Film director Nikola Vukcevic (The Kids from the Marx and Engels street) was interviewed by the British The New Current following film final entry of the European Independent Film Festival ECU in Paris, France.

The Kids from the Marx and Engels Street is a new drama from acclaimed director Nikola Vukčević and was selected as Montenegrin’s 2014 entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards.

Nikola, thanks for talking to tNC, how have things been going?

Nice, waiting for a Paris projection of ‘The Kids …’, it’s great thing, isn’t it?

The reaction to your feature has been amazing… has it been surprised you the response your films has been getting?

Huuh, .. when you work on film, your expectations are always between success and disaster, between gold and mud, or – as we says in the Balkans – between honey and tears. And I’m totally sure that in that way feels every director in the world, including me. But, thank you for your impressions about our ‘The Kids from The Marx and Engels Street’.

How does it feel to be part of the ECU Film Festival 2015?

It is a great experience to participate in that event (and even more when you realize – that only four films are in our category, European Dramatic Features), it is important not only for me personally, but also for Montenegro and the new generation of young Montenegrin film-makers. I hope that could be good start for all the other Montenegrin directors, who work hardly on their film, in next years.

Are any nerves setting in ahead of your screening?

I believe – all ‘the film matter’ is about setting the nerves, but – to the audience. Nerves and hopes.

Whats the most exciting part of being able to share your film with festival audiences?

It is waiting for the response.

What has been the biggest challenges you’ve faced putting your film together?

Sometimes – I think it was the production (because it is practically financially hard to make a film in Montenegro), but sometimes I think it is in a way trying to make balance in all layers of the story, all layers of the topic, more than 20 years of events of one family in the film. But today I am happy and calm about it, because we worked a lot to make it simple and understandable. On the other side, about production – ‘The Kids’ are co-production, between a lot of partners: under support of Montenegrin Ministry of Culture, then with co production with National Television of Montenegro and several Montenegrin private film production companies; Galileo Production, Artikulacija, OR production, Montenegro SAT, Croatian Embrio Production Zagreb, with support of Croatian National Film Fund HAVC, friendly supported with Serbian Cinnamon Production an Slovenian Arkadena Studio – great friends of our film.

Co-productions are common today everywhere in the world, not just of these financial reasons – it is force of friends with shared vision, and I am great admirer of that, to live our films together. I believe that the years of Balkan (ex Yugoslavia) animosities have passed, and that we have to return to what it is that makes up the so-called Balkan soul, its common denominators, in order to satisfy the interests of the cinema market. It seems to me that we all have something to offer to each other. There are more things connecting us than those dividing us. My previews feature ‘A View from the Eiffel Tower’ was the first co-production of the ex-Yugoslav countries! Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia jointly made the film, just few years after wars in Balkan, and it was truly unusual and unexpected eleven years ago. But, it was efficient. I believed at the time that it was a good solution, and today, I consider it even better.

Tell me a little bit about ‘The Kids from Marx and Engeles Street’, how did the film come about?

Well… ‘The Kids from The Marx and Engels Street’ is a story about youth of two brothers: in the same night – older brother, Stanko (30), is going to kill a man for a first time – and his 16-years brother Vojo is going to make love for the first time. Making this film, we wonted to put many things between two brothers, which will cross them on that important night, and – will review the meanings of terms: family, trust, youth, loyalty and priority. We wonted to make film about that: what seems to be easy – it is not at all at Balkans, trying to find what is the price of being filled with satisfaction.

Actually, The Kids …’ is a story about growing up and parents, about certain parents. Above all, it is about mothers. About mothers who knew how to make very hard decisions while managing to preserve the honor and honesty of their families. Our society has inherited patriarchal values, while crucially not appreciating what the mother has always done in the Montenegrin family. Although, this is not only the case with the Montenegrin family, I believe that it is an issue in the entire ex Yugoslavia region, our Balkan (Balkan – turkish: honey and tears).

