Slowly, breathe in and out. Incisive and atypical the opening sequence of Majkino Zlato, four shots focused on the detail of the lips of some boys while smoking a cigarette. The next medium-long shot unveils the group of friends of which the main character is part, a seventeen-year-old orphan that lives with his grandmother. Under the direction of Irfan Avdić, the film – winner of Best Student Film at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2018 – takes the form of an ordinary story whose strong point is constituted by the importance placed on some details.
In front of the opportunity to take part in a school trip the boy, oppressed by a condition of financial constraints, decides to face it by any means, juggling drugs and crime, in his eyes the only possible way with a view to a redemption. The first shots reveal without filters or delay the common thread of the action: if, in an immediate way, the first cause of diversity between Alem and his peers is the lack of a tooth, it is then the frustration, resulted from a difficult economic situation, that makes him unable to identify with the social context in which he acts. His ongoing sense of restlessness is emphasized by a dynamic direction able to show the character according to different points of view – front, from below, from the top –, especially in the sequence in which a fast-paced editing, in a continuous alternation among long shots, medium-long shots and close-ups, reveals the boy focused on making a series of phone calls.
Irfan Avdić, using extensively the hand-held camerawork, tails him and is on him without respite, baring his sense of discomfort and nervousness. The director’s ability is mainly to make us look at the boy with compassion rather than judgment. If it is true that he is only a teenager who is hesitant about accepting his condition, it is appropriate to consider that “the end does not justify the means.” The protagonist has a reluctant attitude towards any kind of help offered him, moral as well as material, reason that creates a mutual love-hate with his grandma, a contrasting relation that is also reflected in the details within which the action takes place. For example, when she shows up at his school, the two characters are symmetrically positioned on the sides of a railing. The same mechanism is used when Alem, got home, finds her asleep on the sofa and an architectural element splits the screen into two perfect halves. Furthermore, a meticulous study of the composition reveals the interiors in shadow made visible by lamps – not even the faces of the characters are ever completely exposed to the light – indeed, as the story goes on, the ighting is increasingly rarefied so that, as we move towards the end, some scenes are shot in almost total darkness.
All symbols that qualify as metaphor respectively of the irreconcilability of two diametrically opposite worldviews and of the feeling of no-return that hovers in the air.
The tension runs through the entire movie until it explodes completely in the moment in which the characters give vent to their suffering. After the storm, finally the stillness: the darkness gives way to the light and the claustrophobic spaces – an emblematic scene takes place inside the car where the camera is more obsessive than ever on the faces of the actors – leave space to nature, to the noise of the sea and the rustle of trees and wind. Majkino Zlato displays a complicated reality for Bosnia and the director, instead of disguising a problem so alive and disturbing owadays, slams it in the face to the viewer in an honest way. The words “you shouldn’t be ashamed.
This country should be ashamed for letting something like this happen” echo in the boy’s consciousness as well as in ours because, at the end, what is played out on the screen is nothing more than a universal story. Circularly, the movie ends up again on that cloud of smoke with which it was opened, uncovering how all the shortcomings have been filled but not without consequences. With a last image, so apparently quiet as intentionally ambiguous, the short film is closed – leaving a sense of bitterness and perplexity – on the notes of a soundtrack that does not bode well.
Eleonora Alessandra Spiga