Conversation with Ana Vasilevska about the book "The Discreet Charm of Macedonian Film"

Ana Vasilevska, journalist, film theorist and critic / Photo: Robert Atanasovski

Not many films are made in Macedonia, but there are also not many filmological publications that follow the development of cinematography, and that gap is covered at least for the moment by the book "The Discreet Charm of Macedonian Film" by Ana Vasilevska.

Ten days ago, the journalist, film theorist and critic Ana Vasilevska promoted her first book in "Public Room", and she translated her sincere love for film art into a serious filmological edition, which follows the development of Macedonian cinematography from independence until 2021.

With what personal motivation did you go into the preparation of the book "The Discreet Charm of the Macedonian Film"?

- I see this book as a logical consequence or a basic connection from a set of professional circumstances. This, almost three decades of direct observation of our cinematography, conditioned by a journalistic orientation in culture, is also identified with a personal infatuation with film art.

My whole universe in the years when I started doing journalism was based on the microcosm of our cultural life. It is an age when those impressions are intensively engraved, deposited, later upgraded and create a more complete picture from which conclusions can be drawn. Thus, "The Discreet Charm of the Macedonian Film" is a product of those perceptions that have been shaped by me over the years.

Starting from the fact that our cinematography in the period before independence, however, bears the sign of the former Yugoslav federation, and then we can already talk about our Macedonian cinematography, I thought it should be documented and highlighted in this reading. To talk about national cinema, film production alone is the most important, but not sufficient. Film criticism, chronological records, analyses, are those that contribute to its preservation from oblivion, to give an objective picture of where we have been, where we are walking, how far we can go and, finally, they are a kind of small history that, if we know it better, more we will love our movie.

Another is the story of how powerful and lively the film is as a medium in which sometimes subtly and sometimes explicitly one gets an impression of cultural identity, social and social circumstances, which is a reason for it to be considered from other aspects as well, in relation to with reality, even though the film itself represents an unreal visual quote, magic. So, the motive lies in that desire to express my impressions, to open the topics that are important for the past and development, but also for the progress of our cinematography.

The promoters of the book were directors Darian Pejovski and Ana Opacic

What archival database was used to create the content of the book?

- The book uses data from published texts, the available archive of the Cinematheque and the Film Agency. It was interesting in this process when I thought about illustrating the book. I wanted for the first time here, in one place, to include posters from Macedonian films from the period between 1991 and 2021. I was surprised that some of them were missing.

It got me thinking again that we don't care enough about archives, just like we don't care enough about having multiple releases that are the custodians of film memory. Let this book be a kind of endless story, which will be constantly replenished along with the growth of the production.

In the book, factography, filmography, and film criticism are represented at the same time. What kind of support and from whom did you receive for the realization of the book?

– The book is a kind of hybrid text. Apart from factography, filmography, film criticism, interviews, a personal, intimate view of the situation is also included in a way. In order to avoid subjectivity, I am immensely grateful to the filmologist Atanas Chuposki for the text he provided for this book, which refers to this period of our cinematography presented through the portrayal of the directors, as well as to the film critic Blagoja Kunovski Dore for the contribution "Production and authorial continuity'. This support meant a lot to me, as did the long precious conversations with our directors, producers, filmmakers, journalists, direct and indirect witnesses of the engraving of our cinematography.

As for the publication, it was supported by the Film Agency in the publication competition, which I think should be more often part of the annual programs of the institution.

The publisher "Makedonica", whose primary mission is to nurture and preserve language and creativity as essential for the national cultural wealth, also gave its support, for which I am immensely grateful.

The design and graphic editing are the work of "Gavros", i.e. Nika Gavrovska, who made a special contribution to the extra charm of the publication.

What is the reason for your personal interest in Macedonian cinema, but also in film art in general?

- I belong to the generation that in childhood could only look forward to military or so-called movies from the television offer. partisan films and American westerns. I also excitedly followed the screenings of "Tarzan" with Johnny Weissmiller in the "Drugarche" library, Disney classics in the "Bambi" cinema, but also after some then popular film in the "Centar" or "Vardar" cinema (1 and 2).

After the film as an art has haunted me forever, VCRs also appeared. Being able to have access to all the films of Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Bernardo Bertolucci and all the greats of film history was the discovery of a world, which, together with literature and music, became imperative to my existence.

Then the Skopje Film Festival happened, which was held in April and somehow represented a real spring for film lovers, eager to swallow the latest author's films. These screenings were followed by heated discussions with colleagues and friends. I had an insurmountable desire to write down my impressions, to express my opinion on what I saw.

So, that infatuation from an early age grew into a lasting and mature love that follows me to this day, to which I feel responsibility and loyalty. As for the Macedonian film, it became intriguing to me precisely in the period I am writing about. Before this, I was under the impression that it was labeled as boring and focused on social or historical themes, that it had over-emphasized acting, some heavy atmosphere, incidentally offered a worn-out aesthetic.

Of course, in our cinematography even before independence we had great films, good directors, but that new story that was born later, and today we are already talking about cinematography that can rival the world's, deserves worthy attention and we should be proud to have it.

Macedonian cinematography can compete with the world cinema, it deserves worthy attention and we should be proud to have it

What is the "discreet charm" of the book about the Macedonian film?

- It is a small discreet book, which underlines, scratches in the three-decade development of Macedonian film. Those who witnessed the development can refresh their memories, and for the young generation it is an opportunity to take a look and fly through thirty years.

As the main asset of the book, I would single out the one that I think can stimulate interest in our film, generate young filmmakers, but also critics who would follow and document the next 30 years with dedication.

(The interview was published in "Cultural Press" number 227, in the printed edition of the newspaper "Sloboden Pechat" on 20-21.4.2024)

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