SKOPJE: Teona Strugar Mitevska will represent Macedonia at European Film Promotion’s young event taking place at the Sydney Film Festival 7-28 June 2017, Europe! Voices of Women in Film.
Strugar Mitevska was born in Skopje, Macedonia in 1974, and now lives there and in Brussels. Her first experience in film was as a child actor and she later earned a degree in graphic design and studied film at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. She made her debut as a film director in 2001 with the short film Veta, which received the Special Jury award at the Berlin Film Festival. Her first feature film How I Killed a Saint premiered at the 2004 Rotterdam Film Festival, Tiger Competition and traveled to 50 film festivals winning numerous prizes around the world including Best European Film at the Crossing Europe Film festival, Linz, Austria.
She returned to the Berlinale in 2008 with her feature film I am from Titov Veles, which was screened at over 80 festivals around the world and won more than 20 awards, The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears in 2012 and When the Day Had No Name in 2017. When the Day Had No Name had a market screening during the Cannes Film Festival 2017. The bitter depiction of Macedonian adolescents trying to get their bearings, When the Day Had No Name was produced by Sisters and Brother Mitevski Production in coproduction with Belgium’s Entre Chien et Loup and Slovenia’s Vertigo. The support from the Macedonian Film Agency is nearly 500,000 EUR and the film was also financed by Eurimages.
Strugar Mitevska spoke with FNE about the difficulties and advantages of being a female filmmaker. “When I started making films twelve years ago, the ambiance was very different than today. I had to constantly prove that I was worthy of the task given. I was too young, too female, too everything to be taken seriously as a film director, so I wore a mask, adopted a posture of accepted behavior and played the role of a truck driver on the set. I am not claiming it is the only or the best way, but it was the only way I knew. It is so different today; by percentage and number we, women filmmakers, are still not there, but there is so much work being done regarding the problematic, so many paths and opportunities created. It is a wonderfully nourishing current that must persist.”
She is currently developing her fifth feature God Exists, Her Name is Petrunija / Gospod postoi, nejzinoto ime e Petrunija, a simple, almost comical story that shows the absurdities of the world we live in, focusing on a day in the life of Petrunija, a single, unemployed, 31-year-old woman, who decides to do the unthinkable and intervene in the world of men. The principal photography is scheduled to start in November 2017. Macedonia's Sisters and Brother Mitevski Production is producing in coproduction with Entre chien et Loup from Belgium, Croatia’s Spiritus Movens and is currently negotiating with Slovenia’s Vertigo. So far, the film has received support from the Macedonian Film Agency (500,000 EUR), Belgium Film and Tax Shelter (220,000 EUR), MEDIA sub-program of Creative Europe (30,000 EUR) and most recently the Croatian Audiovisual Center (100,913 EUR).
Asked about the existing initiatives to encourage young female directors, she said: “I don't know of any particular initiatives, but on a civic society level there are more and more screenings being organised of films made by women and addressed as such. This means the awareness of Macedonian society is growing. There is a new generation coming, I have recently seen a few short films of ferocious new talent, and there are more and more young Macedonian women film directors tempting what was once considered unreachable. I am so proud of this!”
For FNE, she revealed the women that inspire her and their works. “Lucrecia Martel's Headless Woman is the Bible to me, so brave in form and strong in the experience it delivers. Using the cinematic form so skillfully, pushing the boundaries to deliver so intensively the inner life of the main character is the essence of our work as filmmakers. Using the form to elevate the context is the best cinema can offer. She makes no concessions and in my eyes she is a revolutionary of the cinematic form. As a student I was crazy about Maya Deren’s and Kira Muratova’s films. Today I follow the films of my contemporaries and have a great admiration and respect for the work of Claire Denis, Ursula Meier, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Ágnes Kocsis...”
God Exists, Her Name is Petrunija (2017) – feature, in developmentWhen the Day Had no Name (2017) – feature, completedThe Woman Who Brushed off Her Tears (2012) – feature, completedI Am from Titov Veles (2008) – feature, completedHow I Killed a Saint (2004) – feature, completedI am from Nowhere (2002) – documentary, completedVeta (2001) – short film, completed