The young actress Jana Bjelica plays the lead role in the Serbian film ‘Where the Road Leads’ directed by Nina Ognjanović, which is screened as part of the Main Competition programme of the 51st FEST. She talks about this film, which has already won two awards in the USA, and acting challenges for the FEST website.
Before the Serbian premiere at FEST, the film ‘Where the Road Leads’ won the honorable mention award from the jury and the audience award for the best film at the Slamdance film festival?
- I think it happened because of the universal theme that this film deals with and it is not of crucial importance whether it happens in a village in Serbia or in a village anywhere in the world. The problem is the same no matter what setting you put it in, and that is exactly what happens in a film where it is not exactly specified where the plot takes place. We know that it is somewhere in a small village, in a closed environment, but it does not matter at all that it is Serbia. I think that people recognize the problem of making a big decision, the feeling of rejection, the need to take one’s future into one’s own hands to the greatest extent possible, if there is any possibility for that, and in the film that is provided by the arrival of Novi.
Have you already had the opportunity to feel the pulse of the FEST audience at previous editions of this festival?
- This is my second FEST, I was there a year or two before with Oleg Novković and the film‘The Living Man‘ (Živ čovek). I am very excited, I love FEST and I am so happy to be here and to be able to see films, to hang out with people and for people to see something that we have been doing. I am happy and grateful to everything that contributed to making this film happen for me.
You yourself left home very young and you probably know how your protagonist felt?
- It certainly helped me because I think I was truthful, which was my desire and goal in interpreting this role. I left home very young and when you ask me now, I think it took enormous courage to take such a big step. At that moment, was I aware of all the problems that would come? Of course I was not. And I wanted that same thing to be happening to Jana in the film as well. In the film, however, we dealt with that part of the pain that comes before the decision is made, and that is the culmination, the biggest dilemma and the ‘peak’ of the problem. The film ends at the moment when that decision is implemented.
How demanding was it to present Jana in front of the cameras?
- I like demanding roles, when it is challenging, when it is difficult, when there are some big dilemmas. The moment I do not feel the effort to perform something, I am afraid it will not be an inspiring role for me. I like roles where I have to stop and ask myself questions. All of us actors wish for difficult roles, but when they happen, it is really hard. An actor has to deal with certain personal dilemmas before expressing it through a certain character and in relation to what he says and does. Then again, I wish myself and my colleagues demanding roles through which progress is made, because that breeds passion, and that is the motto of this year's FEST.
You appeared in ‘Močvara’ with another Bjelica, are you connected to an interesting story with the actress Marta Bjelica?
- Marta was my Stage Movement class professor, and now we are sisters and friends. It happens that people cannot tell us apart and tell us that we look alike. Finding out that we were related happened because of the last name, it was logical to wonder whether there was anything else that connected us, but we had not known each other before I came to the university. I really had not known Marta before the university. There are few of us Bjelicas, but we are all relatives. We are well deployed - tactically.