"Siren Lullabies"

Directed by Kristina Atovska

“Siren Lullabies” - Best Documentary Feature Film
Directed by Kristina Atovska

How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?

After several years of making television documentaries, I made the decision to go independent and start working on my own projects. My first short fiction film (directed by me and written with my producer Viktor Petreski) finished production at the end of 2020, but due to lack of funds and the start of the new war in Europe, it should be finished in the next couple of weeks. Having the title “Lobus Frontalis” it is a film about artistic perception of reality. In the film, a young writer talks to the characters from his script as if they were real. They are taking him through an emotional roller-coaster until he accepts who he is. At the end, the perceptions are switched and the audience is left wondering who is the real author and who is just a character. This film is an honest testimony of our own writing process, where we allow ourselves to be reshaped by the piece we created.

What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on and why?

To be honest, this is a difficult question. I enjoy creating art because it gives me an opportunity to live through many different life stories. That is why I want to make films in many genres. I don’t believe in limitations in art. Since art is searching for answers, I have different questions in different phases of life. That’s why I am constantly looking for different ways and forms to express myself. The first three films we wrote are a statement of our wide range of interest in diversity in storytelling. Lobus Frontalis is a psychological thriller with philosophical dialogues, Siren Lullabies is a war documentary and our third script (soon to begin production) is a fast pace social drama about the decay of a society.

What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to make this project?

As I said in the beginning of our movie (Siren Lullabies), my biggest motivation is being the voice of those who are suffering the most not by the fault of their own. People forced to live in a war are the most vulnerable and the least heard, so I felt obligated to be with them and to give them the possibility to tell their truth. Since I was a little girl, I was inspired by all the war reporters, risking their lives for this cause. To capture the essence of people’s emotions, in documentary films, a filmmaker has to live for a while with those people. As a person who grew up on the Balkans in the after war period of the 90s, I knew that I can understand the pain of the Ukrainians and genuinely show it through my film.

When it comes to cinematic influence, one of my favorite war films is the Academy award winner “No man’s land”. It is a film about the war in Yugoslavia, which managed to paint the full picture of war with utter simplicity through dialogues of two characters.

Tell us more about the creation of this film?

But as I was moving towards the war zones in the East, people’s testimonies became more and more emotional. The hardest thing to show was the testimony of those whose words can no longer be heard. The pictures of the lying bodies on the streets of Bucha and the mass grave speak loud enough about the crimes against innocent civilians that happened during the occupation. Other forms of human rights violations are shown in this film as indiscriminate shelling and using cluster bombs. The last part of the film is devoted to what impressed me the most about the Ukrainian people – the courage to stay at home under rain of bombs and bullets. Going to cities like Kharkiv or Izym region I met a lot of people that use kindness and solidarity as a defense mechanism against the destruction. After three months living with Ukrainins, I found it very hard to select whose story to tell, because I personally consider all of the people I filmed as a symbol of resistance.

How challenging is it to fund indie films?

Funding for indie films is the biggest challenge of all. In North Macedonia the business sector is not very interested to support the film industry. That’s why most of the filmmakers usually rely on the state’s film fund. There are a lot of filmmakers and very limited finances, so there is a big number of filmmakers that can’t reach this fund. Unfortunately, having a good script is not the main factor in deciding who will get the money. I consider this challenge as a test for the love one has for filmmaking. Personally, my team and I borrowed money from friends and banks so that we can make this film, as well as the short fiction before. All of our hopes are that the global film industry will know how to appreciate a good script or a good film.

What is the distribution plan of the film and did the film receive any screenings or was it featured in festivals?

First of all I would like to thank Onyko Films Awards for giving us the Best documentary feature award. Aside from this, we have 5 more awards and one honorable mention, as well as 8 selections. The film hasn’t been screened yet, because the festival season for us has just started and we reserved the world premiere status for a while longer. We are represented by a French sales agency WIDE – International Sales and Distribution, so we have high hopes for this documentary.

What is your next project?

We are very passionate about our next short fiction film because we fell in love with the script the moment we wrote it. It’s a social drama representing the damage that can be done when the worst people are put on high positions in the society. Through a grotesque picture of people living in a building, we can see the consequences of the acceptance of the cruel consumerism, the political manipulations, but above all, the consequences of constant deception, as well as lying the others around us. In a world of relativizing and justification, one of the movie’s goals is to portray the monstrous characters that the viewer will not be able to relativize nor to justify, but will only experience emotional reaction that overcomes apathy. Of course, the main goal of the movie is not only to show absolute hopelessness, but also a desire to fight for humanity, true sincerity and searching solution for removing the face masks. All our energy is now focused at finding funds for this film, which proves to be a real obstacle as I mentioned before.

Kristina Atovska