Ivan Ikić’s second feature Oasis is representing Serbia in the International Feature Oscar race this year following its buzzy premiere at the Venice Film Festival. The pic explores how a friendship between Marija (Marijana Novakov) and Dragana (Tijana Markovic) is put to the test, as they both develop a crush on Robert (Valentino Zenuni), a fellow resident at an institution for people with disabilities.
For the film, Ikić revisited the same medical facility where he shot a documentary 20 years ago. During the Sense Production film’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film: International, the filmmaker discussed how he used non-professional actors for the lead roles.
“I wanted them to play the roles which were scripted. They never had an opportunity to work in any film before so I could not rely on any previous experience. I started my own process of how to teach them to act in front of the camera,” he said.
Throughout the shoot, the director was acutely aware of accurately depicting the disabled community, a relative rarity in cinema.
“It was extremely important for me because they were never represented by themselves in the film. You cannot see any actors with intellectual disabilities,” he said. “There were plenty of roles of people with intellectual disabilities in the film, but they are played by professional actors always. So there is no previous experience of them playing roles which are similar to their experience.”
Check out the panel video above.