Episode 42

Sevap Mitzvah - Discovering Sabina Vajrača, a Trailblazing Filmmaker

Published on: 23rd December, 2023

Join me in this heart-touching podcast with the inspiring Sabina Vajrača, a Bosnian film director making her mark in the film industry.

Sabina shares the trials and tribulations she faced, from fleeing Bosnia on her own at the age of 14, to making it big in Hollywood.

She gives a glimpse into her journey and the power of perseverance.

During the conversation, Sabina also discusses her film 'Sevap Mitzvah', revealing the emotional moments and key lessons in the story.

It's an enlightening conversation that throws light on Sabina's relentless pursuit of her dreams and proves why she is one of the most exciting filmmakers to watch.

Please also do share this episode and maybe leave a 5 start review on the podcast platform you listened to this on.

Stay tuned for more exciting stories and adventures from the Englishman in the Balkans podcast!

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It's an Englishman in the Balkans podcast, and today it's it's a bit weird because I'm sat in Bosnia and Herzegovina and not in the country of my birth, and the person I'm talking to is sat in the United States of America and not in the country of her birth but the person that we're talking to in this particular episode has got an amazing story to tell, and I'll start like this.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out about an amazing book that is in Sarajevo. It's called the Sarajevo Haggadah I didn't realise that it's one of the oldest Jewish books in the world, which has suffered so much, and is in Sarajevo. And then, I find out that the Jewish prayer for Passover, the chant when they say that prayer, The melody was taken by the Ladino people and turned into a Ladino song, which in turn turned into one of the most popular of the songs from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

comes a new film. it's from:

I got, I'll be open on this video. I got very emotional about it and we're going to find out more about it. The director of the film is Sabina Vajrača, did I say that correctly? Who I think is a very special person, notwithstanding the fact that when we had a chat before we started this recording, she said, where are you?

And I told her, she said, that's my hometown. So I'm like outside where she lived and it's so cool. We start every podcast with this standard question because the only person that can really answer it answer it is the

ed States as a war refugee in:

That's about the age that I found out that such a position exists. My dad was a cinephile. I grew up watching a lot of movies with him. Very age inappropriate meaning like we watched The Godfather when I was seven. And so I grew up loving movies, and then when I found out that there was a position that actually there's a job that somebody makes it, I said, okay, I want to be that.

And my family is full of very practical people who did art as a hobby, but not as a profession. So everyone just patted me on the head and said, good for you, and you're going to grow out of it. And I never grew out of it. I just pursued it. Even through all the upheavals that we lived through, the war and immigration to America and struggle and everything.

It was the one thing that I held on to and the one dream that got me through all of it. And I now live in Los Angeles, California and make movies, write and direct and I couldn't be happier. Does that answer your question a little bit? Yeah, I think so, because I was going to go on, I was going to ask you, could you share a little bit about your journey into the actuality of filmmaking, because it's something that I think it's a very tight industry, and a very competitive industry.

Yeah, you can say that. And then some. So I, yes, it's a very, I say I live in Los Angeles, and everyone goes, Oh, yeah, of course, you live there. And it's so nice. And but journey to get here and journey still to this day is extremely difficult. This is this

I would say it's, there's a lot of nepotism, of course, a lot of people who grew up in this industry and already have a leg up. And then on top of that, up until very recently, I would argue that still is, there's It was very male driven, and specifically straight white male driven, and so to try and make it in this and break in, as a woman who is not from this country, who also came into a country that didn't really have a Bosnian American community before we showed up, so there was no community to welcome us and help us and give us a leg up, and my dad couldn't call anyone and say, Hey, we went to college together and now your cousin is the head of some studio.

Can you please hire my daughter as her first entry level job? There was nothing like that. So once I decided like I said, I decided when I was eight and then just follow that path. But I, maybe because I'm a born optimist and some people would say naive in my belief that.

Anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. My dad would say, I'm just stubborn, but I just keep going. Like I it's taken me a really long time. I've been on this path for a very long time, and I just keep making one film after another. And how I make these movies, I put them on my credit card.

