For whom is it harder, the ones who leave or the ones who stay.
Interview with Writer/Director Anja Strelec, Tomislava Jukic
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! This film was made because of the significance of the subject. It unfolded while working on another documentary that was filmed at the House of Elders in Croatia (Varaždin). While working together on the documentary ‘Home is where my age is’, co-director Tomislava Jukić and I used to visit my grandmother on a daily basis between shooting the film because she was also living in the same residency.
My grandmother used to be a director in this House of Elders so when she got older she decided to live there as a resident. We started to visit her and just chat with her for hours. I noticed that she started to lose the will to live and I wanted to help her. The first thing that came to my mind was to entertain her with my camera by inventing different kinds of situations in which she would feel comfortable. We had our private little theatre and she was really enjoying it and laughing a lot in the beginning. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to restore her will for living completely.
Our shooting was always interrupted by my mother, an employee at the same residence for over 25 years, who used to come to her room to take care of her physically. The goal of our film was at first to show their interdependence as mother and daughter and changes of the roles of caretaker between them but as time passed by we realized that I had to be included in the film as well because the reality took over and reality is stronger that any preset storyboard. So it became a story of three generations of women of the same family, their relationship and connection but also about them letting go of each other.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The audience should see the film because it is a unique opportunity to see the insight of a very intimate personal story but at the same time it shows life and obstacles which we all are fighting, everyone in their own specific ways. The film is difficult to watch in a sense that we as people don’t like to see the pain and sorrow or so called depth of life on the big screen and we also like to avoid or postpone our problems but on the other hand, there is so much love and warmth between these characters and generally inside this film which can force you to start thinking about your own life and your own behavior towards people around you, especially your family. No matter what age you are.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
This is a personal story between three different generations in one family, between three women. Women who are adults and have their own lives but as well they are connected through their family roles as a mother, daughter and a grandmother. It is very interesting how these roles change through the film but what happens in the film is also what is happening in real life. We all start as someone’s daughter and end up as being a caretaker to our mother/father. We all grow old day by day and we all have to accept that fact and we have responsibility not to ourselves but to the people we love. This is also a film about unselfishness and love which is very important message in today’s society where people are getting lonelier and avoid facing and thinking about it.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
The script changed a lot during our filming because the health condition of my grandmother got worse and it was difficult for me as a grandchild to watch her fade away in front of my eyes. It took almost three years to make this film and the ending is different from the storyboard that we imagined at the beginning. My grandmother wanted to go away and my mother and I just couldn't accept that fact. My mother was doing everything to make her physically better and I did my best with Tomislava to entertain her and make her emotionally better. We just didn't want to accept that it was more difficult for her to be alive then to leave us. At the end of the shooting we found ourselves with more than 30 hours of material that we needed to edit in order to tell our story. This film was most certainly created in editing room and not before.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Abidance has been touring the festivals all over the world for several months now, some of them being the Gallup Film Festival in New Mexico, Vox Femine Film Festival in Zagreb, Tour Film Festival in Rome, SMR 13 Film Festival in France, Mediterranean Film Festival Split, Cabo Verde International Film Festival, etc. and the feedback has been very positive so far. A lot of times people just thank us for making this film, it touches them on a very deep, personal level. Very special to us is also an audience award which ‘Abidance’ received at the International Documentary Festival of Ierapetra in Greece as well as the Jury award at Festival Novih in Slavonski Brod.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It is amazing how people can connect over a certain subject and identify no matter where they’re from, what age they are or what their life situation is. In the end, we are all human with family bonds and connections, we are all mortal and we all need to find our own way to deal with it. This universality which unites us as human beings is something beautiful and timeless which never seizes to amaze.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We would like to reach as many people as possible with this film. Unfortunately, in today's modern world and society when everything is so fast and we lack time, people don’t want or like to think about subjects of ageing or death, especially of their closest loved ones. In some cases, people don’t even find enough time to spend with their parents and family. If we manage that, after watching the film, people stop for a minute and think about their family and relationships with each other and start spending more time building stronger bonds between themselves, we could happily say that our goal was achieved.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We would like the film to reach as many people as possible, to have it shown at as many film festivals as possible and also later to be distributed to different TV stations. This is why it would be great to have different professionals on board from all over the world, from distributors and sales agents to journalists, who could help us promote the film and reach a broad audience.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
As already mentioned, this subject is universal and we are very pleased with the reception the film has received and the feedback we've heard. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible and if we manage that, after watching the film, people can stop for a minute and think about their family and relationships within and start spending more time with one other building stronger bonds between themselves, we would be very happy and forever grateful.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
We are amazed by reactions of people who have seen the film. It is not about the debate but about how people see this film. People just say thank you for making this film or say that it made them cry. But it is interesting how they don’t know how to explain the reasons for their reactions or how they don’t want to talk about them. We think it is very difficult in general to start a debate on subjects like illness, death or not having the will to live anymore. We are young but we do think about it and we think we should be talking more about it, about life in general. Not just having pink glasses on our head and behaving like it’s not our business.
Would you like to add anything else?
We would like to thank all the people who helped and supported us in any way and are still doing that.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am working in Brussels on different audiovisual and film projects as a director and an editor. Future documentary projects will most certainly be involving migration crises in Belgium and different parts of world.
Tomislava Jukic is living in Poland, Warsaw and currently writing a script for a short fiction film.
Interview: December 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
For whom is it harder, the ones who leave or the ones who stay.
Anja Strelec, Tomislava Jukic
Vanja Jambrovic, Tibor Keser
Anja Strelec, Tomislava Jukic
Iva Galovic, Tvrtko Hrelec
About the writer, director and producer:
Anja Strelec is a documentary film director, TV journalist and editor originally from Croatia but living and working in Brussels, Belgium. She is a film selector of FIFB 2016 in Brussels.
Tomislava Jukic is a documentary filmmaker and a lawyer originally from Croatia, currently living and working in Warsaw, Poland.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors and journalists.
Funders: Croatian audiovisual center
Made in association with:
Production company Restart
Where will it screen in the next month?
Free Net World Film Fest, Niš, Serbia
Screenings: MEDITERRANEAN FILM FESTIVAL SPLIT 2016, Split, CRO - special program / premiere (9.6.2016) SMR 13 FILM FESTIVAL 2016, Manare Saint Mitre Les Remparts, France INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL OF IERAPETRA, Greece FESTIVAL NOVIH, Slavonski Brod, Croatia JAHORINA FILM FESTIVAL, Bosnia and Hercegovina GALLUP FILM FESTIVAL, New Mexico TOUR FILM FESTIVAL, Rome CABO VERDE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL VOXFEMINE FILM FESTIVAL, Zagreb(Croatia) Headline International Film Festival (United States) ERIE FILM FESTIVAL (UNITED STATES) Next festivals: Free net world, Serbia Varazdin, Croatia SPECIAL SCREENINGS: Oporto Superior Artístic School - ESAP (Porto, Portugal) ESAV - École Supérieure d'AudioVisuel (Toulouse, France).