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Redemption Street: a thriller with its own conventions

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Miroslav Terzić • Director

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- Terzić tells Cineuropa about how his film turned into a stylish political thriller, a rare beast in Balkan cinema.

Miroslav Terzić • Director

At the Cannes Marche du Film, Fortissimo picked up Serbian director Miroslav Terzić’s first feature film, Redemption Street [+see also:
trailer
interview: Miroslav Terzić
festival scope
film profile
]
, which later played in the competition of the Sarajevo Film Festival, earning Uliks Fehmiu the Heart of Sarajevo award for best actor. Terzić tells Cineuropa about how his film turned into a stylish political thriller, a rare beast in Balkan cinema.

Cineuropa: The idea for the film comes from popular Serbian actor, and now also producer, Gordan Kičić. How did you end up in the project?
Miroslav Terzić: I didn’t know Gordan personally and I got a call from him to meet up. By then I was stuck in directing TV commercials, and I was hoping this was at least about a TV series. So we met and he said, “I have a script and funding for a film, and I need a director. Are you interested?” I almost immediately said yes, because it’s very rare to get such an opportunity in Serbia, but I took a couple of days to read the script. I had a lot of remarks and problems with this draft of the script [by Djordje Milosavljević] and we started working on it immediately.

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The interesting thing about the script is that, unusually for thriller genre, we simultaneously follow the hero Dušan (Kičić) and his opponent Mićun (played by Uliks Fehmiu), who, as the story progresses, also becomes a kind of a hero.
That was the idea, and in the script there were even more parallels between the two characters than in what ended up in the film. But, when we had started, we weren’t thinking about genre. We knew it had those elements, but it could have easily turned into a courtroom drama. And we had to solve problems in the script very quickly because time was running up, we has to start shooting by a certain date because of the funding conditions from the Ministry of Culture. So when [co-writer] Nikola Pejaković joined us, we only had about 20 days before the shoot. And he was the one who introduced all thesethings that are not characteristic for a thriller, and which represent “our version” of the genre. Nikola simply does not care about genre conventions and writes from the gut.

But in terms of wide-angle shots, editing, and the music the film clearly feelslike a thriller. After about 30 minutes, it begins to unfold and changes its tempo considerably.
A musician friend of mine told me that he hasn’t seen a film with such a successful change of tempo in a long time. But that was not my intention. The way we edited it [with editor Dejan Urošević] was organic- I trusted my instincts and used the material that we had. And at one point it was more of a melodrama with elements of thriller. But when we started polishing it, clearing out some things that we thought wouldn't fit in properly, the thriller genre came up as the natural way to go, it practically imposed itself on the film. I was sorry to throw out some melodramatic elements, but it was necessary for the film to turn out the way it did.

There are some surprising scenes, like when Dušan saves the wounded Mićun from a gunman, and takes him to his apartment where walls of one room are covered with photographs and documents about his investigation of Mićun.
We had several versions of the scene designed to make it seem more plausible and as less of a construction, but I was careful to refrain from too much explaining, because then it turns into a TV approach, moving away from film language. In the end, it worked because it fits the characters: Dušan is inexperienced and scared, Mićun is wounded and dangerous. That is where they have their pivotal conflict and the real story starts tounspool. So the film doesn't really follow all the thriller conventions, but has its own laws and solutions, which I hope makes it stand out.

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