Iterview with Dimitar Anakiev by Špela Raspotnik

Dimitar Anakiev interviewed by Špela Razpotnik for an “underground” magazine “Kings of the Road” No.6/2006

SUDDENLY I REALIZED THAT A FILM WORTH MAKING WAS HAPPENING IN FRONT OF MY EYES

Who are you?

Dimitar Anakiev, I came from the Bulgarian minority in Serbia. I graduated on the Medical University in Niš and came to Slovenia during my compulsory service in the Yugoslav Army. (It was meant to be a disciplinary sentence – I and my colleague were drinking heavily when a general of some kind appeared to inspect the troops. I was dispatched to Slovenia immediately. It would seem that this punishment still lasts.) In Slovenia I met my wife and stayed on to live with her; our daughter was born. For seven years I was employed as a M.D. in Tolmin, but then there came the independence and I found myself among the „rubbed-out“ citizens of Slovenia. Ten years of a life without any documents followed; vegetating on the margins of the society, I supported myself by doing occasional jobs; for example, for two years I was a chess instructor in the local club. And then I bought a small DV camera and started to film the life surrounding me.

What are you doing?

I’m making films, I’ve built my life on that. I’ve just finished my first 35-mm film “Ti si jedini gazda u ovoj kući” ( You’re the only boss in this house ) and I’m starting preparations for a motion picture omnibus “Ave Dante!” which I’ll film on Super 8-mm tape in collaboration with my colleagues Sonja Prosenc and Miloš Kalušek.

When and how did you begin to make films?

It would seem that I’ve been making them all my life, since during the first part of it I was unknowingly preparing myself for the creative work in cinematic production. Eisenstein once said that it was the October revolution which made him a film director. Similarly I could say that the nationalist movements on the territory of the former Yugoslavia made me a film director. Within this context, I’m „a poet“ of the Slovenian independence struggle – a thoroughly nationalist phenomenon or rather an unwanted by-product in the shaping of the Slovene nationality. In 2000, I collaborated with a team of Japanese film-makers working for the Japanese public TV NHK which was preparing a series of documentary films made in Slovenia. Then I saw for the first time how this is done, I bought the camera, as I’ve already said, and started shooting on my own. I started out from the scratch, I’ve learned the art of making films on the road.

How many films have you already made? Would you like to draw attention to any particular one?

I’ve made five films: Amigo (2003), Rubbed Out /Zradirani/ (2004), Happy New Year (2005), King of the Road (2005), Ti si jedini gazda u ovoj kući (2006). In a certain way, each of these represents a turning point. For my first film Amigo I was awarded the national film prize Vesna, which helped me a lot when deciding on the career in the film production. The film on the rubbed-out former citizens of Slovenia Rubbed Out brought me some money and an international renown. Happy New Year and King of the Road were my first “off road” films which made me realize that I can make a film on my own, spontaneously and starting „from nothing“ (without preparations necessary for any film, even without a supporting team, as an “one man band”) Ti si jedini gazda u ovoj kući is my debut in the 35-mm format, an important and completely professional achievement in film production. The same applies to the forthcoming Ave Dante! which shall be made in the „underground“ Super 8-mm format as an omnibus motion picture. Each of these films has its own dimensions and all of those are equally important to me.

How did King of the road come about ?

By chance. I was filming one of the many episodes concerning the rubbed-out citizens and I was in the park on Miklošičeva Street, waiting for the protagonists who were late, when Tonček, Dare and Igor, three of the Ljubljana homeless people, appeared and started their „performance“ to earn some petty cash. For a while I was just enjoying myself, watching what was happening, but then I became aware of the extreme importance of their act: on one hand, the existential depth of what I’ve seen, on the other, the artistic value of their performance. It seemed to me that I’m observing the very beginnings of the theatre, for I am certain that the theatre was born on the street, in a similar way. Suddenly I realized that a film worth making was happening in front of my eyes. I grabbed the camera and started shooting. Well, of course I asked for their permission first.

How did you conceive the film?

My cinematic ideas are always closely related to the leading protagonist. I cannot imagine making a film without its „own“ specific type of the leading protagonist. This specific person is a man or a woman who dares to follow his or her own road through life regardless of the consequences, regardless of the price which has to be paid for one’s „own way“. In Amigo that’s Walter, in Rubbed Out Aca Todorović, in Ti si jedini gazda u ovoj kući Jasmina and the same will apply to Ave Dante!, since – in case you don’t know – Dante was an refugee by his will, a man who paid with an exile for his progressive political views and confrontation with the pope (although he was a fervent Christian!) As an idea, King of the Road was born when I came to realize that Tonček is not a victim, but a homeless person by his own choice; he chose this kind of life himself and is stoutly accepting it. And this is my theme, the leading idea of all my films.

Was it hard to motivate the protagonists for the film?

