Šavovi (Stitches, Serbia 2019)


This title was screened in the Panorama programme at the Berlinale; a ‘controversial, politically and challenging programme’. I usually restrict my reading before screenings to a minimum to avoid learning about plots. So, as it became apparent that this was a drama about a mother and a lost child I at first thought this was a consequent of the wars in 1990s. It turned out that it addressed mothers whose children had been stolen for illegal adoption. Thus it was about the corruption in the Serbian state and the medical institutions. The story is a fictional drama but relates to over 400 actual cases and one that generates controversy in the present. The drama is very well done and the mother, Ana (Snezana Bogdanovic) is both convincing and generates strong sympathy.

The film has a great opening. We see a high wall composed of metal sheeting and Ana appears and looks towards the camera. She is looking at the entrance to a hospital and a car pulls in and a woman alights. She in turns looks towards Ana but in the reverse shot Ana is gone and we only see the bare wall. The woman by the car will turn out to be involved in the scam of which Ana believes she is the victim.

Much of the film is based in the apartment Ana shares with her husband and her teenage daughter. It is clear that Ana has been making unavailing investigations for a baby born to her in about 2000 and pronounced dead at the time. But Ana has never found a grave for the child. Ana’s husband is sympathetic but weary of the issue. Her daughter has lost all sympathy with her mother. The other key location is small shop where Ana does dressmaking and clothe repairs: hence the film’s title.

Unsurprisingly hidden information emerges and Ana’s quest restarts as she seeks to find out what happened. The resolution does not really resolve the loss or address the scam. It is clear that the police and politicians are unwilling to deal with this, if not actually complicit. There is a sort of resolution for Ana herself and a reconciliation within the family.
The early stages of the film as Ana’s quest develops and we start to understand her dilemma are very well done. Quiet and hesitant. And the final scenes are as effective as the opening. One character watches another unobserved in silence. In a sense a metaphor for the situation that the film dramatizes.

>The Director is Miroslav Terzic who seems to have started his film-making career as clapper boy on Emir Kusturica’s Underground(1995). He was obviously paying attention from the start. The listings for cast and crew are incomplete, hence I cannot identify all the actors in lead roles. The cinematography was by Bamjan Radanovic and the editing by Milena Petrovic. Both of these are well done as is the overall design, using a lot of location work..

The film was runner-up in the Panorama Audience awards, recognition of its quality. Whether it will get a British release is too early to say. There have been a number of Eastern European titles released in Britain and the Leeds International Film Festival has featured a number. It definitely has the quality to interest and absorb an audience. The dialogue is in Serbian but is translated in English sub-titles

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