Serbia, France


“If I really am a freedom fighter, the freedom I have won is the worst failure of my life” - Srbijanka Turajlić (my mother)

A locked door inside a Belgrade apartment has kept a family separated from their past for over 70 years. As the filmmaker begins an intimate conversation with her mother, the political fault line running through their home reveals a house and a country haunted by history. The chronicle of a family in Serbia turns into a searing portrait of an activist in times of great turmoil, questioning the responsibility of each generation to fight for their future.

Director's Statement

I was born in 1979, a year old when Tito died and 11 years old when Milosevic came to power, 12 when the war in the former Yugoslavia started, 16 when it finished, 20 when NATO bombed us, 21 when we finally got rid of Milosevic, 24 when our Prime Minister was assassinated, and today at the ripe old age of 37, I want to speak of my country, from a very personal angle, and from a very precise point of departure - the place where I live.

Why from there? Because I have been privileged to grow up observing Serbia through the beliefs and actions of a woman who thought it her responsibility to speak up about things that were happening in it. Because my mother and I have always shared this language of politics - she was a student leader in 1968, and so was I in the 90s. Because my family home was the gathering place for intellectual discussions, activist meetings and often just refuge from the madness taking place outside. Because this home is in the centre of Belgrade and the things happening in Serbia today. Because the more I stare at the locked doors in our living room that I have been faced with all my life, the more I realize how much about Serbia can be understood by talking about divided spaces. Between those seeking to re-write the past, and those attempting to acknowledge it. And a way of understanding my mother’s life is her attempts at bridging this divide.

As I grew, I have come to feel that the personal impulse to act is inspired less by lofty ideals of freedom, justice and equality, and more from the small things we personally hold dear - we act to protect the fabric of our life, the family that gathers on Christmas Eve, the neighbours we grew up with, the trees in front of our house, the roots that connect us. As a public, we usually have external access to stories of political struggle. Activism takes place in public spaces, and it is a group experience of street demonstrations and inspiring speeches. Having grown up as the daughter of a very visible political activist and professor, I needed to make a film about this experience, but I wanted to build it around a private dialogue. And to get to the heart of civic activism, of engagement as an intimate act, a personal reckoning we each make with ourselves when choosing how to live our lives.

Director's Biography

Mila studied Politics at the London School of Economics, and Film Production at the national film school in Belgrade, specialising in documentary filmmaking at La Fémis in Paris. Mila obtained her PhD at the University in Westminster on the subject of cinema and politics, and is a lecturer at universities (Sorbonne, Harvard University, Stanford) as well as documentary training programs (Archidoc, BDC). She gained production experience working on feature films (Mel Gibson’s APOCALYPTO, Rian Johnson’s THE BROTHERS BLOOM). Since 2006 she is the director of Dribbling Pictures, a production company she founded with Boris Mitic. Her films have won support from EURIMAGES, CNC-Aide aux cinémas du monde, and the Doha Film Institute. In 2005 she co-founded the Magnificent 7 Festival of European Feature Documentary Films in Belgrade, and in 2015 became the first president of DokSerbia - the Association of Serbian Documentary Filmmakers.


Cast & Crew

Directed by: Mila Turajlic

Written by: Mila Turajlic

Produced by: Carine Chichkowsky, Mila Turajlic

Cinematography: Mila Turajlic

Editing: Sylvie Gadmer, Aleksandra Milovanovic

Original Score: Jonathan Morali

Sound Design: Aleksandar Protic

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2018