I apply for grants. Sometimes I get them, A lot of times I ask people for favors and we just make movies for basically nothing. But I just kept making them and and how I specifically got into film. I was a theater director first when I was, so when the war happened and my parents, we had to flee the, when the Serb forces came in, we were, our family was targeted almost immediately.

And I ended up in Croatia as a refugee. On my own. I was 14 at a time. I was with extended family, but I was pretty much on my own and for about a year and during that year, Croatia at the time was very let's put it this way. It wasn't very Bosnian or Muslim friendly. They didn't want us there and they were very clear about it.

And so in order for me to really survive, especially since I didn't have a support network or even a family around me that protected me, I had to basically erase my identity. I pretended that I was a full blooded Croatian, the Muslim Bosnian that wasn't part of my identity. And and then I stumbled across a theater company and there was a theater company in which I went to see a show and in the right, in the crew, they had some Bosnian names.

And I thought, Oh my God, this, I could actually like people, Bosnians can get jobs here. And what are they doing? And then I. Desperately wanted to be part of that theater company because I felt like that could be the one place where I could be myself and I could just listen, tell the world that I listen to the music I listen to and speak with an accent that I was born with versus the accent that I adopted to.

And I started a theater magazine because I was a writer all my life. And all my life for the, for the six years that I was writing. And I talked some friends that I met in high school to start a theater magazine with me and. We did, and that got me a job at that theater company, and then suddenly I was amongst, quote unquote, my people.

My family, I felt like they all just embraced me for who I was, and I didn't have to pretend. And because, and in that way, it saved my life. It was a very formative time of my life. I was a teenager trying to figure out who I was, and I was living in a place where I wasn't allowed to do that. I had to Pretend to be somebody I wasn't in order to survive.

So suddenly I was in this cocoon of people who just said, Be whoever you are. You can say whatever you want and we still love and embrace you. And and that made me I fell in love with theater for that reason alone. And so when my mom finally managed to escape Bosnia and join me in Croatia.

About a year later, she saw for how the country was at the time and said, we can't stay here. You're never going to have a future here. And so she started figuring out where else we could go. Denmark and Sweden had already closed our borders by then. So did Germany. And so she said, okay United States just open up their borders.

Let's go there. And so herself, me and my younger brother. I immigrated to the States as refugees, I ended up in Florida. My father was still, he spent the whole war in Beneluka trying to save people and run this underground operation and humanitarian effort to save as many people as possible. And we ended up in United States and I very proudly announced that I wanted to now be a theater director.

That's what I wanted to be. And because I felt theater saved my life and I wanted to dedicate my life to theater. And my mom I always tell this story because I think it's really important because so many parents who have children who want to pursue artistic pursuits try to talk them out of it because it's not a practical pursuit, you want to do theater, especially in a country like United States it's crazy.

You study for four years and there's no guarantee of a job. And even when you get a job, you're going to get paid so little that it's really just a glorified hobby. And you better be a trust fund baby or marry rich because otherwise it's very hard to survive. And yet, even though we were here as refugees, we had nothing to our name.

Like I said, we had no community to lean on. We were just struggling. And I was a straight A student and I, my mom could have said, Hey, I really need you to become a doctor or a lawyer or a finance executive. Like somebody that makes money because we need that help. We don't have anything.

She said, no, we came here for you and your brother to pursue your dreams. And if that's where you want to be I support you. You go for it. And so I went and I studied theater directing as my undergrad graduated and moved to New York. Cause that's where you go when you do theater and the theater for about five or six years.

d us in United States. And in:

Like I was doing this off Broadway production and, really in that world. And so I thought, Oh, that could be interesting. I was also in complete denial about what happened. My PTSD was completely untreated. I, like all the other Bosnian Americans, just turned another leaf and said, Okay, that never happened.

Let's just forget about it. And, kept going forward and becoming very American. And the play I was doing was about ancient Greek mythology. And but I thought, Okay maybe I can, there was just something, because the play was about the intersection of beauty and violence. And I thought, okay it could be interesting to go and record some stuff in Bosnia because maybe I can use it in this play.

