Interview by: Vanja RatkovićNemanja Babić

Jasna Đuričić, actress: There is great fear in an ordinary man who censors himself in advance

For Jasna Đuričić, being awarded the Best Actress Award at the 34th European Film Awards was preceded by an opulent career comprising of numerous roles in films that mostly discussed the topics that are never spoken of, an exceptionally rich body of theater work the regional audience will mostly remember for Janežić’s “Seagull” in which, for six hours, she delivers an outstanding performance as well as her professorship at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad.

Jasna Đuričić, one of Europe’s most significant contemporary actresses, won the award for the leading
role in the film “Quo Vadis, Aida” by Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić. There is hardly anyone who could be a better choice for incorporating a woman who, in a completely dehumanized reality, a few hours before the Srebrenica genocide and alongside all her professional duties as an interpreter, attempts to save her own family and then, having lost everything, to return to the place that caused her so much pain, meet the people who participated in the crimes and move on with her life.

Believing that art is a space for reflection and subversive action, with an obligatory open view of reality and the people around us, she joined this film project, doing what was important for her, as always. She is never concerned with presumptions about what happens later and this also applies in this case when “later” envisages a lack of readiness for this film to be shown in Serbia.

Photo by: Nemanja Maraš

“One never knows how an artistic product, regardless of the art form that generates it, may be used. At times, it can be used to everybody’s delight and joy, but there are also times, as in the case of “Quo Vadis”, when it is used for political bargains, games and plots. I didn’t even bother to follow all the media content related to this film in Serbia, but I feel sorry that such a fantastic thing could not reach more people. I seldom call the projects I take part in fantastic and I am never completely satisfied, but this time I am. It is a great thing and a great film. However, for some reason, in Serbia it seems to have taken the back seat. Of course, it is all premeditated, so much is clear, but I feel sorry for my fellow citizens, the people from this country who are already confused by so many things and now they get to be confused by a film or a performance… People have been deprived of a film production and a work of art but also of the truth”, says Jasna who found the role of Aida to be a great professional challenge, noting that there are very few female roles in our films as they are usually reduced to functions, regardless of whether it is a film, television or theater production.

“After a long time, Aida was one of those film roles. So, it was quite a bite to chew, first and foremost in a professional sense. It was a huge thing I had rarely had an opportunity to work on. I had such significant tasks in the theater, but not on film. I cannot think of an actress who was given such a complex task as playing the role of Aida. That is what comes first, but it’s yet another thing for me to have finally been given an opportunity to express all my thoughts and feelings about all the wars fought on the soil of former Yugoslavia. That is tremendously important for me. Growing up in SFRY and all that had happened, left a great mark on my generation. It is something that one always has in mind, it’s all bottled up inside and there is no opportunity to speak one’s mind. I am not one of those people who talk, I like to speak through the roles I play. It is my preferred way of expression and I believe that it’s where I am most successful. Of course, speaking of Srebrenica, it would be inappropriate to say that I had a difficult time playing the part compared to what real people had gone through. So, I’ll say it was not difficult.” Jasna dedicated the Best European Actress award to the Mothers of Srebrenica, all the Srebrenica victims as well as to all the mothers in wars. This dedication is based on the sensation that it is mothers and children who are most affected by wars.

„Our wounds from all the battlefields are still fresh… who knows when they will heal. This award is dedicated to them because in wars, nobody ever turns to look at mothers, i.e. women. For me, these women are heroes. This is also derived from the context that it is also a tribute to my grandmothers, my great grandmothers, our grandmothers. We are all one and the same, especially in these parts of the world. After centuries of mixing, you don’t know who’s who. That is why this is so painfully stupid. So when they asked me if it was difficult, my answer was no. In a strange way, it all felt familiar. I have given it a lot of thought as to how it was familiar to me, but then, it is possible”, our interlocutor explains. In her view, the path to reconciliation in this part of the world is the result of mutual and comprehensive efforts, primarily of those who are in positions of power.

