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ROTTERDAM 2019 Tiger Competition

Ena Sendijarević • Director of Take Me Somewhere Nice

"We can become anyone we want once we realise that we can construct our own reality"

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- We chatted to emerging director-scriptwriter Ena Sendijarević to find out more about her debut feature exploring the East-West dichotomy, Take Me Somewhere Nice

Ena Sendijarević  • Director of Take Me Somewhere Nice

Emerging director-scriptwriter Ena Sendijarević deals with topics such as identity, migration and current East-West relationships from a refreshing perspective and through a coming-of-age road trip in her debut feature, Take Me Somewhere Nice [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ena Sendijarević
film profile
]
. After its world premiere in the Tiger Competition of the 48th International Film Festival Rotterdam (23 January-3 February), we talked to Sendijarević about her artistic decisions, the position of being “in between” cultural identities and the fragments of her own personal story in her film.

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Cineuropa: Why was it important for you to tell this story?
Ena Sendijarević: With Take Me Somewhere Nice, I wanted to explore themes like identity, migration and East-West relationships in a fresh and quirky way. I feel that, in our increasingly globalised world, there are more and more people who find themselves in between cultures and in between nations. As a Dutch filmmaker with Bosnian roots, sometimes I feel a bit schizophrenic when it comes to questions of belonging and nationality. I wanted to express this feeling through the art of cinema, even celebrating it. By playing with the clichéd and stereotypical portrayals of migrants, womanhood and the Balkans, either denying or inverting them, I wanted to make the viewer aware of our constructed – and thus changeable – reality. We can become anyone we want once we realise that we can construct our own reality.

Aren’t you afraid that the audience will try to identify you as your main heroine, Alma?
Take Me Somewhere Nice is a very personal film, but it’s not autobiographical. It is a movie set in the here and now, about a new generation growing up in a globalised, internet era. Alma, her cousin and his best friend are teenagers who can’t imagine a world without a phone. I myself had a completely different childhood and coming of age. Unlike Alma, I was not born in the Netherlands, but rather in Bosnia. My relationship with Bosnia is very different to hers. I was there for the first five years of my life, and my family was forced to leave because of the war. Alma does not have this kind of history – to me, she is a typical Western European girl who happens to have roots elsewhere, like many Western European girls do. Through my heroes, I wanted to explore current East-West relationships. The movie is not a testimonial of my own experiences – much more than this, it's an exploration of power dynamics, as experienced and exposed by the three main characters.

Does your Yugoslav identity overpower your Dutch one?
I don’t think it’s as easy as having two fixed identities that are fighting one another; it’s more complex than that. This is what I wanted to show and embrace through making this film.

Was it solely an artistic desire to return to Bosnia for your debut film, or was there also an inner, more personal reason?
One of the benefits of being a writer and a filmmaker is that you can choose where you work. I feel a strong connection to Bosnia, and I had the desire to explore this connection. By examining the relationship between the “migrant” and their home country, it was possible for me to dig into my own identity as well. The most important thing was that one of the countries should be Western and the other Eastern. Ultimately, this is a film about Europe, and yes, I did feel a personal need to make a movie that would transcend European national borders.

Why did you decide to depict the social traumas of the post-war period, especially from the point of view of a generation that was born after the end of it?
It was very important to concentrate on the post-war generation because I feel that a lot of Bosnian cinema is still focused on the war. Of course, these are very important stories, but they also make it very difficult for the current, new generation to make their voices heard. I’m not saying that I am speaking for them in this film; my main topic is the position of being in between cultures, not being in Bosnia. But I hope my film will encourage them to take matters into their own hands and tell their own stories. This is why it was so important for me to make humour and alienation part of the film's grammar; I wanted to be honest about my manipulation of reality as a filmmaker, making it clear that the film's viewpoint is subjective. I hope that by depicting these characters as funny and charming anti-heroes, instead of sad victims, it can bring a new energy that will inspire people to use their imagination to express themselves and depict their own take on reality.

Have you managed to discover where “somewhere nice” is?
Not yet, but I won’t stop looking. I guess when you’re in love, it’s nice everywhere, but unfortunately, I’m not.

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