After years of honing her filmmaking craft in the Netherlands, last summer director Aneta Lešnikovska occupied the streets of Skopje, making her first feature-length film with an interesting title, which is in fact a question: Does It Hurt? Yes, it does hurt when a director shoots her debut since the rest of her career hangs in the balance. But, from what we were presented on the big screen at the Frosina Theatre, the author is well on her way towards her goal.

Enthusiasm is the key element of the entire project. After signing the Vow of Chastity in Copenhagen, agreeing to follow the principles of the Dogma 95 Manifesto, Lešnikovska gathered a group of friends, amateur actors, an interesting mix of Skopje’s crème de la crème and Skopje’s underground, and with a very small budget set off on an uncertain adventure—in search of a story to further develop into a film. The story seems to be unsteadily permeating the structure of the film, through the various uncompleted themes: whether to stay or to go, the reasons for the conflict between Macedonians and Albanians, pornography, drugs, paedophilia, false political heroes, etc.

Since the subheading of the film states that it is reality based on fiction, and the synopsis claims that it is a film ‘by the youth and for the youth of Macedonia,’ it is very likely that the author herself, as well as her character of the director in the film, loses her initial thread at times. However, one’s first film is always a ground to research the possibilities of a feature-length product, whereby one accumulates precious experience that is certain to erupt at the right moment in the films to come.

Craft-wise, the film is well-made. The director controls the process taking place in front of her lens, despite the fact that oftentimes it is an improvised dialogue by the actors, which Igor Andreevski subsequently tames in the editing room. There have been objections that the film is too local, even though that might prove to be its selling point, but everyone definitely agrees on one thing: Skopje finally got a new image on the big screen, an image of a true metropolis, mostly to the credit of the director of photography Linnert Hillege. Most actors, however, with little to no film acting background, find the Dogma concept a perfect match since they can face the five minutes of I-am-not-me-and-yet-am-still-myself in front of the lens/witness, not letting it show that they know when the camera is on or off.

The first Macedonian and Balkan Dogma film Does It Hurt?, through its release and continual presence in movie theatres and at film festivals, confirms that films made with great enthusiasm always could attract the audience’s attention. Finally, Does It Hurt? is proof that the Macedonian film scene has quality and, above all, versatility, which can only be cause for joy.

(MK, 98 min)
Director: Aneta Lešnikovska
Cast: Irena Ristic, Igor Džambazov, Dejan Lilic, Visar Vishka

(Published on 8th May 2007 in the „Globus“ weekly)

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