After secondary school, director Tijana Zinajić studied French and Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts, but graduated in Theater Direction from the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (the AGRFT) in Ljubljana. She works as a theater director, actor, and assistant film director. She has received two Žlahtna režija (Refined Direction) Awards for comedies, while the theater performances she has directed have received several Slovenian and international awards.
Tara Karajica talks to Tijana Zinajić about feminism and film and her debut feature, “Bitch, a Derogatory Term for a Woman,” a dramedy that follows a floundering millennial struggling with menstruation, rent and inspiration. The film had a successful festival run and is now screening in the Europe! Voices of Women in Film program at this year’s Sydney Film Festival.
How did you get into filmmaking?
Tijana Zinajić: I was studying to be a theater director, but I had been acting in films since the first year of my studies. After school, I began directing in theaters, and worked on film sets as assistant director, coach, and casting director, all while trying to get the money for my first movie. Before I did, I co-directed a feature film, Toilet Stories. And, I finally got the chance to make my own feature film.
How did Bitch, a Derogatory Term for a Woman come about?
T.Z.: There was a pitch of this script at the Festival of Slovenian Film in Portorož and a producer from the December production company really liked the script and asked Iza Strehar to do it and suggested I be the director. That’s how we got together and that was the beginning of our cooperation on the film.
The film deals with the confusion in the life of a typical, or even stereotypical, millennial. Can you elaborate on that? What drew you to this topic particularly?
T.Z.: I cannot disagree more with you that she’s typical. I think she’s atypical in her vocation and typical in her problems. In this part of life, our feelings are similar – even though I’m twenty years older, I went through this stage. Of course, the circumstances change. This disgusting capitalism that is current now is even harder to get through than it was for us. But what drew me to this script was this strong and unadjusted woman who stays herself until the end. And, she’s this atypical superhero.
You pluck certain situations straight out of sitcoms, insert the B-word in the dialogue as a swear word and aim for a music video aesthetic in which you are helped by the production and costume designs. Can you comment on these choices?
T.Z.: This is how I see the world –obviously, as a sitcom. And, this is how people talk.
Can you talk about Eva? How do you see her?
T.Z.: I see a confused, scared twenty-seven-year-old girl who loses her period. She doesn’t have anything stable in her life except for this period, and she starts questioning herself and her life, her choices and her desires. And, she’s trying to be somebody else. She’s trying to quit smoking, drinking… But, in the end, she’s at the same point where she was at the beginning of the journey, but she’s kind of satisfied with herself and that’s when she gets her period back.
Can you talk about the casting and shooting processes?
T.Z.: Liza Marijina was cast immediately. She was on my mind all the time when I was reading the script. For Blaž, we thought a lot and the actor Tosja Flaker Berce is also a director who acted in a few short films. So, we invited him to a casting. We tried him and he’s so specific and so special, and he was good. So, we went along with him. For the all the other older actors – as I had been working in theater for twenty-five years and Slovenia is not such a big country, I have practically worked with all of them. So, for them, there was no casting; I just just gave them their parts. But I did a big casting with all the young actors from the Academy, and realized that we have a really talented generation coming, so I tried to give a part to each one of them and make this colourful situation their home. As for the shooting process, we prepared for the shooting, we shot – with no money practically – and had twenty-five shooting days.
What were the challenges when making this particular film?
T.Z.: The challenges were that I had to warn every artist, every author and every actor in the film that all of them were going to be paid less than what they are usually paid because we just received a small amount of money, which made it practically impossible to film with full fees. So, I asked each one of them if they agreed with this pay and if anybody was offended and they were not going to work for this kind of money, but, luckily, all of them agreed to be part of the project. So, that was the biggest challenge; all the rest was easy. We had a good time, we worked a lot, we prepared everything for a long time, and shot the film during a short period of time.
Can you talk about the title, “Bitch, a Derogatory Word for a Woman”?
T.Z.: I think she’s all the girls who rebel on different levels of rebellion. She’s a b*tch, just like I’m a b*tch probably.
Are you a feminist? If so, how does this inform your filmmaking?
T.Z.: I think yes, in a way. As you can see in the movie, I stand for the emancipation of women, which is unique for every woman and has no generic form or rule, so I like to think that I embrace all different kinds of emancipation for women and human beings as they are and I try not to judge them.
What subjects interest you and that you would like to tackle in your work? What would you like audiences to come away with after watching your films?
T.Z.: I’m interested in human nature, in women today in particular in these micro relationships and everyday life, trying to be the way they are and not adjusting too much. I hope that the audience will laugh and understand that they can be human beings in this world now.
Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?
T.Z.: Probably Sofia Coppola and Jane Campion. I like Virgin Suicides a lot; it’s is a cool movie.
There has been a lot of talk about the situation of women in the film industry these past four years. What is your take on the matter? How is it in Slovenia?
T.Z.: I hope that a time will come where people will work because of their talent, not because of their gender and that we’ll stop talking about men and women, but that we will talk about people and their visions.
What are you working on next?
T.Z.: I’m working now on a TV series. I’m a professor as well and I’m prepaying a feature film about a woman my age.
Photo credits: ©Irena Herak.
This interview was conducted in partnership with: