A DOCUMENTARY FILM/

DOKUMENTARNI FILM

Directed by:
METOD PEVEC

Director's comment

I live in a working-class suburb; in good old times it was referred to as “the red uptown”. Factories moved out or were closed down. In the neighbouring street, there’s a workers home. I often walked past it and looked at the windows without curtains, saw the bare walls behind them and ceiling lamps consisting of a single light bulb without a shade, or blue overalls and socks hung on ropes across a room to dry.

Sometimes I saw some face in the window, tired and wrinkled, and absorbed in thought. I sensed that bitter stories must be hiding behind those windows. I also knew it would be difficult to get to them, although they were just a doorstep away. It was hard to enter that home... and I still haven’t exited from it.

Metod Pevec, Director

A short interview with the director Metod Pevec

 

Apparently, you found inspiration for this documentary in the immediate vicinity?

Literally in a neighboring street. A while ago, I asked myself: Why should we concoct stories or travel across the world to find them? What is around us often seems either too familiar or too self-evident that it could be interesting. In fact, the best stories hide in our immediate vicinity. I live in Moste, in so called workers' suburbs of Ljubljana. Within a short stroll, there is everything: failed factories, a center for social work, charitable organizations, the Invalidity Commission headquarters. And just a garden fence separates me from one of such locations, the Church of the Holy Family, which rooms also the Moste Caritas office.

On the other hand, you chose a topic which is covered in daily news practically all the time.

Yes and no. Journalists tend to be interested only in a phenomenon. Like the exploitation of workers. What journalists have been delivering are kind of manufactured stories. The protagonists of media stories are usually bad guys, in our case, tycoon managers, while workers have a more or less side or merely illustrative roles. My intention was diametrically opposite. I was interested in people, in the residents of that home, in their feelings, their disappointment, their proletarian defeat - in short, in the human dimension, which of course can not be the focus of daily news reports.

Yet, the film does not feature just workers.

This home has long served as a temporary residential home to construction workers. However, the management of Vegrad building company sold it out very unreasonably. Today, the home is shared by nineteen owners, including two former Vegrad directors. Therefore, this home currently rooms a colorful company of owners and tenants. The first floor is even owned by the Ministry of Education, which put in two residential group homes that are run by the Jarše Youth Centre. These two units give home to children from problematic family circumstances under a watchful eye of trained educators or tutors. At first glance it seems that immigrant workers and delicate problematic adolescents do not belong under the same roof, but it is obvious that a workers' suburb is a suitable place for the disposal of social problems. Probably a silent social or political agreement has already been reached that social issues should be kept away from elite residential areas like Ro┼żna dolina.

How come that you shot the film yourself?

Already when I was making the film Alexandrians, I became aware that it was very important for a documentary film to diminish, as much as possible, the phenomenon of intrusiveness. And a complete film crew is nevertheless more intrusive than a weird guy who comes along every now and then with a camera in his hands. Eventually, the residents of that home even stopped taking me seriously. Because when a TV crew comes in, it quickly records what needs to be recorded and the same night everything can already be seen on TV screens across Slovenia. While I kept coming around filming and explaining that this was different, that I was making a film. Who would believe such a story!? Well, nevertheless it helped me enter a more open and relaxed space, which I truly love. Of course it was not that easy to keep track of events, measure light, check focus and control sound and at the same time pretend that I was not there. Sometimes I like to joke that I will shoot my next documentary without a camera. However, I also learned a lot, and today can confidently discuss digital technicalities such as bit rate, C log, e-mount, etc.

Word has it that you even stayed in this home for some time?

This was because I did not get permission to shoot in the home. So, I rented a basement room, got the keys and filmed without permission. In did not actually sleep in that room, but I spent most of my work-time there. I also had to officially change my temporary residence to 34, Vida Pregarc Street, Ljubljana. This is perhaps the most promiscuous address in our city. People come and leave, most of them do not even have a mailbox; the mailman simply drops their mail in a joint wooden box. Sometimes, reminders for my outstanding bills ended up in that box, too. However, this is totally marginal. What really counts was my presence in that home, which helped me establish contacts and connect with tenants, and by doing so I shot many things that I could otherwise miss or overlook.

How long did it take you to make the film?

Approximately two years. Because of credibility; I wanted to capture a little wider time span. Initially, I had some doubts my decision, and thought that I should speed things up, because maybe the crisis will be over and the theme will no longer be topical. Far from that. The life in this home has not improved one bit until today.