A locked door inside a Belgrade apartment has kept one family separated from their past for over 70 years. As the filmmaker begins an intimate conversation with her mother, the political fault line running through their home reveals a house and a country haunted by history. The chronicle of a family in Serbia turns into a searing portrait of an activist in times of great turmoil, questioning the responsibility of each generation to fight for their future.
A word from Tënk
“If someone is going to change this, it’ll have to be your generation,” the film’s main subject, renowned activist to some, great traitor to others, and most of all, in this case, filmmaker Mila Turajlić’s dear mother Srbijanka Turajlić, declares to her daughter. As much as the film is a portrait of Srbijanka and her’s life’s work, it is also most certainly a portrait of a mother by her daughter, of that daughter finding her own place in the story through her act of filmmaking, and as such, a portrait of a relationship, of a family, of a home both physical and metaphoric, of its lack, as well as of all that is intentionally or unintentionally transmited inter-generationally. Through puffs of her ubiquitous cigarettes, Srbijanka eloquently if reluctantly narrates her family’s story and her own trajectory in life, almost always held in the locus of her Belgrade apartment, and in so doing, she narrates, also, the story of her struggling city, of her failed revolution, of her lost Yugoslavia.
The title insinuates that there are two sides to a story, but I would argue that the film depicts that there are indeed infinite fractal sides to everyone and everything; in the words of a dinner guest in the film, “two Serbs, three opinions.” It is perhaps endemic to all post-conflict contexts that the human brain struggles to simultaneously hold multiple story lines and points of view—or, perhaps it is this struggle that, intellectually, actually leads us straight into the throes of conflict to begin with? The strong-willed Turajlić women give us no easy answers, either way, though they do brilliantly transmit a clear sense of what responsibility to each other, to people and to place, to the next generation looks like.
Writer, translator, programmer, cinephile