Serbian cinema has bright hopes for Next to Me’s Slaven Došlo

Slaven Doslo, Pored Mene, Next to MeSlaven Došlo has joined a throng of exciting young actors and directors to be proclaimed as flag bearers for the future of Serbian cinema.

With two films praised by critics at this year’s round of international film festivals, this 24-year-old from Sombor is attracting attention beyond the domestic market.

Hollywood Reporter was the latest in a string of international film media to namecheck Slaven for his scene-stealing performance in writer-director Stevan Filipović‘s acclaimed high school drama Pored Mene (Next to Me).

The film, distributed in Serbia by Taramount Film, was named Best Film at Croatia’s Pula International Film Festival on its first public screening.

Slaven has attracted widespread praise for his role as a sharp-witted college boy in the film which won the Young Audience Award at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Pored Mene Belgrade Premiere: 26 September

This week’s premiere in Belgrade (Sept 26, Sava Centre) should cement the film’s credentials ahead of two high profile screenings at London’s Raindance Film Festival (Oct 2/3, VUE Cinema, Piccadilly).

Earlier this year, Slaven’s film Panama, also received acclaim at Cannes. It would seem that the best scripts keep landing on Slaven’s doorstep – not that he is not taking it all for granted, though.

“Of course, I really appreciate that international festivals have recognised quality in my work, but every time I start working on something new I feel the same insecurity. I think that that’s important for an artist because it supports creativity. There is no worthwhile result without hard work.”

Any actor craves good roles, of course. For a young Serbian actor, such opportunities are rare for an actor from the Balkans.

Cannes Film Festival brings home reality for Serb actor

“Although we always complain about the bad situation in Serbia where culture is concerned, in my position right now, maybe it is not such a bad place,’ said Slaven. “But I am realistic.

Pored Mene, Next to Me“When, in the same week you go to the Cannes Film Festival, then you return to play in children’s plays at the theatre with only €10 in your pocket to last until the end of the month, it’s not so difficult to remember what reality is like.

“Having that experience in mind I try not to take all the fuss too seriously.

Working with a guiding director such as Stevan Filipovic, alongside the revered Mirjana Karanovic and acclaimed actress Hristina Popović (Circles and The Parade) could be a surefire way for a young actor to get himself noticed. If he is any good, that is.

As a young actor, Slaven dreamed of playing James Dean’s lead role in the undeniable classic Rebel Without a Cause. Success has brought new ambitions, though. “Who wouldn’t want to play Hamlet or star in some Haneke movie?” he said.

“I would like to be given more chance to portray characters that force me to search deep inside for something that I do not know about myself.”

High hopes for a young Serb actor from Sombor

From the start Slaven had high ambitions and heroes. “I started going to an actors’ studio in my home town when I was eleven,’ he said. “I was always interested in acting and I have never stopped loving it. I would watch movies starring Joaquin Phoenix, Meryl Streep or Isabelle Pierre and want to be in their position.

“At the end of secondary school, when I had to choose if acting would be my profession, my parents were sceptical. I was a good student so they wanted me to choose something that would bring me a more peaceful and secure life.

“I was preparing for political sciences and thought that I could make a career of that, but I didn’t make it. It just didn’t happen for me. Later, though, I realised that my subconscious did a great job there because that is when got into the Belgrade Academy of Arts and my real life started.”

Mirjana Karanovic and Stevan Filipovic guide Slaven Doslo

Slaven could not predict how soon his career would bring him into contact with serious Serbian players like Stevan Filipovic and Mirjana Karanovic and lead to such critical acclaim.

StevanFilipovic-2Mirjana was our acting professor so we had four years to steal knowledge out of her, but working on a concrete film with her, on Next to Me, gave me an opportunity to learn a lot of practical things,’ said Slaven.

“She showed me when to save your energy, what should you do while waiting for the set to be arranged, how to act in front of camera etc. It meant a lot for all of us to have such a good guide through the filmmaking process.”

“It was great to work with Stevan, too. He was really open-minded and willing to talk with us about any problems that we might have. He gave us chance to adapt and change things if we had good reason, which is quite unusual in a writer or director.

“After all we went through together during the making of this film I think that we became friends too.”

Young Serbian actors praised for Next to Me

As well as established professionals, on Pored Mene Slaven also worked alongside newcomers straight out of acrting school.

“That was fun and also quite a relief from the tension of filming especially because more then a half of the actors were a part of my actors study group under the mentorship of Stevan and our professor Mirjana,’ said Slaven. “We are more friends then we are colleagues and it has been good to share the success with them.”

Slaven Doslo, Pored Mene, Next to Me

It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as Slaven explained. “Sometimes we did have a problem with a lack of discipline because of that, but most of the time it was fun and easy going. Stevan’s sense of humour helped a lot when dealing with such a young cast.  It is good to know that you can trust your partners on a project like this.”

Social media has pros and cons for Slaven Doslo

Publicity is important for any actor and Slaven is well aware of the value of social media in promoting a film or extending interest in an actor. But, while he is active across the usual sites, including Instagram, Slaven believes that social media can be both a gift and a curse.

“In one way it is good for marketing and for the fast communication that is needed nowadays,’ he said. “But on the other hand, so much social media can push a worrying representation of self perfection, as well as a cacophony of unimportant information.”

Having such breaks so early in his career is a gift for any young actor, said Slaven. In Serbia, where an actor’s life is rarely easy, it is a valuable opportunity.

“I still don’t have a clear insight of the situation in Serbian cinema but I can see that it isn’t ideal for actors or directors,’ Slaven said. “Nowadays, no one expects anything from state funds and good movies are being made only out of the enthusiasm of their authors and producers.

Money is not a problem because there isn’t any money

“Government support for cinema is limited. We are just happy if we manage to make a movie and to have a place where it can be screened. That is more opportunity than many filmmakers and actors achieve.”

“The good thing is that there are still some people that didn’t give up. Those people are motivating young authors to change things and connect with each other. Because of that, we have better collaboration in the region, bringing fresh ideas into cinema. I still believe that quality will find its way.

“We have a saying in Serbia: ‘Money is not a problem because there isn’t any money’. I think that is a good description of our current situation in film as much as in life.”

For a young actor who is already attracting so much attention at home and abroad, Slaven can define his ambition in life and career in three simple words. “Searching for experience,’ he said. That sounds like a plan that is working out just fine.

*  Pored Mene / Next to Me will premiere in Belgrade, Wednesday, 26 September, before regional release. 
*  Director Stevan Filipovic will host a screening at VUE Piccadilly on Friday, 2 October, as part of the Raindance Film Festival.

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