my previous documentary. I thought right away that by telling his story, I would combine all the things I’m interested in: music and stardom, searching for a home, Yugoslavia and nostalgia. ‘Supernova’ is a film about ‘the death of the star,’ but also a melancholic journey towards retirement as one’s profession is slowly losing its glory. The audience can witness one positive and unexpected example of Yugoslavian immigration, fulfilling ‘more than a childhood dream,’ as Brian Rasic would say, and the universal and never-ending search for a home.”