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Ana Maria Rossi, Film and Television Director

Film Can Change the World

I’m not used to writing of myself that I’m a lady film and television director, a lady screenwriter… Nor do I use the words lady psychologist or lady sociologist… Nor ‘architectress’ – it doesn’t matter to me how architect is translated into the female language. That absolute political correctness at all costs, which supposedly proves gender equality, didn’t reach me

It’s somehow too formal, almost violent, and I’ve always thought – because I was raised as such – that I’m essentially equal in this world. I’m not just saying this in passing, but rather with the intention of stating that, from the start of my directing career, I’ve explained that I have no problems in this profession due to my being female, and that I don’t consider it a great compliment when someone tells me that I have a ‘male brain’.

After almost two decades of work, the past year brought me great success with the film Ajvar, which I directed after having conceived the story. According to the television critic of the RTS Culture daily, my film Ajvar was the greatest cinematic surprise of the last year. According to the choice of the film critic of daily Politika (or film critics, to be absolutely precise), Ajvar was the best Serbian film of 2019! I would close that circle with the 19 awards that Ajvar won at the film festivals of last summer and autumn, and the reviews that would leave no author feeling indifferent.

Intimately, the success for me was that I was able to make the kind of film that I conceived and wanted to make, in which I didn’t make calculations and play to the audience, and audiences that were beyond my expectations came. Gorčin Stojanović, my fellow director and artistic director of the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, wrote that Ajvar is one of the five most ‘Belgrade’ films in Yugoslav cinematography. Alongside the films of Vladimir Pogačić, Srđan Karanović and Goran Marković. That especially touched me, because I grew up on Vračar and love the Belgrade that I tried to preserve in my film.

I’ve read these days that Neda Arnerić said during her lifetime: “You have in American or French film great roles dedicated to the female soul, which are played by actresses in their mature years. With us, emotional life on film has become an unprecedented luxury!”

For others, globalisation is to blame for everything, but it always seems to me that a person has themselves to blame if they don’t fight for what they care about

I believe that Neda primarily meant that for years, or even decades, no one had offered her a role that would show that female soul of mature years. However, regardless of personal judgement, the truth is that the emotional life in film is an incidental occurrence with us. It’s as though that’s not a story that belongs to people in Serbia, today and here.

I could wonder who took our soul? It seems to me that this was the history that has entered our lives so aggressively in recent decades. We can never find respite from constant ideological, religious and national conflicts, and finally from the war in the middle of Europe during the 1990s. For others, globalisation is to blame for everything, but it always seems to me that a person has themselves to blame if they don’t fight for what they care about.

Take a look at how Pedro Almodóvar fought for that with his film Pain and Glory. He made a film that hits the heart, stomach and kidneys, and one must have great skill and courage to, in such a dignified way, pierce the abdomen, to get naked and not humiliate oneself, to burst with emotion and not end up entering into the pathetic.

I still consider, probably naively and without assurances, that film can change the world. Or that it can at least make it a little better; that it can compel one to think even when it hurts; to force one to question one’s own values and meaning; to show one how to tolerate life in this time on the edge; that it can entice someone to shed a tear that will convince them that they are not alone in this life, which – like many others – they did not choose, but endure.

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