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5 Questions for Senka Domanović

Senka Domanović documented the occupation of Zvezda since its beginning, for a year and a half. The result of this process, Occupied cinema, is part of this autumn’s selection at Documentary Mondays. Until the screening, Senka answered 5 questions in which she describes the overview and the insights of the event.

1. Did you feel at any given point of the occupation cold or hostile attitudes from the other participants? For instance, did they allow you to film the whole time or were the moments when you were asked to put the camera down?

We started to shoot the movie the first night of the occupation. It was a very turbulent night, a brand new situation between people full of excitement and uncertainty towards the future course of events. Even if we entered the cinema since the beginning, we weren’t from the people on the agenda that were previously established to occupy the place, so there was some fear about we were doing.

In the next few days, we managed to establish ourselves as people who are working on a documentary film. I cannot say that there was enthusiasm among people because of that. I would say that they got used to it and accepted us somehow. However, nobody ever neglected the fact that we were there, that we were recording the events, but they have learned how to ignore it in a way. We recorded interviews with the most representative participants of the occupation, and that distance was crucial in the sense that people were given the space and chance to review their practices and attitudes during that time.

No one never explicitly told us that we cannot record anything, but there was some distrust towards our position in terms that one day that movie will represent the events. No matter how much I tried to be in a kind of distance and neutrality, I did not hide my opinion about the things that I did not agree with, so there were a certain kind of paranoia and mistrust among people in the cinema and a suspicion towards our intentions.

Also, it is important to emphasize that certain scenes and discussions between participants were not part of our material, that we didn’t have the opportunity to film them. The fact is that that material was later entrusted to us by a cameraman who had access to a group who was constantly in the cinema. He had confidence in our intentions which we have probably proved through the process itself.

2. The whole documentary emphasizes the need of organization among the occupiers – in fact, was there someone who managed the people/volunteers during the takeover? How were the tasks distributed?

Sincerely, in the end you realize that there was one fraction who was the most relevant and who was shaping the course of events. However we tried to set a managing model, but we couldn’t find the solution because one group of people didn’t want to risk their positions. In a way I can understand that but also I think that they should’ve said that clearly first time they were asked. It is not shameto have a lack of courage in this time we are living in, but it is also selfish and ignorant to ignore that fact, and to sabotage the whole thing putting it in a personal level of mistrust and ego fight.  The time we are living in is insidious and hypocritical in so many levels.

        *If there wasn’t anyone to coordinate the people, do you believe that the existence of a leading figure would have given the occupation another turn of events?

If we talk about leading figures, I think that one person can’t and shouldn’t be the messiah who should be followed. I would like to believe in collectives with responsible, strong and smart individuals.

3. Can you describe your usual day during the occupation?

Those were the days :) I woke up, head to work or not, it depends of the obligations I had (at that time I was working as a festival coordinator at one film festival) and then we went to the cinema. In the first two months there were a lot of people and events in the cinema all the time, so we were choosing what to film that day unless there was something particular we had already planned. I was really very happy to capture moments of that whole process no matter how it looks in the final outcome.

4. Are occupations doomed to fail due to the lack of cohesion of any group of action whatsoever? How does this statement affect the civil society?

Well I think that in the time of harsh individualism and market struggles, it is difficult to find a common social interest. People have lost their sense of community; they are quite confused about what is actually a hard to achieve or not social interest and how to get to it. People know that any serious change requires great effort, which involves a long-term focus on the problem and its solution. This means that two or three generations need to be very aware of what they are dealing with. Now we are just baby stepping towards our goals.

5. Has anything about the situation of the cinemas changed after the occupation and, more recently after the projection of your documentary? (concerning the public opinion and the authorities).

Zvezda is working from time to time as an art house cinema, mostly during the summer. Other cinemas are still closed and decaying. People’s opinion towards the film is mostly positive, even if it deals with subjects that may include their day to day traumas. This film is a kind of metaphor that leaves no one indifferent.

Facebook event of the screening here.

 Interview by Maria Bîrsan