For the January issue of Dazed & Confused, Karen Orton spoke with Belgrade based actor and directors Isadora Simijonovic and Maja Miloš about their new film, Clip. Watch an exclusive short interview with Isadora above and read their Head To Head below.
Serbian director Maja Miloš’s debut film Clip is an unflinchingly brutal coming-of-age story of teen rebellion among the Facebook generation. The onslaught of graphic sex, violence and drug use, often seen through the lens of the protagonists’ camera phones, is set against a backdrop of social problems and poverty in the mass-built brutalist blokovi housing blocks. It’s bleak, to say the least.
Newcomer Isidora Simijonovic was only 14 when she played troubled lead Jasna, who tries to win the affections of Djole, an aloof, bullying 18-year-old drug-dealer, through explicit, self-filmed mobile phone clips and sexual favours. While scenes stray into outright pornography, there’s nothing sexy about it, and the more the young characters taunt and pose for each other, the more disturbing it becomes. Jasna and her friends attend drug-fuelled parties that disintegrate into violence, all to a soundtrack of Balkan turbo-folk. Although the film’s winning moments come unexpectedly – Jasna filming her father at the hospital with her cameraphone, the young couple’s passionate reconciliation after Djole punches Jasna in the face in a jealous rage – it’s more Kids than Dawson’s Creek. Miloš steers clear of moralising, presenting young Serbians honestly and unashamedly, which might be why Clip has provoked such extreme reaction.
Maja Miloš: I got the idea for Clip when I saw a lot of Serbian clips all over the internet of young people filming themselves at really wild parties getting drunk and taking drugs, and there were sex tapes of really young girls. There were huge amounts of energy bursting from them and I wanted to see what goes on with love, empathy and friendship in such cruel surroundings. The most important thing was the cast. I knew you all had to be very young and great actors, which is why we did two years of casting. I fell in love with the actors who ended up in the film. Like you and I are great friends and we see each other a couple of times a week! That was your first casting, right?
Isidora Simijonovic: Yeah, it was the first casting of my life. I’ve been going to acting schools since I was three or four and I've done a lot of amateurish shows but Clip was my first professional thing.
MM: It was great. We start talking and before we knew it, it was an hour later. (laughs) It was so much fun. I knew I wanted you to play the main role. How did you feel when you read the script?
IS: Well, at first it was shocking because I’ve never seen such a…. real story. I could imagine this at my school and with my friends – it’s happening all the time. I didn’t expect this pure teenage love in such cruel surroundings. I mean, you find people like this in every suburb, but in real life you never see behind the scenes, you just see the packaging. You would judge Jasna, but actually everyone of us has these emotions.
MM: They’re showing love in a manner we don’t understand. They’re distancing themselves so they can’t get hurt – they’re so vulnerable. We’re not from that social and cultural background, so it was important to have empathy and understand how they live. I insisted that there is no glorification of violence or taking drugs or getting drunk in the film. With teenagers who are taking drugs, it’s not a big thing for them. It’s stupid to make a film saying, ‘Kids, don’t take drugs, drugs are bad,’ because they know that. You need to understand why they take drugs, how are they taking drugs and how it’s influencing them – that’s the only way to help them. They’re living in a reality that is grey, harmful and emotionless, and drugs are part of that life which is more interesting and vibrant.
IS: Also, I think that with social problems in Serbia, there’s the problem of this 'expensive culture', available only for chosen ones. There’s a lot of people who can't afford the basic cultural needs for their kids – It's almost impossible for an average family. When there’s no opportunity for young people to express their energy creatively, there’s dissatisfaction and apathy.
MM: With the social problems explored in Clip, I think the generation gap is key, the older generations doesn’t understand the cruelty of these new ways of communicating. It’s very different compared with when I was young. Like turbo-folk music was a tough subculture and now it’s mainstream. It’s all about the values associated with the music, it taps into people’s emotions through the lyrics because it’s about love.
IS: I don't like turbo folk personally. It also brings a certain kind of a lifestyle, this 'turbo syndrome', with completely the wrong role models. It changes the way young people approach music and culture in general.
MM: This generation thinks they know everything about sex because they’re surrounded by pornography. It’s much more dramatic than my generation, where there might be some pictures of naked women, or the crew gathers to see that one porn film. The problem is not pornography, but that sex isn’t shown in the media in other ways. We need to talk about sex not just as a technical thing, but as the most beautiful thing in the world. Then the influence of pornography wouldn’t be as extreme.
IS: Well, I agree. I think the downside of pornography is that it has a very bad impact on how young people view sex. They’re deprived of other representations of sex where they could learn the importance of an emotional relationship and mutual respect.
MM: People have really reacted to the film – some adore it, some hate it. I didn’t want to make a film that people go and see and say, ‘It’s nice’. This isn’t nice. The most important thing is that people are stuck in the film afterwards. Nobody is surprised these things in Clip are happening. For me, at the end of the day, I just want to be honest.
IS: I think that because Clip is completely open about problems we're facing today, it brings out strong emotions… You can't ignore it, you can't just act indifferent. You just love it or not, and that's what I like about it.