“The complexity of a disorder”: Svetislav Dragomirovic on They are people, they are nobody | Director’s magazine

“The complexity of a disorder”: Svetislav Dragomirovic on They are people, they are nobody |  Director's magazine

by Svetislav Dragomirovic They are people, they are nobody

First work by Svetislav Dragomirovic They are people, they are nobody it’s a movie I wasn’t prepared to watch. From DOC NYC’s coy synopsis, we learn that it’s the story of a 60-year-old retired Serbian porn actor named Stevan who found himself stuck, Kafka-style, in a Maltese prison, charged with indecent exposure. What we don’t learn from that brief description is that Stevan is actually Dragomirovic’s father-in-law, and that the director has received a series of “audio letters” that Stevan had sent from prison, which form the basis of They are people, they are nobody, an experimental collage that takes us on a shocking journey through Stevan’s twisted (and often twisted) mind.

To find out more about the project, including dealing with a family member suffering from one of society’s most taboo ailments, Movie director reached out to the Belgrade-born director-producer soon after the film’s Nov. 16 premiere at DOC NYC.

Movie director: How did you first come across these “audio letters” and decide to use them as the basis for a film?

Dragomirovic: For the first time in my life, I wasn’t looking for history, but history found me. The protagonist of the film, my father in law, was arrested for public display in Malta. He contacted me from prison asking for help. Since he couldn’t send any letters, he thought it would be a good idea to talk about his problems on the phone, so we could record them and then send those recordings to different NGOs on his behalf in an effort to help fight the his case.

At first, I was completely shocked by what he was talking about. Disgusted, even. But as we continued to talk and as I continued to listen, I realized there was so much more to the story than her. What caught my eye was that public exposure made him feel “alive and visible again.” He was lonely and miserable and he had begun to die from within. Instead of fighting, he let the darkness consume him. It’s something I feel all of us, or most of us, can relate to. It’s hard to fight your inner demons, and this movie is partly about that.

Movie director: What do your family, including Stevan, think about you making a movie that could very well be seen as airing dirty laundry in public? Have you ever worried that the doctor might just serve as another platform for Stevan’s pathological attention-seeking?

Dragomirovic: The laundry was already done, hung out in the yard for the neighbors to see, before we even started shooting the film. It was difficult for all of us to talk about it, but it was important not to let this topic, still taboo, disappear.

I spent a lot of time discussing with the film’s editor, Nemanja Mlojević, how to deal with it. We came to the conclusion that since exhibitionism is a strong desire to be observed by other people, we “observed” it. In this particular case, we would be listening to him. It was very important to me to create a platform where he was free enough to say whatever he wanted.

What happened is that he used this platform to lie to defend himself. At the same time, she used it to openly talk about her problem and admit what she had done. Once he did, he started feeling guilty, hating the new version of himself. From then on, he begins to bury himself in a pile of lies. In the end, the movie isn’t about whether he’s right or wrong. It is about the complexity of a disorder, its effect on one’s behavior and how we as the public react to it.

Movie director: I found myself completely captivated by the combination of hypnotic artistic imagery and the truly haunting voiceover that structures the film. Which made me wonder if you bothered to avoid “beautifying” the images and potentially diminishing the ugliness of Stevan’s words.

Dragomirovic: It was difficult to go down this route, but to create the full effect – to paint a roller coaster of emotions and cause unpleasantness – we had to do it this way. I could only make assumptions about what was going on in his head, and that’s how I represented it. It is a film made of broken expressionistic images.

Movie director: The other aspect that makes Stevan’s story so ethically problematic is the fact that he found himself trapped in the notoriously corrupt Maltese judicial system. In other words, he’s a guilty man who still can’t get a fair trial, a liar who tells the truth about injustice. He also reminded me of the difficult situation facing terrorist suspects detained at Guantanamo. How do you reconcile the desire to help a betrayed family member who also needs social distancing?

Dragomirovic: As I said before, we all need space to talk. Much of his space was occupied by the story of the corrupt judicial system in Malta. It is evident that it does not work properly and therefore it does no one any good. My mission here was to try to create an environment that was sensitizing for him. I can only imagine the trauma those children – his victims – went through, but I’m not a proponent of ostracism. What I would like most is for They are people, they are nobody encourage public discourse on a taboo subject and, in turn, help release those traumas.

Movie director: Did you consult with any psychiatrists who specialize in Stevan’s ailments during production? Do you plan to involve the medical community and/or families with relatives like Stevan in future screenings?

Dragomirovic: We had thought about including the medical community from the start. We also contacted a couple of psychiatry and psychological publications, and got a few of them to engage beyond just giving us literature to read. The general opinion was that it was difficult to give any kind of diagnosis without getting in touch with Stevan personally, which was impossible.

We also reached out to several organizations dealing with traumatic sexual experiences to see if they saw any value in the film or a chance to use it as an awareness tool. We certainly haven’t given up on the idea of ​​including the medical community. Currently, with the film just starting its festival tour, we are applying for distribution funding. We still want to build on this potential audience.

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