To Live and Live On

in 17th Festival del Cinema Europeo, Lecce

by René Marx

Our Everyday Life is a first fiction feature film, but Ines Tanovic is not what you call a first-timer. She was born in Sarajevo and has worked for cinema and television for almost thirty years. She directed many documentaries, and, during the tragedy experienced by her native city between 1992 and 1996, she constantly refused to leave the place. Her new film is at the same time a delicate and subtle family chronicle and a deep political reflection about nowadays problematics. A forty-year-old war veteran, Sasha, is stuck in his parents apartment because working opportunities are rare in Sarajevo. He used to fight for peace and freedom and feels now as a little boy in front of his old-fashioned father, Mohamed. The latter has believed in socialist values and is now forced to let the company he has scrupulously directed for years fall into the hands of corrupted “modern” capitalists. He severely considers his own son as weak and useless, a kind of parasite good-for-nothing. For Mohamed, politics and family means only delusion.

Between those two men, there is Marija, a retired teacher, a strong and tender mother and wife who tries to keep things going on not too sadly. But she gets severely sick and this twist of fate will change everyone’s position. Far away, in Slovenia, there is Sedana, the fourth member of the family, Sasha’s sister, somehow involved in a troubled love-story herself. In a very refined way, Ines Tanovic keeps that woman’s life in mystery. The spectator will be able to understand her role in the narration only at the end of the film, even if some hints have been craftily suggested in between. Others characters are designed by Tanovic and even the more discreet ones appear in precise and exact portraits. Sasha’s ex-wife is one of those passers-by, as is another woman, Marija’s ex-student, who should normally come back to her comfortable American exile. Two women, then, and the troubled Sasha caught between them.

As for old time vanishing traditions, there are long and moving sequences in a barber shop, where Mohamed tries to keep alive oriental conviviality with the owner and his neighbors, where Rakia and coffee accompanies good and friendly conversations. Is it still possible, today, to waste some hours only for human and disinterested preoccupations? Tanovic’s accuracy allows us to understand what’s going on in such a special city, between a painful past and melancholic present days. She rarely moves her camera and never tries to show off with sophisticated technical tour-de-force. She concentrates only on expressing clearly an imbricate story of moral and sentimental uncertainty. And our emotion comes from her talent to do so. Ines Tanovic was in Lecce with her producer, Alem Babic, before proceeding to Los Angeles and New York. They have already presented Our Everyday Life in other important festivals. As usual, the most local stories, when they are narrated by talented tellers, reveal to us universal emotions. Unanimously, as Fipresci jurors, we gave this film our International Critics Prize and motivated our decision with a few words: “Showing a family with delicacy and the weight of History without exhibiting the ruins: Our Everyday Life characters definitely want to go forward.”

Edited by Steven Yates