Sarajevo Film Festival 2017. Short Talk with Jelena Gavrilović

At this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, “Yellow Bread” caught up with Serbian up-and-coming director Jelena Gavrilović whose short film “Nobody Here” screened in the “Competition program – Student Film” section of the festival. We touch upon subjects such as her short film, shorts in general, women in Film and her next projects.


Can you talk about your background?

Jelena Gavrilović: I was born in Belgrade, Serbia, where I studied film directing at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts.

What was your inspiration behind “Nobody Here”?

J.G.: It started with the main character. I told my scriptwriter, Dimitrije [Kokanov], that I am fascinated with the character of a girl living her life surrounded by bodyguards. I think we both felt that there was a lot hidden inside that story, a lot of things we wanted to talk about. Then, we started building the story, which, at first, was a very dramatic one. It was about the day her father was arrested and how it influenced her. As time passed by, we both kind of understood we wanted to remove all the big construction from the story and deal with her state of mind in a less dramatic way. I say all this to point out that the process was long and that it involved several radical changes of the script. In my opinion, it was like we were growing up with it and we became more and more mature in order to understand what we were really interested in.

The film’s premise is fairly simple, but poignantly intricate – you slowly and cleverly strip your film, one layer at a time. Can you elaborate on that process?

J.G.: Actually, I can’t really explain it. I guess it’s just a product of our desire to make the film more interesting and to keep the spectator more involved.

“Nobody Here” is not only about teenage heartbreak, it’s also about the absence of a father figure and its consequence on the heroine’s psyche. Can you comment on that?

J.G.: It’s true. I would just add that, in my opinion, it’s not necessarily the father as a person, but more as the absence of attention and love. It’s about this lonely state of mind, which a young person can feel even if he/she has too much freedom, or no freedom at all like Sara.

The actors manage to transmit the current mindset of the modern Serbian society. Can you talk about that?

J.G.: We are showing several different milieus, and I guess it can bring out this feeling. It’s a really specific story, so as much as it is Serbian, at the same time it isn’t, you know what I mean? With the actors, we were trying to build something honest and true. I think they did a really nice job.

What was the shooting process like?

J.G.: The hardest part was shooting inside the car during the hot days of summer. I can say the rest of the film was a real pleasure to make.

What is your opinion of short films?

J.G.: I really enjoy them; some are my favorite films in general. I feel that sometimes they are freer then features – I guess, because they are not as expensive to make. The rules are completely different for the short and  for the feature, so it’s understandable that there are a lot of directors working only in shorts.

What is the situation of the short form in Serbia?

J.G.: For sure, it’s getting better – starting with student films, we can notice that the quality is rising. There are more festivals focused only on shorts and there is more money in the budget… Hopefully, it will also lead to a broader diversity in terms of ideas.

Can you talk about the situation of women in Film in Serbia?

J.G.: It really depends on the angle from which you choose to think about it. Compared to the situation of women outside of the art world, it’s way better. Compared to other countries, our fight here is bigger. The number of great female directors is rising and everyone will get used to it. So, hopefully, one day this won’t be an issue and we won’t need to define each other by gender.

What are your next projects?

J.G.: I have some ideas, so either it will be another short, or I will start preparing a feature. Right now, I am enjoying my small break!

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