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"I don't like making compromises"

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Goran Paskaljević • Director

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- Veteran director Goran Paskaljević tells Cineuropa about how he got the chance to make Land of the Gods in India and how he worked on it

Goran Paskaljević  • Director

Veteran director Goran Paskaljević's Land of the Gods [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Goran Paskaljević
film profile
]
is the first Serbian film, and among the first Indian ones, picked up by Amazon for global distribution, targeting the audience of 500 million Hindi speakers and expecting a total of 15 million viewers. Paskaljević tells Cineuropa about how he got the chance to make a film in India and how he worked on it. 

Cineuropa: How did you decide to make a film in India?
Goran Paskaljević:
I met [actor and co-writer] Victor Banerjee while on jury duty at the Film Festival of India in Goa in 2014. I always liked him as an actor and an intellectual. He is in love with the Himalayas; he owns a house there, and he suggested I go there with him. We travelled by car in the region for two months. One morning, I woke up and I couldn't see out of one eye, so I thought about how it is to lose one’s eyesight. So I came up with a simple story, about a man coming home after 40 years and suffering from Horton disease. It is a universal story, and I wanted to make it in India, but I couldn't do it without help in order to imbue the story with local details. That's how we agreed to do it together.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

How did it work production-wise?
Production-wise, it was the most difficult film I have ever made. India is a very complicated country, with a lot of bureaucracy and corruption, so in order to even get permission to shoot, you have to go through several departments in the administration, especially if it's a foreign production. I didn't want to accept that we'd have to bribe officials, so it's not officially an Indian-Serbian co-production; it's a Serbian film shot in India.

I don't like making compromises in the script or "pudding-type" co-productions, and I definitely prefer to turn a lack of money into an imaginative advantage, rather than for the funding to condition how the film will look. This causes conflicts in the team, and that rarely results in a good film. This way, I get to work by my own rules, and that's crucial for me. We got funding from private sources in India and the Zepter company in Serbia, as well as the Serbian national broadcaster, RTS, and Film Center Serbia. The whole crew was also my regular one from Serbia, but not the actors.

The budget was limited, and it is very difficult to get from one location there to another, so we even had to shorten the shoot from seven to five weeks. But as this was my 17th film and the team had been working together for a long time, many things went smoothly. I almost always use the first take; I repeat them only if we have technical problems.

The camera work is fluid, and the locations give the film a very authentic feeling.
I always take DoP Milan Spasić with me; he has the camera on the Steadicam, as it enables us to move quickly from one position to another. Most usually, I compose the shot, and he sets the lighting and everything else. As for the locations, we didn't change them much. We rebuilt the school building as a copy of the one that had existed there, and which burned down in a fire. The temple where the main character sleeps is a real one; some of it was destroyed in the earthquake, so we reconstructed it. We tried hard to make the film as authentic as possible, and the main musical theme is the local, unofficial Garhwali anthem. Indians take this film with a kind of religious seriousness; they recognise everything that's hidden within it. They know what Kedarnath is, while for other audiences, it is just a human story – but the most important thing is that it works on this level.

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