“Were they to agree and say, “Enough with all the nationalism”, the thing would soon be settled. Things are very simple, there is no special recipe. We would soon feel relief. The majority of people are prone to think it’s impossible and that we’re dealing with several conflicted generations, but that’s not true. We had such examples before, it simply has to start from the top and then we all have to join in. Personally, I’m trying to live my life the best way possible and I try to do my best – in my view, that’s my way of making a contribution. We also bear witness to serious self-censorship. Let’s take history teachers for instance. They could find ways to tell the story of how it all came to be, regardless of what is written in textbooks. But there is great fear in an ordinary man who censors himself in advance whilst all it takes is to be honest and pure and have good intentions. If only people had good intentions and readiness without the “they gave me this textbook that says this and that” attitude! The curriculum should only serve as a framework, at least when it comes to our modern history. I used the education system as an example, but this applies to all spheres of life. Change is a joint arrangement, but it is first and foremost a country’s government that should make a stand, loud and clear, come what may. The worst thing is, in Serbia, everything is blurred, and there are no clear views.”

Jasna Đuričić’s latest film, whose complex development process reflects its topic, is called “Working Class Heroes”. It took two years to complete and there was not a single call for applications on which its creators could get any financial support. Still, were there no faith in art as a means of change and awareness-raising, she would not be in the profession. “However, while working, I feel more and more lonely – both me and the people I work with. There is a general impression that there are very few people who are making some sort of progress and who have a desire to make progress in the first place. I do not think that art can change the world – that sounds so pretentious. However, art changes people and that is what I believe in. I believe in the individual, I don’t believe in masses and I think that’s the road we should take – from our microcosm to the macrocosm”, she says, adding that they made the “Workin Class Heroes” for free, as and when each of them found time.

Photo by: Nemanja Babić

“It took us two years to finish and then we had no money for the post-production. We were some ten thousand euros short, which is a very small sum in the film industry, and that for the final scene in the film which had to be done with CGI. That was all we needed the money for and we eventually got it at the end of last year – the Film Center Serbia gave us the funds and so director Miloš Pušić finished the film. I have a strange and distant relationship with this film as now several years have passed since we started filming it in 2016. On the other hand, when I come to look at it, this film was made without any funds and its name is “Working Class Heroes” and it’s just fantastic. Things fall into place one way or the other. This film that made me wonder if it was ever going to be put together, made it all the way to Berlin. I was recently in Zagreb for a play and the journalists there started asking me questions about the “Working Class Heroes” and not about the play for which I came there in the first place. The film was shown at a festival in Zagreb and everyone seems to be full of good impressions. This film is creating some great vibes and I am so happy about it. It proved that things can be done that way too”, says Jasna Đuričić whose theater engagement landed her one of Serbia’s most prestigious awards – the Dobričin prsten life – achievement award. She transferred her vast theater experience to the film set.

„All the things I have practiced in theater, I somehow transferred to film. At this point in my life, I find it much easier to work on films than in theater. When you work on a film or a television project, you do it today, it is all filmed and you can completely forget about it, whereas with a theater play, you never know how many times you are going to do it and you never know whether the roles are any good. The rehearsing process in the theater is long-lasting; it could go on for a month and a half every day. In my view, working in the theater requires “youthful energy”, says Jasna, adding that due to the expected gender roles, actresses were much worse off.

„Apart from being actresses, at some point in their lives they also become mothers and wives. That’s

plenty of tasks in a work day without fixed hours and without a fixed place, on a job that’s not done until it’s done. So it is very hard to balance everything out. Just as in any other job. We all work a lot and organization of life is a science for itself. An actress’ status is very debatable. We are miles away from the rest of the world as scripts are almost entirely evolving around men and a man’s world. Have you ever seen a film focusing on female issues, on the life of a woman? That almost never happens and that serves as an indicator of the state the society is in. Films, series, theater productions are in fact a reflection of society. Everything that happens is reflected in theater and film.”

Vanja Ratković (b.1991 in Sremska Mitrovica) is a culturologist and freelance journalist. Since 2015, she has been present in the media both as a journalist and editor. She is primarily interested in topics in the field of art and culture as well as human and minority rights, social phenomena and history. She has also launched her independent Youtube show titled “Zujanje” (Eng. “Buzzing”).

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