That's, that was the initial idea that I was, I would go with my parents when they go to reclaim this property that we're being given back by the government and record something for this play. And then as I started talking to everybody and my collaborators in this production, as well as my parents, I started.

Realizing there is much more to the story. And the thing is that once my father came to America, he never told me what he did. He never, we never talked about it. It was just this keep going forward. And then suddenly he started opening up and telling me about the story, what happened in Bosnia after I left.

What happened in that part of Bosnia and what he did for three years that I didn't see him. And by the time we landed in Bosnia, it was clear that it was going to be a documentary film. And so we shot and made, I made my first film as a documentary called Back to Bosnia. And and it was, but it's still, it's so interesting how it wasn't until I was, the film was already finished and I'm in a festival circuit and I'm going, and I'm doing a Q& A at one of the festivals.

And it hits me afterwards, I was like, Oh, wait, this is what I wanted to do when I was a little eight year old girl in Bosnia here I am, I have found my way back to it in a very circumvential way, like I didn't really, think that it was going to happen and and here I was. And it still took me a couple of years to really fully embrace that I was switching from theater to film, that was a transition that my, my younger self really wanted all along.

So I eventually started, I said, okay I'm going to focus on film now. And like I said, didn't really have any connections or money or anything, but I had all these actors that I worked with in theater. And so I would write little short scripts and then on a weekend from the money that I made in my office job, I would just get this group of actors together and say, okay, I'll buy everybody pizza and and coffee and let's make a movie, and I was learning that way to actually tell stories in that way through narratives.

And camera work and all this stuff. And I kept doing that and meeting, and I volunteered on film sets and production companies to learn how actually it's done, because I, at a time I was like, I can't afford film school. So this is how I'm going to do it. And did that for a number of years.

And then one of my mentors that I met through those freelance jobs and volunteer positions. He said, I think we really need to go to film school. And I said, I can't afford it. And why would I go to film school? Like I just made all these movies. I know how to make movies. And he said, you need connections.

You're a refugee. You're a woman. This industry is tough enough for the rest of us, but for you it's even tougher, so you need to go make some connections, meet some people, can open doors and talked me into coming to USC and so I got my master's. And film directing from University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

And then just stayed, and I've been slowly, very slowly pushing my way into the industry and hoping that I'll make a difference in some way. I know very little about filmmaking, but I think the two main parts of it maybe are the cinematographers and the directors. The main storytellers, would that be right?

I would that's what, yes, I think that's what the public usually sees. I would add producers in that. People usually don't know what producers do, but a producer is basically a person who puts it all together and who makes sure that, you have all the ducks in a row, that you have all the players that can actually make a production and who sees the director's vision and then actually physically executes it.

I think that's, it's a position, so that's why when a film wins a best film at the Oscars, it's the producers who get that, not the directors, because the producers produced, the actual film that you're seeing, the director is the visionary behind it, it's a person who, like you said, in a visual aspect, yes, directors and cinematographers, their work is visible on screen, but a producer is a behind the scenes person who makes it happen, because without them, It wouldn't be possible and I would also say production designers, I had one of my cinematographers, directors of photography I worked with for the longest time.

She said to me once she's, when we first started working, she said, I can be as amazing of a cinematographer as you want me to be. I can light perfectly. I can find great angles, but if I'm shooting a white wall, it's going to look like crap. So if you're going to spend money on something, spend money on.

a good production designer so they can make sure that wall has something interesting to look at. Or at least it's a different color so it looks more cinematic and I always remember that and so I put a lot of money and effort into production design. So that my cinematographers have something too.

Because the director is the, it's your eyes that people will look through, right? It is. You can think of a director as if you're, if you put, if you, everyone understands drawing or painting, right? We have more concept of that. So you put an object and you have all these people in a room who are going to paint it.

The director is a person who's going to interpret that object in their own way. The way that I would paint that is going to be very different than you would paint that or anyone else, and the same way that you have, you look at Picasso and you say, Okay, Picasso painted a nude in a very different way than people before or after him.

