51 min / 1:1,78 / HD / s/w / dolby surround 5.1 / PAL / EN – DE subtitles / 2016
A slum in a Romani neighbourhood. Ten-year-old Valentina invites us to meet her family. What follows are bizarre anecdotes, daydreams and documentary observations – a film as lively as its roaming heroine.
“Do you want me to tell a story?“, Valentina asks. She is wearing army pants and a track-suit top. Her hair is wild with a tiny clip. She entrusts us with why she wasn’t born a boy, as it should have been. Nevertheless Valentina knows every detail of her family history: how her father won her mother’s heart with a bottle of juice and a pack of cigarettes, why her sister was held at gunpoint by her parents in-law, where her siblings were brought after they were caught begging. Together with her family of twelve Valentina lives in a run down one-room shack in the Romani municipality Šutka, in Skopje, Macedonia. Observations of daily live are mixed with Valentina’s personal stories, dreams with actual facts. Yet it becomes clear, that all of her story telling is nothing but preparation for her big dream.
„Poverty is a great shine from within“, this quote by Rilke has been haunting me for years now. We as a team – director, cinematographer and sound mixer started searching for evidence in Šutka, a place full of contrasts. Iron shacks between multistory buildings, carriages alongside Mercedes limousines, muezzins alongside balkan pop and you’ll bump into somebody speaking German on every street corner. But for five weeks we are not able to find a potential protagonist.
„Who is benefiting from your film anyways?” the inhabitants ask charging us high fees and it seems like we don’t have enough money to shoot here. But then we meet a little girl who talks us into buying her a hamburger. Her father once played in an Emir Kusturica Film. We agree on a contract including representation allowance and catering for the whole family and start our project: a family portrait. Valentina steals the show from her father and becomes the main character in our film. With wit and love she tells the story of her family, removing any distance between us and them. We interpret her dreams, commission a soundtrack and shoot in black and white. How much have we narrated the film?
What is the reality of life of the Demaili family like? Done shooting I stumble across Kurt Tucholsky’s quote: “Poverty is certainly just not a great shine from within, as father Rilke called it, but a single mess.“