Not really. They immediately agreed to collaborate, I only had to pay for their willingness with a bottle of cheap wine. The homeless are kind and desiring attention – an ideal „film“ material. At first, Tonček was the only one who didn’t want to be interviewed. He said: „You can shoot, but I won’t talk.” But when the interviews with his two colleagues were done, he sat beside me himself and he said: „Now I’ll tell you what needs to be told.“ He listened attentively to what the other two were saying and interrupted them occasionally with his comments. Obviously he needs to play an active part in the process of film making: he won’t be an object, but a subject. This further confirmed my instinctive feeling that with him, I shall get „my“ hero

Did you learn anything new while making King of the road?

Art, including film, as I understand it , is a learning process based on empathy. I’ve learnt a lot, practically everything that the project had to offer, everything that can be brought about by a completely new situation, be it in life or on film.

What were your views on the homeless before and after the work on the film?

With its help and with the help of the mutual collaboration, I’ve managed to cross the border which usually separates people and social classes. For a moment we felt close to each other, our human entities were touching each other directly. It’s this entirely human, emotional aspect which enriched me and is probably my greatest personal gain. I’ve also learned a lot, I’ve started to think of the „homelessness“ as a life career, even as a „profession“. And of course it gave me a lot to think about the society.
Any particular story concerning the film Rubbed out?

While filming Rubbed Out I was receiving anonymous letters containing threats. They were addressed not only to me, but also to the members of my family. The bitter taste of such acts stimulated me during the work which was hard, having no money, no equipment and only few collaborators. One of this letters was published on the website Dostje! ( Enough!, the Slovenian branch of Ya Basta! ) until it was deleted, probably owing to the lack of space.

Up to this date, did you receive any reaction to any of these films which you would particularly like to draw attention to?

Each one of my films was presented on the national film festival. Amigo received an award, Rubbed Out was praised by the selector for its „effective directorship“. Furthermore, these films are presented abroad. Rubbed Out was shown on the internationally best known festival of documentary film in Amsterdam IDFA. ( So far, it has been the first and only Slovene film which made it all the way to IDFA ) In July 2006 it was also shown on the festival Golden Apricot in Erevan, it was bought and featured by the Finnish TV network YLE TV2. Then Rubbed Out has numerous independent screening around the Europe, more then 30, then it was shown at Political Incorrect Film Festival in Ljubljana. On the other hand, it was refused for feature everywhere on Balkans: by Zagreb and Beograd festivals of documentary films (owing to »poor aesthetic quality«), it was not even invited to the Ljubljana festival of documentary film in Cankarjev dom, although there exists a section dealing with “socially engaged films”. It’s interesting to note that the selector of the regional documentary program in Sarajevo demanded – for the film to be included – that it should be shortened for the scene representing the orthodox baptism of the leading protagonist omitted. On TV Slovenija they also refused to feature the film Rubbed Out for not being “conformant to the program interests of the institution”. Film King of the Road was recently invited to the festival in Strumica in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Aster fest) but for my knowledge they also refused to screen Rubbed Out.

Do you have an explanation about refusing the Rubbed Out in the Balkans?

Yes. Partly it is a general problem of the underground, extremely low budget film production. But also people from upstart Balkans’ societies trying to establish their selves in capitalistic world do not like to face the real face of the Balkans. There is a cultural issue too: Eastern Europeans generally prefer the escapism to criticism: humorous, “poetic” and religious approaches in art are much more domestic. For example: in year when Rubbed Out was refused for screening in Sarajevo festival the Human Rights Award was adjudged to the film speaking about crows. The Balkans’ critical filmmakers speaking openly and directly about the problems, such as Želimir Žilnik, are often consider strange. So, it is very hard to practice critical filmmaking in low budget production everywhere but particularly in the Balkans. Obviously it shows the miserable place of humanism. That means we need critical filmmaking very much. It can be done only in low budget way because no one will support you – you are doing your work on your own risk. In Slovenia the situation with humanism is a bit better but generally it is very much similar to other Eastern European states

Anything else?

I’m honored that my first filmmaker’s interview in Slovenia is being given to the newspaper Kings of the Road! ( Kralji ulice ) I also love the idea to sell a DVD with two of my films: Rubbed Out / King of the road with the newspaper. The idea to transplant the „mainstream“ creative expressions onto the by-roads of underground life where homelessness and homelandlessness meet excites me greatly. I want to thank the Jan Vrijman Fund from Amsterdam for helping the postproduction of Rubbed Out. Studio 7 from Ljutomer helped postproduction of King of the Road. Many thanks also to the editors, the Boter Productions and Slovene Film Foundation which sponsored the publishing of the DVD.

Tr. Maja Novak & Richard Gilbert

Published 22/06/2006 in Kralji Ulice No.6, a magazine for homeless people in Ljubljana, Slovenia

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