“Into the Blue”, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s latest brilliant and mesmerizing short film started its festival circuit run at this year’s Berlinale, where it won the Special Jury Mention for Best Short Film in the Generation 14Plus section, the first of a series of awards. It is now having its regional premiere in the Short Film Competition at the 2017 Sarajevo Film Festival. “Into the Blue” was developed within the programs Berlinale Talents Short Script Station and the European Short Pitch in 2016.
It is the story of thirteen-year old Julija, who, along with her mother, flees their abusive household in order to find refuge on an idyllic Croatian island where Julija grew up. Emotionally scarred, Julija is desperate to reconnect with her best friend Ana. But, Ana is in love with Pjero and Julija is no longer a priority. Ana’s mounting rejection re-ignites Julija’s wounds and family history, thus awakening the monster of violence she thought she has left behind.
Kusijanović subtly and cleverly conveys the words of her partner in crime, screenwriter Christina Laziridi, to the screen. Her directing is precise and assured yet highly evocative and sensitive. She elegantly manages to convey the rising tension throughout the entire 20-minute film, leading to the obvious and foreboding tragic denouement. But, not only that. She also succeeds in gently transmitting the growing loneliness, simmering pain, and disappointment of her protagonist, Julija, who desperately struggles to gain recognition and attention when she starts to feel she is increasingly being pushed away. Through the silent and suggestive observation of her heroine, Kusijanović nimbly shows the resurfacing of her buried pain, leading to the inevitable confrontation. But, with the same observational technique, she is also able to convey all the mixed feeling of all her characters. And, this is quite a feat. This particular scenario has happened millions of times before and will happen another million times again, because friends come and go, but, hey, leave it to a boy to ruin a friendship…
As far as the acting is concerned, all the four child actors deliver excellent performances, but Gracija Filipović who plays Julija is absolutely terrific in her nuanced turn conjured by Kusijanović and her distinguished directing. The techs are also to be lauded, especially Marko Brdar’s crisp cinematography and lensing of a blue-ish palette and breathtaking insular scenery, and the thoughtful editing, courtesy of the multifaceted and talented filmmaker, Minji Kang.
A lesson in life and friendship, Kusijanović’s is a truthful, sincere, powerful and poignant coming of age film about the promise of love and friendship, the fear of loss, cruelty and violence, and the birth of jealousy. Everyone has lived a similar experience – and hopefully only the less hurtful part –, but every teenager should see it. Kusijanović is most definitely a talent to watch.
O.T.: “U plavetnilo”
Production: Blade Production, Honeypot Film Productions, MB Grip (Croatia/Slovenia 2017)
Producers: Zoran Dževerdanović, Barbara Vekarić, Vlaho Krile
Co-producers: Poster, MB Grip, Karolina Berkell-Kirk
Associate producers: Embassy Films
Director: Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović
Screenplay: Christina Lazaridi
Cinematography: Marko Brdar
Music: Ivan Marinović and Evgueni Galperine
Costume design: Zjena Glamočanin
Editing: Minji Kang
Cast: Gracija Filipović, Vanesa Vidaković Natrlin, Dominik Duždević, Andro Režić, Nataša Dangubić, Marija Kohn
Color – 20 min.
Premiere: 09/02/2017 (Berlin International Film Festival)