It's the same thing that, what the director does with a script and how they bring it to life. Now, you found this story, which has turned into this wonderful film called Cevapmica. Which I believe, and you'll correct me if I'm wrong, is good deed? Yes, I think that's the closest English translation of it.

Sevap, it's, it, in Bosnia what we mean by that is, it is a good deed, but it's a deed that you do for the benefit of everybody, for the benefit of others, without expecting any reciprocity. It's like a kindness in the shadows, when they have those memes or things on, on. Facebook and Instagram where it's like, Oh, so and so was just really kind to a person without anyone paying attention to it.

And then they're discovered. So it's like that. The setup is something you do just because you believe it's going to benefit us as a humanity or world at large without wanting any recognition or reciprocity for it. And I felt for this particular story that was very appropriate because I find that.

What Zejneba Hardaga did was just like that. She didn't expect, she just did it for the benefit of the world at large, or what she believed in her heart was a good thing to do. The story is, as I said, based on true events during the Second World War in occupied Bosnia and, in fact, in Sarajevo, right?

And it's a very powerful film. I said earlier on that I got emotional about it, but it's about a Muslim woman who risks her livelihood to save her Jewish friends. And 50 years later, as you said, that reciprocally comes back because she helps her. Two part question. Where did you find out about the story?

And for me, that was getting emotional. Was it emotional for you during the production and the direction process of the film? I found the story really through research. I wanted to tell a story about Muslims and Jews coexisting happily in Bosnia, because I've lived in the United States for now, most of my life.

And the narrative here is that Muslims and Jews hate one another, and they've always hated one another. And there is no example they could ever possibly love one another. And it's just this narrative that is constantly propagated so that to the point that even I have a lot of Jewish friends and I'll go to parties with them and everyone, somebody will make some sort of a smart remark about, Oh, isn't it funny, Muslim and a Jew, walk into a party and, there's always this joking and in Bosnia we say every joke is half truth, so what people are joking about something they actually believe and and that really bothered me.

I don't, I find that to me, you What's really fascinating about those two particular cultures is how similar they are. And in my experience in the United States, people I had the most in common with were my Jewish friends, which is why I have a lot of them as friends. It's, we ate very similar foods and our customs are very similar.

And even the, so we're overbearing family that, is constantly getting in your business. That's very Bosnian as is very Jewish as I've discovered here. And so I wanted to tell this story because. Of that narrative because I'm very sensitive to the stories that we consume on a daily basis that media feeds us and movies and even conversations that we have, I think that's what really shapes our perception of the world and I'm very much interested in how us as filmmakers, as storytellers can help shape a different perspective for people, something that is more serendipitous.

More kind, more full of love, more interconnected. How can I as a storyteller help the world that watches my movies experience the world around them in a more integrated way? And so I decided, okay, I'm going to tell a story about Muslim II because I've heard about those stories from my grandmother, my late grandmother.

in Nazi occupied Sarajevo in:

And I thought, wow, that is fascinating. I've what is this about? And so I started reading up about it some more and once I found out the entire story I don't know, it just, it struck me as the one that I really wanted to tell. I didn't want to tell, I didn't want to tell an imaginary story. I didn't want to make something up because I feel like then a lot of people could just be like, Oh, Sabina, you and your idealism, good for you.

You think that people coexist and live one and love one another. And, but so I decided to tell that particular story and how was it emotional? Yes, it was absolutely emotional. It was. It was emotional to me when I was writing it, cause like you get, you put on this very pragmatic hat, right?

You write, I write my first draft and then I'm working and doing rewrites and then it's very technical dial, line of a dialogue and how I'm going to shift from here to here, like I'm trying to tell a story and then it was, it's not until you finish it and then you can just read it in one sitting that you, that emotions can come back in, that a heart is engaged again.

And and I remember when we. And then, of course, when I'm filming, I am very much, again, in that pragmatic thing. I'm like, okay, I need to have this scene, I need to have this moment, I know. So it wasn't until my editor and I put it all together and were watching the picture locked version of the film.

