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Marija Stojnić • Director of Speak So I Can See You

"Imagination and abstraction are as important as history and facts"

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- We spoke to Serbian filmmaker Marija Stojnić about her documentary Speak So I Can See You, centred on Radio Belgrade

Marija Stojnić  • Director of Speak So I Can See You

We talked to Serbian filmmaker Marija Stojnić whose experimental and very creative documentary Speak So I Can See You [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marija Stojnić
film profile
]
, which looks at the world of Radio Belgrade, world-premiered in IDFA's First Appearance competition.

Cineuropa: What inspired you to make this film?
Marija Stojnić:
The Radio did. I had just returned to Belgrade in the winter of 2015/2016 after spending some years in the US, and I started listening to the programming of Radio Belgrade 2 and 3. I had somehow forgotten that this programming existed, and rediscovering it then was almost a revelation.

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At first, I followed the night shows, which are dedicated to philosophical thought, literature, experimental and contemporary music, and afterwards, the daily spoken-word and drama programming as well. A true old-school, live radio that cherished this timeless, ever relevant, non-material treasure. And then, I noticed how this sound that was integrating into my daily life started to change not just my thought flow, but my experience of physical space as well, the way I saw my apartment, the streets in my neighborhood. In a way, I rediscovered Belgrade and created a new relationship to the city, because now, through sound, I tuned into this non-dominant, different culture, alive but absent from the mainstream media.

How did you develop the concept of the film?
Clearly, the sound had to come first. I wanted to explore radiophonic sound’s ability to change our perception of everyday reality and to make us feel a little less lonely. When I say lonely, I don’t refer to the absence of other people, but the general sense of disorientation, inadequacy and isolation as a common human experience, everywhere. We all carry different kinds of transgenerational trauma, and it is important to keep history and memory present, to understand the experience of those who were here before us, in order to understand ourselves. But we also need to learn how to be free and how to play, to imagine the unimaginable, which means to design, to create something new. Imagination and abstraction are as important as history and facts.

We went to Radio Belgrade to see how we could capture the path of sound from the place of its conception to the homes of listeners, and to show how it transforms in space. The radio became a character, in a way, and I wanted to portray this collective body of oral history and creation, that's been with its citizens for almost a century. We did a couple of test shots, as we were getting familiar with this multidimensional, monumental, living structure and its people.

Later on, I was listening to the archives — starting with simple keywords, ending up with vast lists and categorizations. When I heard some pieces that moved me, and which immediately sparked an image, a colour, a space where it needed to be put, I paid attention. It was a very carefully crafted collage that required me to think and understand, but also to closely listen to my intuition, even when I had no rational answer for why this sound had to go with this image and why it had to be in the film. I sensed the new meaning that we were creating.

We intentionally made a visual separation between the observational segments of the film — which follow everyday life — and the world of the Radio as our collective body — this timeless world of ideas, that we tune out of and into, that is omnipresent, a vault of spirit, time, history, memory, creative thought... our essence preserved in sound. I think we succeeded in creating these completely different senses of a place, in the same physical space.

How did you structure the funding? This must have been a difficult project to pitch.
I feel that every project that strays away from a classical narrative structure, hot topics and tried recipes, is hard to pitch. Especially because you don’t always pitch to the decision-makers, but to people who then have to pitch it to the next person in the hierarchy. The challenge was to make the project more presentable and “down to earth”, without oversimplifying it and omitting its complexity, it’s core. Still, we were really lucky to get recognition from the Film Center Serbia, Eurimages (Lab Project Award at Thessaloniki IFF), the Doha Film Institute and the Finnish YLE, which was the first broadcaster to pick up the film.

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