Director Ana Jakimska talks about her moody and atmospheric short film “The Children Will Come”.
CULT CRITTER: One of my first impressions of “The Children Will Come” was that even though it is a period piece, it feels like it is saying something about the world right now? Was this a conscious decision? What is the film really about for you?
ANA JAKIMSKA: I don’t remember that I’ve ever spoken about this before, thank you for opening the conversation. It wasn’t my intention to make a period piece. If we look at the elements used in the production design, they all date from a different decade, there is no unity of epoch. Yet, they are all remnants of past times that exist in our collective memory under the same roof of nostalgia. It’s spaces, objects, and clothes that feel very close to home. Once the film was finished, I started referring to it as a “folk fairytale”.
I wanted to create a fantasy world based on the folktales by Marko Tsepenkov that would feel like a dream, at the same time eerie and familiar. Some say that in dreams we understand our lives better. This was my intention, to step away and reflect on our moment in history in the widest sense, as humankind.
CULT CRITTER: The film was written by Branko Kosteski. Who came up with the original idea and what inspired it?
ANA JAKIMSKA: In 2015, the political leaders of the country were already well on the fast route toward building a completely new national identity. This felt suffocating because it was a brute force attempt into erasing the simple, not-so-glorious image of the Macedonian village from the basis of our identity. The writer of the script, Branko Kosteski, is a close friend, and we discussed this impression of a losing battle with him on several occasions. It was several days after one of these conversations that he emailed me the script for “The Children Will Come” – not an idea, not a synopsis, but the whole script. I took it right away.
CULT CRITTER: My personal impression is that the screenwriter is a very ambiguous figure in the cinema tradition of (South-Eastern) Europe and screenplays rarely receive the acknowledgment and attention they should. What is your personal opinion on this?
ANA JAKIMSKA: In our part of the world, it’s very rare to find a director who doesn’t write their own screenplays, or at least co-write them. The pretext is always that there are not enough good scripts and that we as directors are pushed into writing them ourselves out of sheer necessity. Yet, why is that not the case with cinematography or editing, why don’t we feel at ease taking over there as well?
I think the problem is that writing seems so easy to do, basically, it’s enough to know the alphabet and the right formatting and you could technically finish a screenplay. Writing is severely underestimated. As a result, we still have prose that is paramount and films that are struggling to catch up.
CULT CRITTER: Coming back to “The Children Will Come”, one of the most impressive aspects of the film is that it draws you into a different world, that breathes with its own special flavor, and this is obviously thanks to its very precise direction. Can you share some secrets about your personal creative goals as a director with this project?
ANA JAKIMSKA: When I decided that I was going to make a film that would be set in an imaginary landscape, I also made the decision that I was going to avoid the realist approach in building the characters and the relationships between them. My cast, Natasha Petrovikj, and Shenka Kolozova, as well as Vladimir Petkov-Chkalja, took upon this direction and worked on their characters in a way that would probably make Stanislavski leave our rehearsals in disapproval.
It was important to treat every element of this newly-built world as a function in support of the same idea. Thanks to the joined efforts of the cast and crew, we succeeded in creating a visual narrative that was intense without being emotional.
CULT CRITTER: “The Children Will Come” traveled a lot. Can you tell us some highlights of its journey and also, what would your advice be for young filmmakers looking for audience and recognition for their short-film?
ANA JAKIMSKA: The biggest success for “The Children Will Come” was its screening in Shanghai China, as part of the official selection of the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2017. It was among the 10 films nominated for the international Golden Goblet award. It was selected and traveled to festivals on almost all continents, except for South America. As this was all taking place in pre-Covid times, I had the chance to see how different audiences reacted very differently to the story. I think that because the world of the film is elevated from reality, the film becomes a canvas for audiences to paint on in it their own authentic struggles.
As far as festivals go, these days there are millions of them throughout the world and it’s not difficult to get your film selected at a few. However, I believe that young filmmakers are looking for more than just random laurels. My advice to them is to focus all the attention on the making of the film itself. Then, to show it to distributors and sales agents who are professionals in taking care of its festival life.
CULT CRITTER: You are making a new short film now. Can you reveal something about it and what are your expectations from it?
ANA JAKIMSKA: My new short is titled “Blue Hour”, and unlike “The Children Will Come”, it’s a story set in contemporary times, in Skopje. It’s a meditation on the clash between the modern and the conservative, shown through the relationship between a mother and a daughter. Before going to production in April 2021, my expectations are focused on every member of the cast and crew being healthy and safe on set.
CULT CRITTER: Finally, what does it feel like to be a film director in N. Macedonia? And what are your plans and hopes for the future?
ANA JAKIMSKA: I wish I felt like a director more often. I don’t shoot nearly as much or as often as I would like to, except for commercial work, which can be draining creatively. After “Blue Hour”, I am looking at the biggest challenge ahead, my debut feature film.