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[Herald Interview] ‘Father’ director talks about the ‘invisible’ poor in Serbia

Srdan Golubovic (Jeonju International Film Festival)
Srdan Golubovic (Jeonju International Film Festival)

JEONJU, North Jeolla Province -- Director Srdan Golubovic, whose film “Father” opened the 22nd Jeonju International Film Festival, said he created the movie about poverty because many people in Serbia do not know it exists.

“Many people in Serbia say they have never seen such poverty,” he told reporters during a Zoom interview on Friday.

He explained that this is because they are ignorant, and poor people also tend to feel ashamed of themselves and live quietly.

“They are invisible,” Golubovic said. “They think that poverty is a stamp which they deserve.”

Inspired by a true event, Golubovi’s film tells the story of Nikola (played by Goran Bogdan), a father of two in Serbia. After Nikola’s wife sets herself on fire in front of his workplace demanding long-overdue pay, he is told by social services that his kids must be separated and placed in foster care, until he can provide adequate conditions for them. Social services also tell him that poverty is a form of violence against children.

Although Nikola makes several changes to his house in order to bring back his children, social services refuses to return them because it benefits them financially. To solve the situation, Nikola embarks on a 300-kilometer journey by foot to Belgrade to submit an appeal to the minister.

“I want my film to provoke reality in my country like my favorite Korean director Lee Chang-dong,” he said. Lee is a renowned realist filmmaker who has won many honors with movies like “Peppermint Candy,” “Oasis” and “Poetry.”
 
A scene from “Father” directed by Srdan Golubovic (Jeonju International Film Festival)
A scene from “Father” directed by Srdan Golubovic (Jeonju International Film Festival)

The director and Bogdan, who played Nikola, said they made sure to tread carefully while dealing with such a sensitive topic.

“The biggest challenge for us was that both of us had never been in touch with that kind of poverty,” Golubovic said. “It was very important for us not to be arrogant and just try to be in the character’s shoes.”

Taking that into consideration, Nikola is portrayed as staying calm throughout the film, even when he encounters multiple unfair and unjust situations.

“I think that people who live in such poverty don’t have the luxury to express their emotions because they’re focused on surviving,” Golubovic said. “I think that expressing emotions is a luxury for those of us who have normal lives. Nikola learned to survive like an animal. Expressing his emotions was like a weakness (for him).”

During the interview, the director also talked about the film’s strong opening scene, in which Nikola’s wife self-immolates.

“I insisted on showing her face. It is much easier to do it with (stunt) doubles,” he said. “But I needed to make it look real.”

When asked why he likes to focus on stories about fathers, since the protagonist in his last film “The Trap,” also centered on such a role, Golubovic said it had very much to do with his own personal life.

“I think maybe the reason is that I lost my father when I was really young,” he said. “The difference between ‘The Trap’ and this film ‘Father’ is that when I was shooting ‘The Trap’ I was not a father. This (movie,) I made it from the perspective of a real father.”

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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