The Land of My Dreams
"Is it a downer?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, is your film a downer? Is it sad? Will it put me down?"
I was asked this question by a guy that I just met in a L.A. Film Festival
van. I arrived here the day before from cold Bosnia and realized that
I had totally wrong clothes with me. It is not that I didn't check the
temperature in L.A. before my departure, but it was 23° F in Bosnia
at the time and my body just could not believe that it might be 77°
F anywhere. I packed wrong clothes and now I am hot. That's the power
of habit: November=Cold. There you go-swelter now, I think to
The guy I met is a film student in L.A. He now works as a driver. The
pay is low but he has to live off something. He asks about my film.
I teach him how to pronounce its name: Grbavica. He is successful
after just one attempt.
"My film is about love in the time of hate." As I give him
my one-liner it already sounds hackneyed. I spent five years of my life
making this film and putting all the effort into one single sentence
hurts like crazy. Through the windows I can see Marilyn Monroe T-shirts
on Hollywood Boulevard. I can hardly wait to get off the van and buy
myself one-no matter how silly I might look in it.
"War topic, your film?"
"No. Post-war," I say.
"Do you think that we Americans are doing terrible things over
"In Iraq? Do you see us as bad guys?"
Surprised by the turn of our conversation, with my eyes jealously looking
at his sleeveless shirt and flip-flops, I try to put the conversation
back on track by saying that just as I do not see films as simply "downers"
or "non-downers," I also do not divide people into just good
or bad. To show him that I do not just beat around the bush I tell him
what I think about U.S. foreign policy and George W. Bush. And I do
it the Balkan way, with lots of F-words and gesticulation.
Now the young man starts to sweat.
On a neighboring street, I buy myself a Mel's Diner T-shirt. My body
feels thankful. It is just distrustful of the glass full of ice cubes
that the waitress puts down on the table.
Grbavica is being screened at the ArcLight Cinemas. The audience
is already in. Somebody waves at me from the audience: the driver! I
am really happy. There is at least one person in the theatre who knows
how to pronounce the title of my film!
"He is with the CIA," says C., my American friend, while sending
an email on her blackberry.
"What?!," I blurt out as an ice cube sticks in my throat.
I can already see myself buying antibiotics.
"That driver of yours. He is surely with the CIA," she begins
her conspiracy theory. "Why would a film student be interested
in your opinion about Bush?" C. does not stop typing.
It is true that his question was out of place and quite out of the blue,
but he might just be a conscientious young man concerned for the world's
"Do not be naïve. What driver would have time to watch films
during the festival anyway? Come on."
My body does not believe, again. This time, it is not about the season,
but about knee-jerk thinking: America=Free Society. C. laughs. And laughs.
After the film, the driver walks up to me. He shakes my hand and says
the film touched him, that he even cried at one moment. He looks sincere.
"Does it mean my film is a downer?," I ask him.
"Well, it does get you down but it is also funny and gives you
hope at the end. I love that."
"Thank you," I say and tensely question whether I am speaking
to a CIA agent for the first time in my life. Is this possible, or does
it only happen in films?! But the director in me speaks: Any spectator
is a good spectator. We have to love our audience!
It is a calm night in front of the cinema. The first warm November in
my life. A strange feeling!