Locarno Talent: Director Andrea Staka Talks

Director Andrea Staka, who is a Swiss citizen of Bosnian and Croatian heritage, made an international splash with her first feature “Fraulein” which explored questions of nationality, immigration and generational differences through the lives of three women from the former Yugoslavia living in Zurich. It won the Locarno Golden Leopard in 2008. She is back in Locarno with her hotly anticipated second work “Cure – The Life of Another.” Staka spoke with Variety’s Nick Vivarelli about how her two cultures shaped her work, this time using a non-linear narrative that veers into the supernatural.

Let’s start with the title “Cure – The Life of Another,” it’s rather enigmatic.

The word ‘Cure’ in the title is ambiguos on purpose: besides “healing” it also means “fresh” girls in Croatian. I wanted to underscore the uncanny feeling of the film. ‘The Life of Another’ tells you it’s about identity. It generates curiosity.

What’s your personal connection to the film?

I try to depict the richness and complex issues that stem from living with two cultures inside me. They are a richness, but also a challenge. In the 1990’s I started feeling that I needed to talk about them, because they are a complex issue, and I feel I had to explore it. When the war started in Yugoslavia, my family was there and I was in Swizerland. I was 17, and it had a big impact on my life. I felt powerless. So making films is also a way for me to express a lot of unanswered questions from that time.

Adolescence; the scars of war; different nationalities and cultures. All of this comes together in your film which I think has many different layers and levels. Can you tell me about the creative process?

My previous film “Fraulein” is about the inner emotional states of three different women. With “Cure – The Life of Another” I wanted to explore the darker, sub-conscious side, so it’s clear that the narrative needed to be different. I didn’t want to follow the rules of, say, a psychological thriller. I work very intuitively. I was inspired by a true story which I heard different versions of in Dubrovnik about two girls going to a cliff and one not coming back. It quickly became clear to me that I wanted to create the feeling which that story gave me using my own cinematic means.

The lead actress Sylvie Marinkovic is amazing. How did you find her?

A: It was funny and great. It’s not that easy to find a bilingual girl. First we tried Facebook, but it didn’t work. Then I wrote everybody I knew and asked them to ask all their friends who have children to do some “e-castings” with their cellphones. Sylvie and her twin-sister were the first ones to send me their photos. I looked at many other girls, but then I decided she was the one.

What was it like working with such a young actress with no previous experience

It’s mainly about building trust. When I met Sylvie she was twelve. She knew that the film is about a little girl becoming a young woman. At that age girls don’t know about sexuality, it’s interesting to them, but they fear it. Sylvie was almost like a professional actress. In the morning she would almost always already be in the mood of the scene we were going to shoot, and she was almost in every shot. She’s a hard worker.

“Fraulein” won the Golden Leopard here in Locarno in 2006. That was eight years ago. Sometimes it’s harder to get your second movie made? Was that the case with you?

Not really. I gave birth to my son during this time and I started my own production company with Thomas Imbach. As producer and writer I was also involved in other films. When I was ready, it wasn’t difficult to find the financing because after “Fraulein” people were waiting for my new film.

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