And it ended, this is before music, before sound design, before anything, we just cut the film and watched it. And it ended, and both he and I had tears in our eyes. And I thought, okay, after months and year, at that point, over a year of me with the story and knowing exactly what's going to happen.

And I'm the one who shot that movie and I knew that I could still get emotional. I felt, okay, then this is going to hit home for a lot of people, or at least I hope so. So I'm very happy to hear that it did with you. There's a scene where the two brothers are discussing how things will play out. One brother saying, You're going to get us killed and the other brother asserts himself and drinks his coffee.

And I have to say, I actually have been in that room, not the physical house or the physical set, but I've, the way the dialogue was for anybody from Bosnia and Herzegovina and this region would see it, they've lived that in one way or another. You said it was a memorable moment.

with tears in your eyes. I'd have to admit now that I had tears in my eyes as well. What memorable moment from the film, do you have where you have more of a smile on your face? Yes, there is one moment that it actually didn't, because we, it was a moment that happened before we had the cameras rolling, so I didn't have it on.

On film, let's say. But so it's when the Ustasha soldiers stops Zejneba and Josef and the kids in the, at night and is questioning them. And there are these two little kids, the, they're just kids, they're one is the daughter of my production designer. The other one is just the kid that someone, cause I needed kids.

And so I said, okay, I need kids that look like my protagonist who has children that are willing to come in and be in the movie. And so I had this little boy and little girl, a girl is four, a boy is five, and and we're rehearsing before we were to film that, the, we were going to do their coverage on the two of them when this Ustasha soldier kneels down and talks to them to try and get them to reveal that they're Jewish.

And and, of course the little kids, they see everybody's friendly and the guy who was playing Ustasha It's a really nice guy, so they're just like, Oh, smiling and not really getting that this is a dangerous moment. And so I, I leaned down to talk to them and I said, I explained to them that this is a dangerous situation, in, in a very child friendly way.

And I say, and he's a scary man and, and the little boy, they're not, they're just, they just met each other, these two kids earlier that day. And the little boy looks at me and then looks at the little girl who is playing his sister and then hugs her and goes to protect her against this bad man, the way he saw it.

And I, my heart just burst open. I just thought, wow here's exactly what we're trying to, I'm getting emotional now. It's here's exactly what this film is about. It's it's about that instinct that we have in us. That, we, I think as humans as children, it's obvious, we have an instinct to save one another, to help one another.

And that's what I was trying to tell with this film. And it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter whether religion or ethnicity or skin color or any of the other labels that we are forced to group people in once we grow up, none of that matters. If we can still remain, remember that humanity in us, that little boy hugging this girl that he just met because he really believed that this man is now a bad guy and could do some harm to this little girl, I don't know, to me that it just, it was an incredible moment and I was so sad that we didn't get it on camera because of course then when we filmed it. He played out what he did, but that moment of him hugging her to protect her was just incredible. Yeah, but the face that she made when she looks up was absolutely, yeah, that was, that, that punched, that, that really did.

Sabina, your road to Sevap Mitzvah has not been an easy one. It's work. You've won some awards, and I've got to ask you, how Do you now handle the pressure and the expectations that come with directing a film that's been nominated for an Academy Award? What the biggest, there's, yes, thank you for the question.

It is very stressful and a lot of expectations and a lot of people are bombarding me with their own needs when it comes to this particular part of the journey. And I have to say I'm, so I discovered, came across meditation and philosophy about 13 years ago now. And I've been a daily meditator for about 11 years.

And that helps tremendously because it grounds me in the fact that all of that stuff is amazing and I'm so grateful. And it is ultimately what, in terms of my career, I'm working towards. At the same time, it's very, I'm trying to stay in that healthy place and not let my ego run amok and cause troubles and it helps me relegating other people's egos and expectations.

But it is, it's very stressful. They are just vote. They started voting today. The voters are voting for the next four days between today and Monday on the first round of the Oscar for the shorts. Meaning that out of 190 films, they're going to narrow it down to top 15 and then they're going to vote again to narrow it down to the fifth, to the five that actually go to the Oscars.

