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KARLOVY VARY 2020 KVIFF Eastern Promises

Stefan Malešević e Andrijana Sofranić Šućur • Regista e produttrice di Usud

"Vogliamo dare al pubblico la possibilità di far parte delle nostre storie"

di 

- Abbiamo parlato con Stefan Malešević e Andrijana Sofranić Šućur, regista e produttrice di Usud, a cui è stato assegnato il KVIFF & MIDPOINT Development Award a Karlovy Vary

Stefan Malešević e Andrijana Sofranić Šućur  • Regista e produttrice di Usud

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Based on a folk tale, Stefan Malešević’s Usud – produced by Andrijana Sofranić Šućur – was granted the KVIFF & MIDPOINT Development Award, worth €10,000, at KVIFF Eastern Promises (see the news), delighting the jurors with its “comic, philosophical meditation on destiny, choice and the burden of being a human in an indifferent world”.

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“It was a nice surprise,” said its producer. “We are finishing the script, so now we can also focus on the location scouting, research and finding the right people to work with.” We found out more about the project from the pair.

Cineuropa: Usud is a deity of destiny known in all Slavic cultures. But you are not interested in a straightforward retelling of this myth, correct?
Andrijana Sofranić Šućur: My background is in classical studies, and I knew this story as a child. And yet, when Stefan told me about his plan, it sounded like a brand-new idea. He has a particular way of telling stories, and he incorporated his family’s tales into the script, giving it a whole new dimension. This way, people who don’t know it will be able to find similarities with something that has happened in their own life. It’s very universal, as folk tales tend to be.

As shown in your previous film, Mamonga [+leggi anche:
recensione
trailer
intervista: Stefan Malesevic
scheda film
]
, you are not afraid of having a slower pace. Will it be the case also this time?
ASŠ:
I am an audience for this kind of film, and my upcoming documentary, Tea Lukač’s Roots [selected for the Eurimages Lab Project Award], also has a slower tempo. If the story is good, and if it’s done right, it gives you some time to think. In Mamonga, Stefan left many things open, and it was interesting to see people’s interpretations. We want to give the audience a chance to be a part of our stories.

Stefan Malešević: It’s a different film, especially in terms of world-building, but some similarities in visual style and storytelling devices will happen. Not much will be said directly through dialogue – the lighting, set design and costumes should communicate more. In a traditional film school, you are taught that there should be a variety of shots inside every scene, but my approach is that this diversity should be achieved on the level of the whole film. It’s an aesthetic decision, but it also influences the storytelling when you can’t have a close-up in every scene.

You want to use an extinct language in the film, “Old Slavic”. Why?
SM:
It’s the first literary Slavic language, and it’s still used in the Orthodox Church. The folk tale we are referring to isn’t just Serbian or just Slavic – it exists in Finland, Russia and East Africa. I have always felt a strong connection between Slavic people, so if I am telling a story that belongs to all of us, this film should belong to all of us, too. Of course, you can’t make a film without giving it your personal touch, so I wanted to make it as wide as possible without getting into the realm of cultural appropriation.

Using Old Slavic will allow us to have a wider range of actors. It’s taught at universities, so people use it in the same way as they do Latin. We are not exactly sure that’s how our ancestors spoke, but there is nobody to confirm or deny it [laughs]. Languages have certain qualities, and the archaic, slow energy of Old Slavic fits the nature of this film.

It reminds me of the Slavic Esperanto used in The Painted Bird [+leggi anche:
recensione
trailer
intervista: Václav Marhoul
scheda film
]
. But what’s even more universal is this myth. Everyone wants to find a reason, or a god, hiding behind their predicament.
SM:
We came up with the idea five years ago, but The Painted Bird was a good reference – it proved it could work. Philosophy, religion – in most cases, the starting point is someone saying: “I know the way.” They share this knowledge, and then it’s you, struggling to comply. Take American televangelists, telling sick people that their faith isn’t strong enough. But this? It says that we don’t know anything, and the only advice is to deal with it. The notion of a god who admits his own ignorance was enlightening for me.

As humans, we come up with all of these theories, but it’s like trying to figure out the rules of The Matrix from inside The Matrix. Which doesn’t mean you should give up – just don’t be obsessed with trying to prove everything. I like to keep things ambiguous because that’s how I see the structure of the real world, too.

When you decide to talk about heritage, how do you avoid a simplified version “for tourists”? Making sure it’s not style over substance?
ASŠ:
We are mostly focused on the story and try to keep it simple. Actually, it was me who wanted it to be flashier! We don’t want to focus on just one period or one kind of costume – we will have a mix. It will be about more than just making it all look pretty and nice.

SM: It really depends on your motivation. I am interested in folklore, but not in its surface. We are not following a certain period, so hopefully we will be able to keep this philosophical essence and still convey the beauty of the landscape and the costumes. When you watch 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s a philosophical piece more than anything else, but you can still admire the visuals. We need to create the world, but then the film is not about displaying it: it’s not going to be a postcard showing off Balkan landscapes.

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