VIFF 2018 Interview: THE MUSEUM OF FORGOTTEN TRIUMPHS director Bojan Bodruzic

“The film considers the collapse of the former Yugoslavia—and the Bosnian war in particular—through the prism of the life of an old couple living out their last days in Sarajevo. The couple just happen to be my grandparents, who I was separated from as a child when the war started in the region. The film was shot in pieces, when I would visit my grandparents from Canada, over a period of fifteen years.” Director Bojan Bodruzic on THE MUSEUM OF FORGOTTEN TRIUMPHS which screens at the 2018 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.


I hear you are back this year! Tell me about what you have had here in the past, and your favorite aspects of the city.


I have lived in Vancouver for more than twenty years. A couple of my short films have screened at VIFF in the past, but this is the first time I have had a feature here. I am looking forward to presenting it to a hometown audience.


So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.


Not much to it. I had an epiphany one night when I was thirteen, right after I saw Peter Weir’s THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY that I wanted to be a film director, a career I had never previously considered. I have blindly stuck to that sudden and unlikely decision ever since. After getting a BFA and an MFA in film production and after a lot of hard work, I ended up working in the field as a producer / writer / director and an educator. I have made a few short films thus far and one other feature called IMMIGRANT.


How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!


Strangely, this project pre-dates all of my other films. I was evacuated from Sarajevo as a child in 1992, at the start of the Bosnian war, and I didn’t get a chance to go back and see my grandparents until 2000. I had just completed my second year of film school and I brought a camera with me and started filming my grandparents and the ravaged city around them. I would go back several times over the coming years and shoot bits and pieces. The last bit of material was shot in 2015 and the post production took place between 2016 and 2018.


What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?


With every film, it is different, different sets of circumstances, different motivations; in this particular case, I felt that I was making a kind of testament to my grandparents’ lives, to their entire generation really, a generation that is quickly disappearing and whose valorous deeds have all but been forgotten. This knowledge, that I wanted leave some evidence of their life and work, was what drove me over the many years of working on this film to get it to the finish line.


What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?


It was such a long time in the making, and so personal in nature, that there were times that I doubted it would coalesce into a coherent narrative that would make sense to anyone outside of my family. The challenge was to translate, through selection of material and editing choices, this very personal story into one with a broader, more universal appeal. The most rewarding moment was seeing one of the early cuts in full, where I suddenly got caught up in the film as though it were someone else’s and I was seeing it for the first time. I got pretty emotional by the end. I knew then that the film had started to take on a life of its own and that there was a good chance it would find an audience.


I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.


I have always shot my own films and worked occasionally as a DP for others. This film, given that it virtually spans my entire filmmaking career, reflects my various interests and creative phases. It features material shot on a Sony Hi8 camera, a Canon miniDV camera GL1, a Canon DSLR 7D, and a Panasonic 4K mirrorless camera GH4. Some footage is in a 4:3 aspect ratio, some in scope 2.39:1; some is in B&W and some in colour; some sequences are handheld and shot in the spirit of cinéma vérité, while others are measured, still, painterly. The entire film was then carefully processed and colour graded to make what I hope will feel like a unique journey through the various formats of the past couple of decades, reflecting also the passage of time explored in the film.


What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Vancouver?


I have been making films and teaching film production in this city for many years now, so it will be exciting to share the film with family, friends, colleagues and former students. I have received messages from many people since the festival line-up was announced; they are eager to see the film and I am looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces at the screening.


After the film screens at Vancouver, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?


The film was only just completed and we have submitted it it to a number of other film festivals, so hopefully we will be able to continue sharing it that way. As for the rest, we will see what happens.


What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?


I am afraid I would not be able to muster more than one of those lethal side glances, followed by some obnoxious throat clearing.


We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?


Study the masters, have an understanding of past and current trends, know your tools, but don’t blindly follow any norms. Trust your intuition and nurture your confidence. Confidence is key. Without confidence, it is difficult to take risks and set lofty and impossible goals for yourself, which are all necessary, I think, for creating work that manages to stand apart.


And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?


A difficult question to answer as there have been many standouts over the years, but these five formative experiences come to mind: Eric Rohmer’s A SUMMER’S TALE which I saw at VIFF in 1997; Wong Kar-wai’s HAPPY TOGETHER and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE which I saw at VIFF and Sarajevo Film Festival in 1998 and 2000, respectively; and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s CLOUDS OF MAY (1999) and DISTANT (2003), both of which I caught at VIFF. All of them incredible films, and all of them, likely, an influence on my work, however oblique that influence might be.


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