Igor Drljaca discusses Bosnia’s ghosts in Krivina

Bosnian-Canadian director Igor Drljaca is the first to admit he was surprised when his debut feature, Krivina, was selected for TIFF’s 2012 Discovery program.

“When I submitted the film, I didn’t know what they’d think of it, because it was definitely different from some of the films I’ve seen programmed before, so I felt it was a longshot,” he tells Playback.

“I thought it might have a better life internationally, but they really liked it,” he adds.

Krivina marks the third trip to TIFF for the young director, who also screened the shorts On a Lonely Drive and The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

The idea for the feature, about a disconnected and haunted Bosnian man who returns to his homeland to find a missing friend who has been implicated in war crimes committed during the 1990′s conflict, was conceived in 2009 as an idea for producer Albert Shin’s Master’s thesis.

The story, says Drljaca, is steeped in Bosnia’s troubled past, but also in his own experiences.

“Bosnia has this really fractured narrative and is really dissociative. When you visit it, it has multiple histories and competing narratives,” he explains.

“I was in a similar headspace often. I had a hard time letting go of certain [beliefs]. Spending time with some family members and friends who served in different armies during the war gave me ideas as to the commonalities that they actually felt,” he adds.

But it wasn’t smooth sailing to TIFF.

For starters, the film was mostly privately funded, meaning the cast and actors, including start Goran Slavkovic, donated their time to the project.

This, and other financial restraints, limited the amount of shooting time.

“I felt like I really wanted to keep filming [in Bosnia] at times. I had to condense a lot of stuff. I had to find ways of getting a similar idea using less material and fewer scenes,” he says.

Still from Krivina

Shin, however, feels the small budget was also a blessing for the film.

“Because this was a very small, microbudget film we didn’t have a lot of money, but on the flipside we weren’t beholden to certain obligations [you have] when you’re dealing with multi-million dollar films,” he tells Playback.

“There’s no formula, so for a filmmaker like Igor, it’s a perfect opportunity to make films that are different. We can take chances on things,” he continues.

Drljaca agrees and urges young filmmakers trying to make their way on the film festival circuit not to compromise their vision.

Up next for Krivina is figuring out its international launch, which Drljaca says is key.

“With a feature, once you premiere internationally, a lot of other places that may have wanted the film aren’t going to take it, so you have to be very mindful of that,” he explains.

Drljaca is also hoping the film will get a theatrical run through Canadian distributor College Street Pictures in December or January.

Krivina has its final screening at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 11 at 3 p.m.