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"It was a disaster...a complete disaster!" Ena Sendijarevic jokes about the challenge of trying to shoot Take Me Somewhere Nice in three different languages, writes Geoffrey Macnab.

A road movie about a young woman, Alma, who returns to Bosnia from the Netherlands to visit her sick father, Sendijarevic's debut feature was made in Dutch, Bosnian and English. The young director, who came to the Netherlands from Bosnia when she was seven years old, says there were times when her head felt "it was about to explode" as she tried to deal with her Dutch and Bosnian crew. "It was at this point I told them I was only going to communicate in English."

Sendijarevic describes the film, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund,  as "a bit of a follow up" to her well-received short film Import (2016), about a day in the life of a Bosnian family living in the Netherlands, which premiered in Cannes before picking up the Best Fiction Short Film at Dokufest and the NTR Go Short Award at Nijmegen. This time, though, the emphasis was on the Bosnian returning to her homeland.

"I just felt the desire to explore the relationship between the migrant and the country of origin," the writer-director says of Take Me Somewhere Nice. As soon as she conceived the film, Sendijarevic was also aware of the potential for cliché. She wasn't the first director to have dealt with this theme. Cheap nostalgia and sentimentality could easily have crept into the storytelling. So could a deadening feeling of political correctness.

When it came to casting Alma, Sendijarevic looked at first for a Bosnian-Dutch actress from within the Bosnian community in the Netherlands. "We had a lot of reactions," the director remembers of the response to the casting call. Some actors were suspicious about the film's exploration of the sexuality of the girl and its occasional explicit scenes. "There were a lot of girls who were not comfortable with that." Sendijarevic's eventual choice Sara Luna Zorić (also starring in Zara Dwinger's Yulia and Juliet, p30), however, had no trepidation about the role.

"She has this great intensity. She is a true rebel," the director says of her young lead. "On the set, her rebellious spirit gave me a lot of strength. I felt that through her, I could be in touch with my inner teenager," says Sendijarevic.

Sendijarevic describes the film as being about girlhood and the journey to womanhood. "She (Alma) goes from one side to the other. Also, it was not only her exploring her sexuality. It was also me exploring my sexuality through her. Writing certain scenes, it was a challenge directing them and sharing them with other people."

The film isn't just about a girl becoming a woman. It is also about east-west relationships. Sendijarevic was keen to express Alma's feelings of alienation from her Bosnian roots and to show that after all her time in the Netherlands, Alma had "different cultural views" to those of her relatives in the Balkans.

The director has been back to Bosnia many times since she first left the country as a child. Returning to make a film was "completely different" to being there as a visitor and meeting relatives. "I felt a huge responsibility. For me, it's not a film necessarily about Bosnia. It's a film more about being between cultures," Sendijarevic reflects.

Even so, she asked herself on a daily basis if she had the right to be back in the country, which became part of the story. She wanted to be respectful without being reverential. After all, this is a film about alienation, and the different languages added to the tension and mood of unease that she was trying to capture.

SEE NL Magazine #34 November 2019 / Sundance, IFFR, Berlin and Clermont Ferrand issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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