Mila Turajlić • Director, producer, Dribbling Pictures
"Threats that may have seemed unique for our part of the world are rearing their head everywhere"
- We have interviewed Serbian director and producer Mila Turajlić, who has been selected as one of the 2019 Producers on the Move
Serbian director and producer Mila Turajlić broke out with her 2010 documentary Cinema Komunisto, which world-premiered at IDFA, and followed it with The Other Side of Everything [+see also:
interview: Mila Turajlić
film profile], which triumphed at the festival in 2017. She is now in editing on her third feature, The Labudovic Files. Producing for her outfit Dribbling Pictures, she has now been selected as one of the 2019 Producers on the Move by European Film Promotion.
Cineuropa: How do you combine the roles of director and producer? What does it mean for a documentary filmmaker?
Mila Turajlić: There are times when combining the two roles is natural and I think serves the project well - particularly relating to creative decisions that are very dependent on the budget, such as additional shooting days or deciding on the length of the editing period, and what can be sacrificed in order to give the film the extra time needed in the editing room. Of course, time spent on the production aspects of the film can sometimes ‘pollute’ a more free way of 'dreaming the film' or the organic relationship with the material. And definitely, going through the financing process of pitching and feedback can be a harsh experience, and can be bruising for the director in you. Still, I feel that when both producing and directing you have an important awareness of the cost of creative liberty. An understanding of which ways of financing a film will give you full artistic independence, and which, perhaps more interesting, production structures, such as international co-productions, come with creative requirements, such as collaborators, delivery deadlines, etc.
What is your impression of the current position of Serbian and Balkan documentary cinema in the international context? Are there any trends that are recognizable and how do documentaries from this region fit into them?
I feel like a generation has come of age that is turning our recent past into cinematic stories that examine and translate what we lived through for international audiences, but also, importantly, for younger audiences in the region as well. It was a period which was marked by our political and civilisational disconnect from the rest of the world, and it feels like it is finally being digested into narratives in which we are grounding our identity. At the same time filmmakers are finding ways to realize the essence of that turbulence, and make our experience universally meaningful for audiences in times where threats that may have seemed unique for our part of the world are rearing their head everywhere.
For me, documentaries are one of the most exciting forms in which this evolution can be seen, particularly in first-person documentaries, that start from the personal and intimate, but also in some amazing formal explorations in which filmmakers and artists are re-visiting archival images. I think this is being recognized in the international context, with really impressive achievements by local filmmakers at international festivals, but also in independent distribution.
Tell us about your new project, The Labudovic Files.
It is a documentary that tells the story of the birth of the Non-Aligned Movement through the incredible life of Stevan Labudović, the cameraman of Yugoslav president Tito. Stevan followed Tito on his extraordinary voyages by boat to India, Indonesia, Burma, Ethiopia and the west coast of Africa, filming up-close the first encounters between the leaders of decolonialisation. Tito, Nasser, Nehru, Nkrumah, Sukarno, Modibo Keita - all on 35mm film archives that we revisit with insight from Stevan who takes us behind the scenes of how he shot them. Stevan’s life took an spectacular twist when the President sent him to support the struggle of the FLN in Algeria by filming their war of decolonisation. He spent three years filming the war, after which he became known as the ‘cinematic eye of the Algerian war’. Labudović's cinematic engagement with liberation movements would later expand to filming in Mozambique and Angola, and at heart we are looking at how the cinematic image shaped the narrative of the Third World.
We are working with extraordinary archival material, which I hope will also revalorize the place Yugoslavia had in the map of liberation cinema, and we hope to finish the film by early 2020.
What do you expect from participating in Producers on the Move?
It’s my first time attending the Cannes Film Festival, and I am looking forward to meeting fellow producers and discovering their projects, finding opportunities for international collaborations and insight into the trends for evolving forms like documentary and series right now.
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