Fillmofil.ba proudly represents the works of young critics done in program Talents Sarajevo of 25th Sarajevo Film Festival
Written by: Jovana Gjorgjiovska
“Your father has fallen in love with another woman.” This blunt announcement from a mother to her daughter triggers the events unfolding in the short IN YOUR HANDS, directed by Maša Šarović (Serbia) and Sharon Angelhart (Israel). The duo also co-wrote the tightly woven story about a mother-daughter relationship between two unnamed characters who are directly affected by the actions of their absent husband/father. By building a multi-layered symbolical journey revolving around the topic of personal transformation, IN YOUR HANDS is a strong and impactful opening episode of the SEE FACTORY: SARAJEVO MON AMOUR (2019) omnibus. It inaugurated the 2019 Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and played to the home audience at the 25th Sarajevo Film Festival.
The first scene of IN YOUR HANDS succinctly encapsulates the whole movie, immediately drawing the viewer’s attention to the two characters’ constant role reversal from adult to child and back. Precisely written lines reveal the daughter’s worried disbelief about the unexpected news and her mother’s continuous attempts to repress her pain.
The mother’s need for help has led her to what might seem like an unconventional idea: Instead of going to individual/marriage counseling, she schedules an appointment with a local bajachka (a person, usually female, who conducts rituals similar to witchcraft but not exactly a witchdoctor). The lack of a suitable translation for bajachka in English, coupled with the fact all Balkan languages, including Bosnian, have special words for the diverse types of bajachki, point to an important aspect of the film – although the bajachka experience is specific to the Balkan culture, its wider meaning of a placebo-based deus-ex-machina “solution” expected to catalyze the desired change will be easily understandable even to viewers from outside of the region.
At the house of the bajachka, the mother goes through a series of mood oscillations, while the daughter observes them through her phone’s camera lens – a simple, yet powerful detail used to both firmly place the plot in the present and to accentuate the daughter’s almost voyeuristic attitude to her mother’s “cure”. Once the ritual is done, the mother’s newfound self-awareness of her pain stirs an impulsive reaction of silencing in her daughter. However, outside of the house, the daughter finally understands how vulnerable her mother actually is through another symbolic element.
The catharsis of the short film is thoughtfully composed in order to bring some fresh air into the parent-child relationship, as well as to spark a personal metamorphosis in both protagonists. Although the film’s narrative is rather simple and its duration is only 10 minutes, the story arc is nested into a subtly built and complex symbolic system with multiple possible interpretations (e.g. sexual connotations of hair, the connection between weather changes and personal breakthroughs), clearly highlighting the psychological changes in the film’s characters.
As the plot emphasizes the role reversal from a child to an adult and back, the cast’s facial expressivity is crucial for the film’s emotional impact, enabling the viewer to witness the daughter’s (Lidija Kordić) decision to “step up” into the role of an adult and her mother’s (Mediha Musilović) post-cathartic baby steps to rebuilding her identity, without relying on her husband. The consistently effective editing (Una Gunjak) intensifies the authenticity of the both performances, while the camera’s point of view (Marko Milovanović) – moving from the mother to the daughter filming her mother and back – immerses the audience directly into the house of the bajachka and the different experiences the two characters have there.
In its essence, IN YOUR HANDS is a compelling short exploring the theme of female transformation. Due to contemporary Sarajevo serving as a story background, it is inevitable to ponder the film’s implicit comments on the current state of gender roles in the Bosnian society, as well as the traditional ways of dealing with marriage problems. Are there other metamorphoses on their way?