Recently, the problems and challenges faced by trans* people have been at the center of the media and filmmakers’ attention and the focus of films such as Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” or Sean Baker’s “Tangerine”. The script for “Transition”, Milica Tomović’s first short film, was in fact written three years ago but the lack of funds deferred its making. The project was finally supported by Film Center Serbia and the mere fact that Serbia’s most important film institution has decided to support it speaks volumes about a slightly more progressive change in the country’s way of thinking. After its award-winning presence at the Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival last spring, the short has screened at festivals such as Locarno, Sarajevo, Toronto or the recently wrapped Belgrade Auteur Film Festival where it won the Best Film Award in the “Brave Balkan” section.
“Transition” is made up of ten scenes in the life of Jana, its protagonist, and depicts fragments of her last two days in Belgrade before her departure for the USA as she prepares to leave her family for a new life across the Atlantic. But, her carefully crafted plans cannot cover up the secrets she has so expertly kept hidden from them, and the façade may be crumbling down soon. The film starts with a scene in which Jana studies her naked body in the mirror. After this intimate moment in which she strips her heroine down, both physically and emotionally, Milica Tomović takes us to a smoky club where Jana plays with her band for the last time…
The mosaic-like structure of “Transition” presents Jana’s life in a very simple way – because of its limited time, Milica Tomović leaves a lot open to interpretation and guessing, letting her audience fill in the narrative blanks. Much of it is symbolic, implicit and its impact comes precisely from there; from the silences and what is not being said but merely implied. This symbolism is, for instance, extremely well conveyed in the contrast of men and women or the contrast between Jana’s decision and the way she is perceived. Moreover, Milica Tomović’s directing style is highly assured, precise and personal; handheld camera, long dialogues, freedom… In that sense, “Transition” is remarkably well thought out, written, crafted and tightly held together, boasting with raw and nuanced performances by some of Serbia’s leading actors (notably Ivana Vuković, Boris Isaković, Anita Mančić and Nikola Rakočević) that give the short an extra layer of depth. Unlike most films tackling sex reassignment topics, “Transition” does not focus on the scandalous aspect of it and the suppression of either masculine or feminine features but rather the journey and courage of becoming one’s true self. It is the inner struggle, self-identification and vulnerability that matter more here than society’s judgment call. In that, “Transition” is a film about goodbyes; goodbye to one’s old self, to one’s old life and to loved ones. The decision has already been made and Milica Tomović does not delve on it or on the discovery of it, we just don’t know how or why that came to be. And, that is perfectly OK, for the director prefers to forgo the moralist discourse and focus on the effect it has on her protagonist. This is helped by Jelena Maksimović’s slow-paced editing that masterfully builds up the tension of what Jana is going through. After all, we should not forget “Transition” is about mood and feelings…
Furthermore, not only does the film perfectly portray the Serbian mindset and way of life today – a way of life deeply rooted in a political “transition” of its own that has been lasting for the past twenty years – but it also undoubtedly adheres to the Serbian New Wave spearheaded by the new crop of young talented auteurs. Ultimately, not only the director’s brave choice of a current and sensitive topic but also her way of tackling it, contributes to making “Transition” one of the most unique short films of 2016.
Almost revolutionary for the Serbian narrow minds of today, bold, sincere, extremely smart, multi-layered and elegant, “Transition” allows Milica Tomović to do this delicate and timely subject justice. “Transition” is a film Serbia is in dire need of and Milica Tomović, a very talented filmmaker to watch.
Production: EED Productions
Producer: Vladimir Vasiljević
Director: Milica Tomović
Screenplay: Milica Tomović
Music: Ana Đurović
Cinematography: Dalibor Tonković
Production Design: Magdalena Vlajić
Costume design: Olja Markokvić
Editing: Jelena Maksimović
Cast: Ivana Vuković, Milica Trifunović, Vojislav Višić, Boris Isaković, Anita Mančić, Milica Stefanović, Nikola Rakočević, Jasna Đuričić, Aleksandar Gligorić, Jovana Belović
Color – 21 min.
Premiere: 21/03/2016 (Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival)