– Thanks to her well thought-through and consistent approach, Emilija Gašić creates a moody, emotional and sincere time capsule with her feature debut
Jelena Đokić, Goran Bogdan, Milica Gicić, Tamara Gajović and Viktorija Vasiljević in 78 Days
In Serbia, when someone says, “During the war,” it refers to the 1999 NATO air campaign in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as opposed to the other wars of the 1990s, strictly defined by the territories they were fought on. Different groups of the population have different memories of the 78-day springtime period of the aforementioned year: the adult men, especially those with recent military training, were drafted or feared being drafted; the women and the elderly were struggling to get by in the new, uncertain situation; while the younger primary- and secondary-school students remember the period for the abundance of time they had on their hands during the unplanned three-month school holidays in the spring, followed by the scheduled two-month summer break.
In some ways, the period was quite similar to the late-winter and spring lockdown in 2020 that forced some sort of unpleasant idleness on people: the global pandemic gave folks the illusion that they were staying together online, while being isolated within their family units, whereas the spring 1999 events gave the illusion of people being brought together in an isolated country. Documentarian Marko Grba Singh dealt with the parallels between the two periods in his 2021 documentary Rampart [+see also:
film profile], mixing actual home videos with newly filmed footage. Emilija Gašić also uses the home-video format of Hi8 tapes to tell the fictional story and the experiences of three sisters in provincial Serbia during the spring of 1999 in her feature-length debut, 78 Days [+see also:
interview: Emilija Gašić
film profile], which has just premiered in the Bright Future section of IFFR.
With their father (Croatian actor Goran Bogdan channelling his signature “everyman” energy) drafted into the army and their mother (Jelena Đokić, glimpsed in Celts [+see also:
interview: Milica Tomovic
film profile]) having to take care of the household on her own, the three sisters Sonja, Dragana and Tijana (played by newcomers Milica Gicić, Tamara Gajović and Viktorija Vasiljević, respectively) start filming their days on the home camcorder, over-writing some of the older recordings in the process. The arrival of two siblings from Belgrade, youngster Mladen (Pavle Čemerikić, of The Load [+see also:
interview: Ognjen Glavonić
film profile] fame) and his sister Lela (Maša Ćirović), in the house next door shakes up the dynamic between them. While precious little dictator Tijana and Lela quickly become the best of friends, a rift appears between the two older, secondary-school-age sisters, since they both take an interest in Mladen. The laziness of their idyllic days – characterised by forging friendships, singing “funny” songs that mock the world leaders from that period, and watching endless re-runs of one particular soap opera – is sometimes interrupted by planes flying overhead and air-raid sirens, reminding the characters and us, the viewers, that war is not an abstract concept that only happens to someone else.
With her film, Gašić aims to recreate her childhood memories and those of her generation through a “found footage” vibe. She achieves this through the perfect casting of non-professional actors in the main roles and professionals in the supporting ones, and through her consistent use of vintage, low-grade filming technology. The blends she achieves in this way are perfect, since the actors fit in with the scenery, which is enriched with further detail by Maja Đuričić’s production design and Senka Radivojević’s costumes, while the shots obtained by the actors themselves are carefully mixed in with those filmed by cinematographer Inés Gowland. This is further enhanced by the discreet sound design handled by Dora Filipović and some very compelling editing tricks employed by Jovana Filipović. 78 Days serves as a moody, emotional and sincere time capsule that takes us back to a very particular time and place.