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Metod Pevec • Director of I Am Frank

“The European left is unsure of leftist thought and embarrassed about its own, Marxist, roots”

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- We chatted to Metod Pevec, one of the leading voices from the first generation of filmmakers who emerged after Slovenia gained its independence, about his film I Am Frank

Metod Pevec • Director of I Am Frank
(© Katja Goljat/Matjaž Rušt/FSF archive)

One of the first Slovenian filmmakers to shoot a feature after the break-up of Yugoslavia, Metod Pevec remains one of the most notable Slovenian directors to this day. Kicking off his film career in the 1970s as an actor in Strawberry Time and See You in the Next War by Živojin Pavlović in 1980, Pevec has written and directed several notable Slovenian fiction and documentary features since the beginning of the 1990s, including Beneath Her Window and Home [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which premiered at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2015.

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In the Macedonian-Slovenian fiction film I Am Frank [+see also:
trailer
interview: Metod Pevec
film profile
]
, which opened the 22nd Slovenian Film Festival in Portorož, Pevec continues to explore his preoccupation with the effects of transition on the people from the margins of Slovenian society, which he had previously analysed in his documentary Home. Framed as a story about two brothers with personal as well as ideological differences, the film juxtaposes idealistic socialism with nihilistic neoliberalism through its two main characters. Cineuropa caught up with the director in Portorož to discuss the movie and his filmmaking in general.

Cineuropa: The protagonist of I Am Frank, portrayed by Janez Škof, is an idealist, a leftist with socialist values, somewhat perplexed by the realities of the contemporary world. You have grown up in socialist Yugoslavia yourself – is there an autobiographical element to the story?
Metod Pevec: I studied Philosophy and Comparative Literature. Marxist theories were prominent in our studies; however, we were taught by a professor who went about it with a certain lightheartedness, which really made me a believer. The fact is that a lot of things simply did not function in that society, so I wouldn’t say that I tried to reproduce that same philosophy in my film. However, I firmly believe that today’s society needs a more pronounced, articulate critique – which Marxism has done well, at least in the early capitalist era. Late capitalism, on the other hand, is the capitalism that won – the Eastern Bloc and its socialist experiments have failed. That is precisely why we need an organised resistance, a consistent, persistent critique with a strong political basis. Unfortunately, the European left is weak and lacks confidence at the moment. It is itself unsure of leftist thought and embarrassed about its own, Marxist, roots.

As a filmmaker, what motivates you to tell stories from the margins of society – like you have in your last two films, Home and I Am Frank?
I am a child of the proletariat, who grew up in a working-class suburb of Ljubljana. I lived in a block of flats built for railway workers, while the neighbouring one belonged to the agricultural cooperative. I kept a part of my worker’s soul. I married the daughter of a doctor and a nurse, and there was no difference between our families. Today’s society is much more stratified. So I guess it’s an affinity for the world I grew up in.

The actress in your film, Katarina Čas, mentioned that she had sometimes found it hard to play such a passive female character. Could you talk a bit about your female characters in general?
Even though she is apathetic and an addict, it is actually Katarina’s character that decides the outcome of the film. To be fair, she had to communicate a lot without being able to rely on snappy dialogues, sometimes even without using any words at all. But comparing my female and male characters in general, it seems to me that the female ones function as the better and saner half of humanity. Unfortunately, film characters, including female ones, cannot, and should not, be better than women in real life. I hope emancipation does not mean forbidding male authors from talking about female addicts, losers and other characters with flaws.

As both a documentary and fiction filmmaker, could you talk about the two different approaches?
It may seem unusual, but people have a secret desire for confession. The Church realised this and took advantage of it a long time ago. The camera has the same effect: people say things they wouldn’t have said if they hadn’t been seduced by it. This means that as a documentary filmmaker, you face a big responsibility. There have been times when I decided to cut some scenes – perhaps the person would have been in a completely different life situation ten years after the film, but it would have remained the same. What they said with such ease then could have become a burden in the future.

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