Srbenka continues its awards run
by Vladan Petkovic
- Having added the Best Director Award at Sibiu to its slew of prizes after Visions du Réel, Sarajevo and the Doc Alliance Award, the documentary is now heading towards an EFA nomination
Croatian director Nebojša Slijepčević's Srbenka [+see also:
interview: Nebojša Slijepčević
film profile] has unexpectedly become one of the hottest documentary titles of the year, after its world premiere at Visions du Réel, where it won the Buyences-Chagoll Award, and its subsequent triumph at the Sarajevo Film Festival, where it scooped both the Heart of Sarajevo for Best Documentary and the Audience Award.
It went on to win the Doc Alliance Award, and just last week, it earned Slijepčević the Best Director Award in the Central and Eastern Europe Competition at Astra Film Festival. It has been pre-selected for the list of European Film Awards nominees (see the news), which will be unveiled in Seville.
Srbenka tackles the volatile topic of the position of minorities in Croatia in a complex and thoughtful way. Slijepčević follows the rehearsals for a stage play by the country's most prominent theatre director, Oliver Frljić, which deals with the case of a young Serbian girl murdered in 1991, at the beginning of the war in Croatia.
"For me, Oliver Frljić is maybe the most important Croatian artist at the moment, and what inspires me is his courage to open up topics that are difficult but are important for our society," says Slijepčević.
By tackling a very delicate issue through the stage play, the filmmaker explores the story through the perceptions and ideas of creative people who are delving deeper into the subject, instead of using an investigative form that would feature interviews with witnesses, sociologists or political figures, which would dilute its power.
"I am not interested artistically in what happened in the past, unless it somehow reflects on the present," says Slijepčević. "So I wanted to make a film not about war crimes from the 1990s, but about kids who are kids in Croatia today. It is a complex topic, and I did a huge amount of research to see how big and real it truly is. What I found out is that, of course, not all people belonging to minority groups in Croatia, including sexual or political ones, are in danger, but they have reasons to feel uncomfortable. And this is something we have to deal with immediately."
Interestingly, the film hasn't been picked up yet by an international sales agent, as they all deemed it too local, but they have been proven wrong with the sheer number of festival invitations and awards it has received.
"Just last night, I had a screening in Romania, and a Hungarian woman from the audience told me that in the film she recognised herself and her childhood as a Hungarian in Romania," Slijepčević writes from the Astra Film Festival in Sibiu. "Although it seems like a local topic, people all over Europe can obviously relate to it.”
Srbenka is next heading to the Chicago International Film Festival, Doclisboa, Ji.hlava, DOK Leipzig, the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, the Belgrade Free Zone Film Festival, the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Bilbao - Zinebi, and IDFA. For EFA members, the film is also available on the EFA VoD platform.
Here is a list of upcoming gatherings where Srbenka will be screened:
(section: Heart Beat)
Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival (Czech Republic)
(section: Doc Alliance Selection)
DOK Leipzig (Germany)
(section: International Programme)
30 October, 2 November
Festival dei Popoli Florence (Italy)
(section: International competition)
Verzio International Human Rights Documentary FF (Hungary)
(section: Human Rights competition)
8 and 9 November
RIDM - Montreal International Documentary Festival (Canada)
11 and 12 November
Free Zone Film Festival (Serbia)
(section: International competition)
10, 11 and 12 November
International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Bilbao - Zinebi (Spain)
(section: Best of Fests)
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