Irfan Avdic, director of Precious. Interview

Precious takes the traditional story of a teenager dealing drugs to improve his lot in life and gives it new life. Taking in ideas of teenage pride alongside ideas of escape and entrapment, Precious is a bravura piece of work that is already the recipient of numerous awards, including Best Student Film at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2018.

Irfan Avdić • Director de Precious

Precious is a very raw story. Where did you originally get the idea to make the film?

The idea came from my own personal sense of frustration and impotence. I found myself in a situation where I could not find a job, or make money with my directing degree. I was stuck in place, while the whole world around me was moving on. I come from a modest working-class family, and the fact that I went out and studied film and theatre directing and not law, engineering, economy or medicine was a somewhat irresponsible gamble. I felt guilty, ashamed and frustrated. I channelled that feeling into this movie and that made the character of Alem so relatable.

Dino Bajrovic gives a great performance which carries much of the film. How difficult was the casting, especially when you consider how crucial he is to the success of the film?

Dino Bajrović is an extremely talented young actor. I was basically imagining him the whole time for the role of Alem. For me it was important to portray Alem and Alem’s world sincerely, without judgment or shallow clichés, and to do that Dino Bajrović had to be open enough to understand his character. We had a genuinely nice process and director-actor relationship.

It’s been mentioned that some of your influences include Stanley Kubrick, Harmony Korine, Bong Joon-ho and Hirokazu Koreeda. In your opinion, how did they manifest themselves in Precious – if at all.

What I admire about Hirokazu Korreda is his ability to take mundane situations which might not, in traditional sense, have an action which directly drives the plot forward, and fill them with raw sincerity, emotion and drama. Stylistically this film might be closer to the hyperrealist style of Dardenne brothers than the strict, perfect form of Stanley Kubrick.

Was it a difficult shoot? There a sense of realism here that would suggest an almost documentary approach at points, but you’re also dealing with many different actors and extras.

It was a difficult shoot without a doubt, especially when you factor in the extremely low budget and small number of shooting days. We had to adapt to a lot of things. For example, all scenes with the character of Stana (Faketa Salihbegović – Avdagić) were shot in a single day. But, even though it was hard work the atmosphere on set was truly inspiring. The crew and the cast consisted of my student colleagues and many seasoned film professionals. It was really a passion project for most of us.

How has the international reception to the film been? Are you surprised when stories like this do have a universal aspect and have something everyone can relate to no matter where they may come from?

I knew that the film would have a regional audience. All the Ex-Yugoslavian countries have similar stories. They can relate to this post-war era and understand the social context in which the story takes place. But to my surprise so do the French, Italian, German, Turkish, Spanish, etc audiences. On every film festival, someone approaches me to tell me that they know a guy just like Alem from their High School or Elementary school. The film always sparks discussions and I am so happy and grateful that I have managed to convey such an experience. It was the most important story for me at the time, and now it lives with other people in different parts of the world.

And you’ll be attending Future Frames at Karlovy Vary – what are you hopes for the event and for attending the festival?

Exposure and experience. Honestly, I was not prepared to be a part of Future Frames, or any other similar programme. I am deeply honoured and humbled. I can’t wait to exchange experiences and my thoughts with other young filmmakers from the Europe. Also, I sincerely hope that people will like and appreciate my film.

What plans do you have for the future?

Currently I am developing script for a new short film with working title Balloon Man about an adolescent with a balloon instead of his head trying to find a job in the sparse job market in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am a cautious optimist.

Interview from Cineuropa.