Turn off the lights

By • on August 20, 2012

Turn off the Lights is a movie directed by Ivana Mladenović that was awarded the Heart of Sarajevo for best documentary film at the recently finished Sarajevo Film Festival.

The film, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows the story of three young Roma from Romania released after several years in juvenile detention who have to learn about life on the other side of the bars. After presenting the reasons why they ended up in prison, as well as their former lives they are now returning to: their families, relationships and position in the community, property and all those essential factors that influence their lives, the author tries to discover where they will go from here.

As she emphasizes, at one point it became obvious that one of the protagonists, Papan, will find himself behind bars again, while the same thing would never happen again to Gyani. So the story continues to follow the charismatic Alex who talks in a harrowing way about violence, his relationships with women, and feelings of guilt. At the end, the viewer is uncertain where such views will take Alex.

˝At first I was not aware of what kind of problematic issues I started dealing with… but I nevertheless decided to make this movie. I didn´t want to make a confessional documentary, since addressing social issues in a movie makes sense only when such issues are approached from an artistic point of view˝, said Mladenović at the DocuCorner forum (the scene for  discussions on the documentary films presented at the SFF).

It is not easy to find the people for a story like this one and to gain their trust to make them publically and honestly talk about their lives. So according to Ivana Mladenović, the biggest challenge was finding the truth.

The protagonists Gyani and Papan took part in the movie directed by Florin Serbana If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, and that is how the author established connections with them. As for the more difficult part of making this movie, gaining the trust of the protagonists, the young director was more than successful, as confirmed by the award she received at this year´s film festival in Sarajevo.

Given the fact that the protagonist of the story, Alex, served a prison sentence for killing his girlfriend, and that the time he spent in prison didn’t help him come to his senses, the author  faced the unavoidable question after the screening: ´´Did you feel fear while making the movie?´´. Mladenović answered: ´´I was never afraid that something might happen to me. I was only concerned about the fate of these guys should they retain the same lifestyle.´´

Ivana Mladenović was born and raised in the small Serbian town of Kladovo where she got an opportunity to get an insight into the Roma community. For the past six years she has lived in Bucharest where she moved to study at the UNATC I.L. Caragiale in the Directing Department.

As the Roma community in Romania is quite numerous, the inspiration for the new movie is working on becomes clear. To be more precise, her next film will be titled Blue Flower, and it will center on a Roma musician who is marginalized by his own community.

The film Just the Wind directed by Bence Fliegauf was also screened within the In Focus Programme of this year´s Sarajevo Film Festival. This story, inspired by a true event, deals with the racism and xenophobia targeting the Roma in Hungary. This movie received three awards at this year’s Berlinale – the Berlin Silver Bear (Jury Grand Prix), the Peace Film Award and the Amnesty International Film Prize.