Stefan Arsenijević was born in Belgrade in 1977. He studied both philosophy and film and television direction in Belgrade. At the end of the 1990s, Arsenijević directed his first short films. His short film "The Plum Tree" (2000) won the award for best debut at the Yugoslavian Documentary and Short-Film Festival and the special prize of the jury for artistic excellence at the Golden Knight Film Festival in Moscow. That same year he also directed the award-winning documentary "Landscapes." Last year Stefan Arsenijević presented his film "(A)torsion" at the Berlin Film Festival, winning a Golden Bear in the short-film category. (A)torsion is set in Sarajevo during the siege. The film revolves around a tunnel secretly dug under the runway of the airport, for many people the only connection to the outside world. With "(A)torsion," said the Berlin jury in its judgment, the director succeeded in presenting "a great emotional image for survival and the power of art in times of war." The film was nominated for an Oscar in the short-film category in 2003.
Questions to the director:
How did you get involved in the project?
It came after the Berlinale 2003 where I got the 'Golden Bear'. I met Nikolaj Nikitin there. A few months after that he called me and asked if I'm interested in being part of the omnibus project. It sounded very exciting; as a director, you are very alone normally. So this was an opportunity to work with other directors and to get to know them and their ideas and try to make something that is a work of all of us. It's a hard job actually, but I think we succeeded.
Would it has been the same film with people from just one country?
Of course it would have been different. But the thing, that was exciting for me, is to find some great relations and great things that are repeating in our countries. That is absolutely unbelievable that some of the countries that are in the project are neighbours, but we don't get to know each others. You see very few films from there which is also the problem of the politics of the cinema - we all watch the same American films but don't know the work of each other! For me it was very exciting to discover how similar we are in one way. And how different in another. And to find all these connections, these small details which are absolutely the same.
Do those similarities show in the film language?
I'm not sure, I think the films are very different on that level. For me it were the emotions, they all have different languages but the same emotion. I think the reason is the topic of "generation". All of the films also reflect the social and historical things and we have pretty much the same situation. I think in all the stories the atmosphere is actually the same. Some stories were made more tragically, some use the way of humour. But they all come to one point, which for me was despair and struggling to get your life in your hand, to deal with the situation you're in. Because we are from the Eastern or South-Eastern Europe, it was the same. If you take six directors from Western Europe the topics and atmosphere would be different.
In this connection it is interesting that you have chosen a tram as setting for your film. A tram which seems to be a microcosm of society.
That was generally the idea. And of course the story with trams is that they have tracks. This is something that is prechosen for you. You have to go for these tracks. But it's universal, it could be connected with any society. Actually, any individual. However, there comes the time when you have two different tracks. And that's what my film is about. You can always choose even if there are just a few choices. I want to believe that there's always a track that brings you to - in my case - love, which is the basic solution for everything.
Interview: Oliver Baumgarten, Chief editor of the film magazine "SCHNITT".