Nermin Hamzagić • Director of Full Moon
“I had the urge to speak about the dysfunctional society in Bosnia”
- We spoke to Nermin Hamzagić, who is competing at the Zagreb Film Festival with Full Moon, a socially aware thriller that is also nominated for the EFA Award in the European Discovery competition
Nermin Hamzagić (34) graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo. After directing several documentaries and shorts, he helmed his first feature, Full Moon [+see also:
interview: Nermin Hamzagić
film profile], which premiered at Cottbus last year, where its lead, Alban Ukaj, won the Award for Outstanding Actor, while the film itself won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. Since its premiere, Full Moon has been screened at a number of festivals regionally and globally. It is also nominated for the European Discovery Award at the forthcoming European Film Awards. We sat down with Hamzagić at Full Moon's latest festival stop, the Zagreb Film Festival, where it is competing for the Golden Pram.
Cineuropa: Full Moon is a very ambitious project. How long did you have the story in your mind before you started working on the film?
Nermin Hamzagić: I had all those stories in mind, as well as the urge to speak about the dysfunctional society in Bosnia, which is still caught in a perpetual state of transition. I thought about a way to put all of those separate stories into a coherent whole, together with producer Amra Bakšić Čamo, who tried to find some kind of common ground between my cinematic ambition and the reality of the moment when I decided to start filming.
What was the research process like? How much of the film's content is based on real events and anecdotes – from the news, for instance?
The stories in the movie are a reflection of the reality I live in. My co-screenwriter Emina Omerović and I researched the stories from the newspapers, but also from the lives of people around us. The story of the old lady whose children have left for the West in search of a better life is the story of many people in this part of Europe. Sick people are trying to “crowdfund” their medical treatment. The younger generations are trying to find their place in this unjust society. Crime and corruption are also present in more developed societies. The actors visited police stations and the ambulance service to do their own research, and the final screenplay was a joint effort based on research and improvisation.
Did you have the cast in mind beforehand?
Not completely, but some of the actors were cast pretty early on. I called them in for my project before I even had the screenplay, based on the story outline. I wanted them to join in with the research for the roles they were about to play. That is the advantage of a small film industry: everybody is available and willing to take part. I also relied on my casting director, Timka Grahić, who made her own suggestions. I was lucky to be able to work with the actors, who supported me and tried to relieve me of the pressure of making a debut feature as much as they possibly could.
Alban Ukaj is exceptional in the film. What was your approach to working with him?
Alban is an extremely talented actor and a dedicated professional with an impeccable sense of rhythm and measure. We are from similar generations and have comparable world views – you could say that we live in the same reality. His experience in film and his trust meant a lot to me. The research and the rehearsals before the filming process also helped a lot; we continued the research process on set.
The atmosphere is deftly controlled and well balanced between reality and the dream- and nightmare-like sequences. What filmmakers and films served as influences for you?
My cinematographer, Amel Đikoli, and I were looking for references in order to strike a balance between genre and arthouse cinema so as to create our own cinematic world. We moved between the likes of Alejandro G Iñárritu, David Fincher, Cristi Puiu and so on. Also, in the domestic context, the influences were, among others, Aida Begić and Danis Tanović. There are a lot of filmmakers whose work we saw and tried to learn something from.
How does it feel to earn an EFA nomination with your debut feature?
I am proud that the film has been recognised and that it is part of a fantastic selection. It is a huge success for all of us. It’s an honour to be a part of the EFA family. I hope that it will prolong the film’s life and draw in more of an audience.
Are you preparing any other projects?
I am working on the script for my next feature. The subject is the position of female workers in the transition economy and post-industrial capitalism, which looks like modern slavery. I am searching for the path to liberation through the story. Also, I’m working on an animated short set in the dystopian future of Sarajevo, together with visual artist Enis Čišić. This is the first time that I have been involved in animation, so I am very excited.
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