Miska Mandic is an Australian filmmaker, born in the former Yugoslavia. Her film "Scenes From a Farmhouse" features in the 2012 Dungog Film Festival. She spoke to Anna Hay about the inspiration behind the work.
Tell us about the dream you had, which inspired your film Scenes from a Farmhouse?
Often the seed for a film idea comes to me in the form of a dream or single image that I then explore and shape into a story. When I was driving though the German countryside in 2010 I dozed off and saw Ana preparing food in her kitchen, her encounter with the raven and the desperate run that takes her on her journey. When I woke up I felt so moved by her passion and her turmoil that I immediately wrote down the idea across the back of several gas station receipts, which I still have. It then took several months for me to understand the character and what moved her, what frightened her, what saddened her and where her desires lay, and it was at this point that the story started to write itself.
I empathized with Ana long before I understood how her experience fit in with my own family history. I think it would be difficult not to empathize with Ana. I guess in particular for women, because perhaps the acts of domesticity she performs are still to this day more familiar to women then men. But her longing and her sadness and her passion are universal emotions. One of the most satisfying feelings I have had making this film, is that after a private screening for some family and friends, I saw that each person had a different reasoning and a different connection between Ana's story and their own. it was really wonderful to see the story become so personal to people.
You have a unique directing practice. How do you think your story of love in times of war and poverty in another culture translates to the Australian audience? What was your aim in breaking into the Australian film industry?
I have never set out to make a film for a specific audience. I've only ever wanted to be truthful to the characters and feelings of the dream or image that was the seed for the story. I have watched films about boxers and killers, madmen and primadonnas and felt empathy for each character in some way. Too often as audiences we assume that if a film is set in a different culture with characters of a different gender or race we won't be able to understand them, but I think all we need to do is open ourselves up to experience films with our hearts as well as our minds.
A friend once spoke to me of countries where memories of war and pain have woven themselves into the soil, where rich and beautiful landscapes can only ever be experienced with a tinge of sadness because of the knowledge of what the landscape has had to witness. I think it would be easy to assume this only of places like Poland or Germany and where I'm from, Ex-Yougoslavia, but the truth is that we all feel this in different places and in different ways, and I think it's an emotion we all can easily tap into. Australia has it's own fair share of beauty tinged with the sadness of history, the landscape speaks this to us whether we like to listen or not.
You can visit Miska Mandic's website here and watch Scenes From a Farmhouse in the Paranormal Activity shorts program at DFF.