Multi-prized Swiss director Corina Schwingruber Ilic, whose “All Inclusive” world premieres in Venice’s Horizons Short Film Competition on Thursday, is advancing towards post-production on her first feature “Dida,” co-directed with Nikola Ilic, her husband.
Shot over five years, and now editing, “Dida” turns on Nikola Ilic’s mother, who has learning disabilities, and has lived all her life in the family apartment in Belgrade, cared for by Ilic’s grandmother.
But the grandmother has now died. So that responsibility falls to Nikola Ilic. But, at the age of 29, he moved from Serbia to Switzerland to live and work with Corina Schwingruber.
“Dida” is produced by Franziska Sonder, Karin Koch for Zurich-based Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion, whose credits include Cannes Critics’ Week hit “Chris the Swiss.”
“It’s a big topic,” said Schwingruber Ilic, taking in “immigration and globalization”: How much do you give up your own life to take care of your parents, and how do you do this when you now live in another country?”
Schwingruber Ilic, however, is used to tackling large issues, framed in brief films which never outstay their welcome, mix the bathetic but often curious, deadpan humor, and occasionally spectacular shots which speak of far larger themes.
Multiplying images of reflection, in “All Inclusive,” Schwingruber Ilic and Nikola Ilic, who here serves as cinematographer, highlights scenes on a cruiser suggesting the commoditization of holiday pleasure and the massification of cruise life and entertainment: a disco dance work-out class, beginners level; sunbathers packing out the deck; mass dinners; a real on-board disco, everybody grooving to the same choreographed dance-steps.
It’s only in rare moments of silence, at night, that individual passions are seen: a man jogs in the gym, a teen couple hold hands on deck, with nobody else around. Then the film’s jaunty electronic music pipes up once more.
For Schwingruber Ilic, “‘All Inclusive’ is a criticism of our society,” the cruise symbolizing “our consumer society and entertainment society at large.”
She’s been here before. Another Schwingruber Ilic short, 2015’s “Just Another Day in Egypt,” directed by Nikola Ilic and Schwingruber Ilic, zeroes in on vignettes of daily life in Cairo’s backstreets – a baker making bread, a group of young men chilling in chairs, a taxi driver navigating a traffic-clogged Cairo; the bloom of white satellite dishes on Cairo’s roofs, looking like white flower petals, incrusted in a red brick skyline. “Just Another Day” asks implicitly: What’s left after the Egyptian Revolution in 2011? The answer: Not much, and a people scared to talk about politics in public. Probed about former Chief of Army Abdel Fattah al-Sisi winning the fourth general elections since 2011, one man declines to comment. Only an old interviewee talks on record, but moralizing about avoiding “sinful” money.
Not that Schwingruber Ilic’s eye for symptomatic social detail is always so critical.
Co-directed with Thomas Horat, 2017’s “In the Woods” tracks a gaggle of lumber-jacks high in the pine woods above Lake Ägeri, south of Zurich, as they fell a select number of trees, lop off their branches, then prepare them with expert artesian care to slither down the mountain side to the lake far below for log rafting across the lake to a big town. Save for the men’s electric saws, this is a sustainable economy craft that has not changed for centuries.
2011’s “Baggern” (Tons of Passion), a solo directorial outing by Schwingruber Ílic which brought her to wider notice, pays tribute to digger drivers working in the demolition business who light up as they talk about their employ.
“For this job you need to have some diesel fuel or hydraulic oil in your blood, otherwise you can’t do it! We’re all hooked on this. We live for it,” says one driver as the men steer their massive diggers which seem strangely alive, like giant metal birds picking away at a building’s guts.
What was the last time you watched a film with workers enthusing about their job? It is this sense of the curious, but indicative, that marks Schwingruber Ilic’s films apart.