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LOCARNO 2023 Cineasti del Presente

Review: Excursion


- Una Gunjak’s powerful debut film shows adolescence for what it really is: an endless search for meaning and for that spark which turns banal, everyday life into a boundless adventure

Review: Excursion
Asja Zara Lagumdžija in Excursion

Bosnian director Una Gunjak left Sarajevo at a very young age to follow her dream and become a director. After earning a diploma in editing from Beaconsfield's NFTS (National Film and TV School) and working as an editor in London and overseas, she leapt behind the cameras to shoot The Chicken - which was crowned Best Short Film at the European Film Awards and was presented in various festivals, including Cannes’ Critics’ Week and Sundance - and Salamat From Germany, which opened the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. Excursion [+see also:
interview: Una Gunjak
film profile
, which has been selected for the Locarno Film Festival’s Cineasti del Presente competition, is her first feature film, a moving yet venomous work depicting the turmoil of adolescence through the eyes of a young woman who doesn’t intend to play by her society’s heteropatriarchal rules.

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Excursion tells the story of Iman (the magnificent Asja Zara Lagumdžija), a teenager who feels a deep yet platonic love for an older boy, but who tells her classmates during a game of truth or dare that she has slept with him. Digging herself deeper and deeper into her lie, Iman pretends she’s pregnant, subsequently turning into the protagonist of a witch hunt of medieval overtones. Excursion is the story of a free and rebellious young woman who is brutally confronted with the absurd expectations, limitations and rules set by the society she was born into: Bosnia Herzegovina. What does it mean to grow up as a woman in a conservative society where sex education can only be “DIY” at best? How do you express your desires and inner torment when your social mask obliterates your true face? Una Gunjak tackles her country’s contradictions with courage and determination, highlighting the suffocating absurdities of a heteropatriarchal society which only sees a woman as an abstract concept, an incarnation of an ideal of purity and control which shouldn’t ever be questioned.

At the beginning of the film, Iman seems unmindful of the limitations that come with growing up, or the dangers of expressing her desires in public. In this sense, her lies about her “first time” and her unwanted pregnancy become a cry of revolt in the face of a society which only values appearances, respect for rules and decorum. It’s only when the bomb explodes and the truth comes out that Iman takes stock of the sobering reality and tragic consequences of her dangerous act of rebellion, an act interpreted by those who judge her as a dangerous pathology. With her dyed hair, her androgenous physique and her firm and direct way of expressing herself, Iman doesn’t seem inclined to bend to gender stereotypes, to a ready-made ideal of “femininity” which doesn’t fit her and which she yearns to escape.

Excursion is an audacious, courageous and aesthetically poetic film in which the protagonist’s emotions become glowing embers. A much-needed testimony of an alternative path taken, where rules are made to be broken, Excursion lends a voice to youngsters who are too often rendered speechless. Emotionally potent and politically charged, Una Gunjak’s debut film imposes itself through its intentionally “coarse” aesthetic inspired by the contradictions of her homeland, resulting in a powerful and necessary film which worms its way under our skin.

Excursion is produced by SCCA/ in co-production with Nukleus Film, Baš Čelik, Salaud Morisset - who are also handling international sales - Mer Film and the Doha Film Institute.

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(Translated from Italian)

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