For Montenegrin writer-director Ivona Juka, the making of her Oscar entry film You Carry Me was a family affair. The film centers on family dynamics—on three father-daughter relationships, in particular—and Juka was supported throughout the development of the screenplay and the broader filmmaking process by her producer and sister, Anita Juka.
Last night, the Juka sisters sat down for a Q&A with Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro following a screening of the film, where Ivona spoke to the film’s flattering critical reception. Following its premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, You Carry Me went on to screen at a wide variety of festivals, internationally, and won a number of prestigious accolades, including the award for Best Director at the Montenegro Film Festival.
Given that the film interweaves multiple character stories in compelling fashion, the film inevitably drew comparison to other staples of American and international cinema, including Alejandro Inarritu’s 21 Grams, Paul Haggis’ Crash, and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. While Juka was honored to be named among such company, she also considered the comparisons a bit reductive.
Essentially, some critics are “putting these films all in one basket, like they’re all the same,” said the director. “In the case of Short Cuts, you have separate stories. 21 Grams is a film where one event is connecting people and their destinies. In Crash, there is a crashing between cultures,” said Juka. If there’s a multi-character comparison that feels more apt to the director, it’s to Derek Cianfrance’s Ryan Gosling headliner The Place Beyond the Pines, another film about family and legacy that follows three characters in their respective time frames linked by their coincidences. You Carry Me —as two of its storylines centers around the drama of two working women who deal with substandard spouses, pregnancy and temptation– also has hues of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s human dramas, read the Three Colors trilogy.
You Carry Me follows three female stories. In one, Dora, a pre-adolescent, forms a bond with her caring, thug father, who is overlooked by his ex-wife who has an affair with her boss on the set of a popular soap opera. In a second story, Ives, a director, nurses her father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. As she loses him, she gradually loses the ground beneath her feet. In the third, Nataša, successful producer, is pregnant and fancies a younger man. When her world unwinds, she decides to confront her estranged father.
All three carry their fathers, yet they need them to confront themselves.
Asked about the writing process and her inspirations, Juka said, “I always put some biographical elements in, as a writer, because I think in that way you achieve more authentic characters and more believable stories. However, You Carry Me wasn’t based on anybody’s biographical story.”
Despite all the international attention, the director is perhaps even more excited by the way in which her film is playing in her own backyard; by the fact that the film was a coproduction between countries –Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia — that were previously at war. Local audiences and critics in all three countries have responded emotionally to the human story in You Carry Me, an anomaly as most of the cinema in the region our littered with war movies.
Said Juka, “People don’t want to see any more stories about monsters, how we kill each other, how we hate each other. People are hungry to see human stories about themselves.” And in the end, the coproduction was seamless, which she attributes to similarities between these formerly warring regions, linguistically and culturally.
In the end, the message of the film mirrors the facts of it’s financing and creation. It’s a film about compassion, forgiveness and redemption. “I’m interested in human beings in characters, in our mistakes and our faults” the director said.