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"The only way to make an ambitious film on a low budget is to use the obstacles to your advantage"

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Ivan Marinovic • Director


- Cineuropa interviewed young Montenegrin director Ivan Marinovic, who entered his first feature film, The Black Pin, in the competition of the Sarajevo Film Festival

Ivan Marinovic • Director

A misanthropic priest struggling with his parishioners over a large property sale is the starting point for The Black Pin [+see also:
film review
interview: Ivan Marinovic
film profile
, the first feature by young Montenegrin filmmaker Ivan Marinovic, formerly a student at Prague’s FAMU and now the first director from his country to get a title entered in the main competition of the Sarajevo Film Festival. We spoke to him about his work and this feat.

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Cineuropa: What made you want to tell this story?
Ivan Marinovic: It goes back to why I ever wanted to be a filmmaker. I grew up in a place where there were all these stories I heard when I was a kid, and which I could clearly see in my mind. I started to think about film as a storytelling medium. This particular story came with me when I came back to Montenegro from abroad, as I was facing the mentality from a new perspective. I heard this anecdote about a priest and a funeral, a band that kept interrupting him and the people who wanted to chase him out of the village. This guy, who has to preach to "love thy neighbour", was surrounded by neighbours who were not really helping out with that. I started to think about people, religion and superstitions, and then imagined a misanthrope of a priest. This gave me a lot of room to integrate other things, like these property sales currently happening and people not knowing what to do with them. In fact, I only realise now the politics of my film. I think traditionalism and superstition have created a lot of ignorance, which can easily lead to corruption.

Your film mixes various styles: it is a funny drama, a serious comedy…
It wasn’t intentionally written as a genre comedy. When I was writing the first draft, intended to be more of a drama, I started laughing at it and said it was absurd. It was really interesting for me to connect the absurdity of the situations with the idyllic place, because you feel like time is passing and beauty is lasting, and you feel how meaningless these conflicts are. It is more subtle than just chucking it in the basket of dark comedy.

In order to do this, you worked a lot on the characters, probably the most important element of the film. How?
They are all inspired by a lot of people I knew when I was growing up, people I really love – which stopped me from making caricatures. That allowed me to make fully fleshed-out characters, and the main guy, to be honest, could be based on me. A few years ago, I would be told I was as intolerable, grumpy and misanthropic as him. I knew my actor (Nikola Ristanovski) from before, and I immediately put his face on the character so I could torture him. It was playful.

Was it difficult to put the cast together?
I had very experienced actors from Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, and a lot of first-timers. Trying to make an ensemble piece and making it work on the same level style-wise and action-wise was a challenge. But when my crew saw these people actually believing in me, they followed easily.

Did that help with the production process?
For a first film, it’s very difficult to build a big co-production — I did a lot of work on the ground to get locations, accommodation, etc for free, so the money could really be put into the image and the cast. There was this decision to make: either to work very quickly with more experienced actors, or over a longer period of time with less experienced actors. I think the only approach to making such an ambitious film with such a small budget is to use the obstacles to your advantage.

How difficult was it to work from Montenegro?
Montenegro is not part of Eurimages. We got a co-production in Serbia, but it was a really small amount of money. Only now are we about to get a film centre. Everything up until now was only based on the Ministry of Culture’s decisions. Only last year we became part of MEDIA, so things are moving along. There is a new generation of auteurs on the rise who are doing a lot to improve the situation, with very interesting projects. I think it will change shortly.

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