"Fraulein": A New Voice By Luciano Castillo

in 51st Valladolid International Film Festival

by Luciano Castillo

Discovering the possibilities and the talent of a new director is one of the pleasures and emotions brought by an international film festival. One film of an exhausting and unsatisfactory program is able to get our attention as a new voice in a lonely concert. This is the case with Andrea Staka. Born in Switzerland in 1973, she graduated in 1988 with the short film Hotel Belgrad from the MFA Film Program of Visual Arts in Zurich. It was followed by Yugodivas (2001), awarded in Sundance, Locarno and Munich, among others. Both films were nominated for Best Film at the Swiss Film Awards. Though she lives in New York, Staka devoted herself since 2002 to the preparation of her first feature film: Fraulein (Das Fräulein), made in co-production with Germany, Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Descendant of Yugoslavs who went to Switzerland which seemed to be a promised land, this filmmaker transmits vitality like a blow of fresh air in the film festival of Valladolid. Ana, a young Bosnian, with the strength of a devastating whirlwind, comes into the life of Ruza, a hardened Serbian emigrate who left her homeland 25 years ago. The young girl who refuses to admit her physical handicaps is very optimistic. Her behavior startles the conformism of the mature woman who has turned the restaurant she manages in Zurich into the centre of a life without incentives in her small land. By their sides lives Mila, another old worker. She dreams of spending her last years in the house she is building with her savings in Bosnia.

The director defines this first feature using the handheld camera to follow the young Ana as “a story about the detachment and the alienation of our times, not only in a national context, but in a general sense.” Each of the three women faces a conflict going beyond their age difference and becoming their reencounters with themselves, with the roots they left behind as the only objective to survive. The restaurant is the microcosm merging the lives of the three women. All three of them were born in a divided nation with a name already forgotten or not mentioned any more. “Yugoslavia and the war are not at the forefront of this film, however, its history and the effects of a lost homeland are central in the lives and sensitivity of these women”, said the director dealing with the two worlds which surround her since childhood.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of Fraulein — an unfortunate and not suggestive title compared to the richness and complexity of the story — is the universality of the conflicts the three women went through. They face the same problems as the countless number of immigrants from different countries coming with different cultures coming to the paradisiacal Switzerland in search for their future. Staka, also the author of the solid script, gathers an efficient crew to translate her intentions including cinematographer Igor Martinovic, experienced in documentary films as the images of the film show, and the trio of leading actresses Mirjana Karanovic (Ruza), Marija Skaricic (Ana) and Ljubica Jovic (Mila) communicating an universe full of contradictions and shades in their performances.

With Fraulein, awarded the Best Film Award in the festivals of Locarno and Sarajevo (where it also got the award to the best actress), Andrea Staka shows that she is more than a promise and imposes herself as a new name in the map of contemporary film making. Her trajectory should be followed very closely.