Famous Serbian and Hollywood director Predrag Gaga Antonijević speaks for Reminder regarding the beginning of the movie shooting Dara from Jasenovac (Dara iz Jasenovca). The work on the first great movie about the concentration camp Jasenovac is being prepared according to the script signed by Natasa Drakulić, directed by our interlocutor. The title of the movie is referring to the image of a girl Dara from Kozara who, together with her two brothers, mother and many other children and their parents, were taken to the concentration camp established by the authorities of the Independent State of Croatia, during the Second World War. The character of Dara is played by eleven-year-old Biljana Džekić. The movie premiere will be presented in the spring of 2020 when it marks 75 years since the liberation of Jasenovac.
Over the past years you have been very much present in domestic cinematography. You directed TV seriers My Father’s Murderers (Ubice mog oca) and the Civil servant (Državni službenik). The movie Zaspanka za vojnike had a premiere at the end of 2018, and now you are announcing the beginning of the movie about the Jasenovac concentration camp. What was the most inspirational for you?
Now, and when I say it, I am not referring only to myself, but to everyone involved in this film, definitely Jasenovac is the main project. It is a big and demanding challenge and a very, very difficult and complex project – both for the theme and for the organization of the shooting. First of all, we need to find people, among them children, although we have already found children, the main actors. Now a lot of people, both actors and statists, need to be employed, which could appear in a World War II camp movie. People in the camps looked significantly different from people today and we will have to make a very precise choice.
Both movies, and the Zaspanka za vojnike and the movie about Jasenovac, are dealing with extremely serious and very emotional questions. In both cases, these are national epics, which implies enormous responsibility and much courage is needed for such undertaking.
During the shooting of Zaspanka za vojnike, we already had plans for the shooting of the movie about Jasenovac, because we want to get in touch with these bigger and more capitalized, and little or not at all-covered movie topics, which are very important for Serbia. I am looking at Zaspanka za vojnike, but so I see Jasenovac, as a kind of education film, especially young people. These things have been forgotten and I think that this film about Jasenovac camp is needed, as it may be needed for someone in the region to start a normal dialogue in the Balkans.
Will the character of Dijana Budisavljević appear in the movie?
She will only appear at one point as a historical figure, but the movie about Dijana Budisavljević has already been made, which is Schindler’s List. It would be ridiculous doing something Spielberg had already done. That’s one reason. The other reason is that this is the first movie about Jasenovac, it’s not a movie about how they saved us – but about how they killed us. So, I have to do the first movie on the subject of the Jasenovac camp, so someday someone should continue develop another topic.
How did you prepare to work on this movie? What was your basic literature?
Nataša Drakulić, scenery writer, has studied all available sources. Books written about this and the authentic testimonies of people who were in the camp. This was our basic starting point, but in this case, it is important not to make a rough counterfeit of historical facts. The essence of the film is not storytelling, but the awakening of the emotions arising from the tragedy and anatomy of that crime – the genocide committed against us.
I’m going to ask you now about something regarding the recently broadcasted TV series Civil Servant. Is the Serbian society convenient that is, inspiring to shoot a spy thriller?
In our country, this so-called SDB or “service” is present both in the conversations of ordinary people, and in many events. That’s exactly what has provided plenty of material and inspiration to make one such TV series. I have to say that the success of the Civil Servant is not surprising, because the series thematically deals with something that is a common story in taverns, houses … There are always these whispers, because this is a topic that intrigues people.
How much does the story correspond with something real? Have you had anyone to consult with?
Some real elements, of course, are present. Still, I’m dealing with a business that is oriented to the production of entertainment. So, you have to look at it in that manner. Of course, you’re always a little encouraged or inspired by an idea, the story you’ve been talking about. In general, our goal is to create a fun and high-quality program for viewers.
Have you watched Scandinavian crime movies, such as The Beck, The Bridge?
I did, because I’m watching all the important series. I try to put what I do in a set of world trends. Therefore, I also think that My Father’s Murderers series and the Civil Servant have pushed the borders of television production with us, because they are generally respected, that is, the world standards.
Do you think that the Civil servant is a globally acceptable TV series?
We’ll see very soon. The civil servant falls into the domain of spy thrillers, and spy thrillers involve a more complex premise than crime TV series where the focus is on murder and who killed it. Spy thrillers mean a political context. Each series must be self-explanatory, you cannot load it with local terms that are understandable only to domestic viewers. This is the case with American movies, where it does not matter if there is anything with local color, but whether the series is self-explanatory, whether they are needed or not pre-knowledge outside of this series.
Your experience from abroad is vast and it must be useful in Serbia.
I have worked for a long time in a system in which certain rules and discipline are respected, in which the budget is previously known. I think that now we have managed to achieve a high industrial standard here, which is why we are all very happy. It’s known when you start, you know when you’re done and people can rightly organize their working days and their vacations. So we try to eject a product that will be our trademark and achieve a high standard.
Would you separate someone from younger actors as particularly gifted? As you have long ago revealed Nataša Ninković, with whom you have been cooperating since The Savior.
I cannot separate anyone because there is a lot of talented actors. It is important to just discover to whom particular role suits the best, that is, it is important to find the one that is best for a certain character, for a certain place. We have many good actors, and Nataša is an old associate.
You have worked with Hollywood actors, is their approach different?
No, that’s all the same. The actor is always an actor.