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FILMS Romania / Serbia / Austria

If the Seed Doesn’t Die too exhausting to satisfy

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If the Seed Doesn’t Die too exhausting to satisfy

Serbian-born director Siniša Dragin’s third feature film If the Seed Doesn’t Die had premiered at Tokyo International Film Festival before winning the Audience Award at Rotterdam. Supported by the Hubert Bals Fund, Eurimages, the Serbian Ministry of Culture, the Romanian Film Centre and Vienna Film Fund, after four years in the making, the film had its Romanian premiere at the Transylvania International Film Festival in Cluj.

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The production hardships definitely show in this interesting but uneven and flawed film whose three story strands never seem to converge in a satisfying manner. Two fathers, Serbian Jorgovan (Bosnian-born Mustafa Nadarević) going to Romania to find the body of his son who died in a car accident, and Romanian Nicu (Dan Condurache) looking for his daughter forced into prostitution in Kosovo, meet on the Serbian-Romanian border on the Danube as they are both illegally crossing it in boats. That is the only time their paths really cross and we separately follow their quests which include many side characters and adventures. The third story concerns a wooden church pulled over huge expanses of land by Romanian peasants in the 1700’s, when Orthodox Church was banned in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. This story is narrated by the old Austrian Hans (Franz Buchreiser) who lives in Jorgovan’s hometown.

Dragin tries to include a lot of both Serbian and Romanian history, politics, religion, mentality, and while some of the episodes are genuinely touching or humorous, as a whole the film seems so overcrowded and rhythmically uneven that a spectator feels exhausted after 60 of its total 113 minutes. In the end, the symbolic old church story is by far the most successful and one wonders if Dragin should’ve made a film about that event alone.

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