ŽubrOFFka 2016. Short Talk with Milica Tomović

At this year’s ŽubrOFFka International Short Film Festival, “Yellow Bread” chatted with the Serbian emerging director Milica Tomović about her short film “Transition” that is buzzing around the festival circuit, Serbian shorts and her next project.

Can you talk about your background?

Milica Tomović: There was a film school called “Kvadrat” where I went while I was in my junior year at high school and wanted to do something related to Film. Actually, I wanted to be a director but I had no previous knowledge… It was a great school! The way they teach there is really beautiful. Zoran Popović, the owner, knows so much about Film. The love he has for it and his knowledge… he instills them in you and it stays forever. I found out how little I knew about Film then and there. But, the moment I started to shoot my first short film I fell in love with Film. It was the same adrenaline I had when I played music so I knew this was it. And, it was only at the fourth attempt I got into film school (the Faculty of Dramatic Arts). I’m proud of that.

What inspired you to make “Transition”?

M.T.: So, I met this guy who was my friend’s friend at a gay club and we started talking and I presumed he was gay. He was so offended by it! It turned out he was a female to male transgender. We talked about his past, about the fact that he was still friends with his girlfriends with whom he went out, hung out and partied and now that he is a straight male, he told me he didn’t have a place in this world. His story seemed kind of sad and poetic during that drunken night. Because he is a transgender man and he hangs out only with lesbians, lesbians still don’t really see him as a man and there’s that kind of mix of roles. Then, I started to think about how he had made this huge step just to make the transition, how really brave it was and how he thought this was going to improve his life and that he was going to start living but that he found himself not having his place under the sun. After that, I met another guy in Berlin – also a transgender female to male – and I thought that because he lived in Berlin where everyone is different and free and has his/her place both there and in the world, everything was OK for him. But, this guy also came from a small town in Germany, a developed country that looks at people differently and has rights, etc., and he also had to leave his home town… Because transgender people are always discriminated against the most and as an LGBT community they don’t have a place of their own as transgender people can also be LG or B so it’s kind of different. And then, I thought that this was something I was really interested in and I wanted to do this theme and idea justice. I thought about how I could approach it. That year, my friends and my father were leaving Serbia; my father to work, my friends to go to college and I said goodbye differently to all of them. I started to realize that maybe this film could be a film about goodbyes and not about making the decision to become a transgender because the decision is already made; that this could be the right way to tell this story in the most truthful way I could relate to.

The fact that “Transition” was supported by Film Center Serbia (even after two years of waiting to get it funded) and well received in the country, it must surely indicate some kind of change of mentality in the Serbian society, right?

 M.T.: I hope so. I don’t know. We got lucky. But, we couldn’t fund our film for two years. One year, we were rejected. So, I think, yes… People are changing and they want to change so there’s a better climate. The film has been received well because most of the people who have watched it are from our film industry and the others were those who were interested in this subject. It didn’t go viral and hundreds of people didn’t watch it; it was a smaller crowd who did. When it’s appreciated by people who are somewhat like you and want the same things out of the film as you and other people who want to see a film about this subject, it doesn’t say much about the whole country.

I agree. But, still… I’d say it’s a small step in the right direction…

M.T.: I think so too…

Can you talk about the shooting process?

M.T.: I organized a casting. I already knew I wanted to work with Ivana Vuković. I had already done a casting with her but I also wanted to see how it would work with some other great young actresses. It was really nice to get to know them and work with them even if they did not end up acting in the film. It meant a lot. They are all really, really talented. I chose Ivana because I knew she would be perfect. The way she presents herself – she is not doing it in a feminine or sexual way; she is just charming and I needed a charming person. Even though she doesn’t speak much, you can see that she has some kind of life and that people want to be near her because of that charm. I also already knew I wanted to work with Nikola Rakočević. We had worked together on “October”, the omnibus, and we had a beautiful collaboration. He’s a great support and I wanted to have that. Because I knew Boris Isaković and Anita Mančić, I asked them to be in the film as a favor and they offered to help. And, I think the film is better precisely because of that. The shooting process was pretty cool. I had a month to prepare so we had rehearsals with the actors everyday. I worked with Ivana a lot, especially with her and Jovana [Belović] who plays her sister. We did improvisations – the way her character builds from her teenage years to now, dealing with her gay orientation, then the realization that it’s not the whole thing and that she might be transgender. We did some of that with Nikola Rakočević as well and Milica Stefanović who plays her ex-girlfriend. We made up their history together – how they met, how they fell in love, what parted them… We also went to some gay clubs.

What’s your opinion on short films?

M.T.: Very good. It’s a world in itself. I think it’s like a genre. For example, I knew “Transition” would be a short film. I never imagined it as a feature film. I knew that this kind of form would be great for it. I think that’s what you have with shorts: you have emotion, a message, a story… whatever you can say in 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes or even longer… It should be seen not as some smaller thing compared to or before a feature film… There are a lot of great short films that have as much impact and influence on you as any feature film. I think they are very, very important.

How do you see the Serbian short film scene?

M.T.: Oh! I think they are so good. And there are so many young and talented directors. I had the opportunity to watch some films made by the younger generations of directors – those in their junior or senior year of film school – and they are so good and talented I thought I should kill them! They are so much better than I am! Believe me, you’ll see!

What are your next projects?

M.T.: My next project is a feature film called “The Last Goodbye” inspired by a song by Jeff Buckley. It’s a love story between two people who get separated because one has to go abroad and we see the relationship and how it survives. Or not…

Latest from Short Talks