Truly, there is a symbolism in that name. The Balkans is our joint denominator, not only geographically: its total experience is sweet honey mixed with tears. Our movie is about personal history, as opposite side of collective history – as fact. Balkan people – knows a lot about those two histories: intimate and collective history. During the last twenty years the history has been relentlessly and violently unfolding on the Balkans: wars, revolutions, strikes, violent government changes, fight for survival, murders, criminal, corruption, twisted system of values. In the shadow of these events, on their margins, are the personal histories of young people: first kisses, emotional growth, first and true loves are thwarted (and hatred, intolerance, vengeance…), twisted by the circumstances in their surroundings.

This film places at the centre stage young people whose personal histories have no alternative and whose hopes and desires are stronger than the circumstances that divide them. In the search for their goals – they will learn more than they hoped for. Two brothers, Vojo and Stanko, will reveal more than they set out to know, with more than 20 other characters, as a metaphor of way of living in post-transition Montenegro (independent since 2006), as the youngest UN country.

One of the film’s “characters” is the city of Podgorica itself. The capital of sometimes almost unknown country Montenegro (it was Former Yugoslavia, up to 2006) is undergoing transformation from old to new, from province to a capital, unsure of its own value but certain of its existence in its specificity, through its urban myths that have not yet been told cinematographically. This will, no doubt, be of interest to international audiences.

What was the hardest scene for you to film?

Hehe, there wasn’t hardest scene, all the film was hard, because of very complicated financially situation in our national film fond budget (but we succeeded, after all, with support of Ministry of Culture).

But, I totally enjoined in work with actors, with great actor talents of ex Yugoslavia: Momcilo Otasevic, Goran Bogdan, Emir Hadzihafisbegovic, Ana Sofrenovic, Nebojsa Glogovac, Branka Stanic, Branimir Popovic, Petar Pozovic, Andjela Micanovic, Fatmir Spahiu, Julija Milacic, all of them from all the regia of ex Yugoslavia … for some scenes we made serious rehearsals, like in the theater, for few months. Especially with the kids. And with kids is about 40% of the film. With them we made rehearsals for more than half a year, every day, and I enjoined. Also, in editing, with my great editor and Asistent director (my ex student) – Srdjan Dido Stanojevic, and great supervisor Snezana Ivanovic, professor of editing at Faculty of Dramatic Arts Belgrade.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

Huuh… I was co-writter, director and producer. Always could be differently, but I am satisfied with final content of our film.

Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

I grew up at rehearsals in the City Theatre Podgorica, where my father was actor. In that time of my boyhood I was fascinated with theatre. Even today I remember the darkness in these modest rooms, through which we wandered during the rehearsals, I remember the darkness just before the beginning of a play, then the floodlights… the smell of the theatre auditorium, as well as the wardrobe, the set…

However, genes did influence me, whether I wanted it or not (for that reason, my wife and I often say that it would be good to stop that ill fortune at our generation and preserve our two kids from influence of our ‘inappropriate’ genes of dramatic arts). I was studying both film direction and theater direction, because I was interested in both of that. Both segments are now part of me, I love both of them. Ten years later – I was elected to be Artistic director in Podgorica City Theatre, the same one where all the magic started. And I have spent seven years as the head of artistic department (for more than 25 theatre projects, which was very demanding) and that love towards the theatre has distanced me from film in a certain way. But, I bealive it is Ok. I found something with the actors – what I can not find without theatre, and without City Theatre Podgorica, so I am satisfied.

What has been the most valuable lesson youve learned so far?

I recently turned 40 and I think it is the time to “put on the brakes”. I have been part of the same action, the same fight since 1994, when I first enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Novi Sad. So far, I have always been giving, now I want to deal with myself a bit and with my own wishes. This is what I learned, I need to listen to my body sometimes (I am not so young any more), this times.

Who have been your biggest inspirations?

It is a long story, and it is not so complicated – we have two kids together now.

Do you have a favourite film quote?

‘I like the smell of napalm, in the morning’ from Apocalypse Now.

And finally what do you hope people will take away from your film?

That is a good question, I will think about it.

Interview link

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