And then you find out which one won at the big ceremony. And and I woke up fully aware that people are now watching it with that in mind and nervous that we're not going to make the cut and optimistic that we will. And so it's a lot of very mixed emotions. But like I said thank whoever, universe gods, put me on a path of meditation because it really helps tremendously.

You mentioned earlier on about, in, in the balkan mentality, and I see this every day young people have these dreams, but their parents say no, you've got to be a doctor, you've got to be a lawyer. And it really frustrates me because I've got my own kids and I've. That never came into my head, right?

So you've driven your own path, on your own road, and you have a lot of experience. What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers, from a Bosnia Herzegovina who could be watching or listening to this who hope to follow in your footsteps? I would say, make sure you have the stamina for it, in both in terms of how long it might take you to actually, quote unquote, make it to.

To make a film that gets noticed, that makes a difference. You might luck out and it's your first film. Great. I would love that for you. And at the same time you might be like me. Sevap Mitzvah is the 19th project that I directed. Whether it was film or commercial or feature film. Short film or feature film or documentary.

So 19th. I made 19 things before one of them is now in the race for the Oscars. Was it all worth it? Absolutely. I think it made me a much better and a stronger director. I have a much clearer idea of who I am and what I want to say. And I think that's obvious in this film. Did I believe that I could do this when I was 22 and starting out?

Absolutely. If you asked me then I would have said, yeah, I can make an Oscar winning film. And maybe I would have been right. I, I think talent is something we're all born with. I think that. If you hear the call of the arts, specifically film, like if you feel in your heart of hearts that this is the path for you, you need to figure out how to keep at it.

And stamina is one. The other thing is to not listen to people around you. Like my dad said, I'm stubborn. He told me, he didn't actually say this to me. He said it to A friend of their, my parents were all at the dinner party together and they were commenting on how I just keep going like an energizer bunny.

And my dad said, I've spent most of her life since she decided to be a film director, trying to convince her that this isn't the path for her. Trying to tell her, my dad's an economist and it's not because he doesn't love me. It's because he loves me. He's scared for my future. He sees how hard it is for me.

He sees that, I've struggled both emotionally and financially and had made such enormous sacrifices in order to stay on this path. And he doesn't want that for me. He wants me to be, married with kids and lots of money and a house in Malibu and five Oscars on my shelf. That's what he wants to see for me.

And every year that goes by and that isn't happening. He. And so in that panic and out of love for me, he just goes, Oh what about this job? And what about this? And you're so smart. You could also this, and he said, I've been doing this to her for about 20 years and she has not bat an eyelash.

She just keeps ignoring me and doing it. So he says, so if she survived that coming from me, then anybody in Hollywood, any executive telling her no is not going to make a difference. And he's right, and I think that as supportive as my parents have been and as much as they love me and as I said, my mom just said, keep pursuing your dream.

I'm right behind you, and eventually got my dad to sign up for the same thing. All that to say is that if you have parents who don't want you to pursue this path, it is normal. It is more than normal, I think. 99 percent of parents do not want their kids to take a path that is so hard and strenuous with no guarantee of anything as filmmaking is.

But if you've heard the call, the way I say it, nothing in life is going to make you as happy as pursuing this. Nothing. I've tried getting off this path and it never worked. So just. I guess just try it, keep at it, and maybe you'll luck out and it won't take 19 films. Maybe it'll take just two and you'll make it to where I am.

I know that you're nervous today. I started counting, right? And I think that advice you just gave was first class. However, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before starting the production of Seva, Mitza, what will it be? Lower your expectations. I would give that advice. I think when I wrote the script and set out to make it everyone around me was like saying, Oh, this is, it's going to get into all the festivals.

It's going to win all the awards. And I made the film and we sent it to festivals and it didn't get into any major festivals and it took about. Six months of festival submissions before it started making any, like we're started getting into festivals and even the festivals that got into it, it got into some really fantastic festivals, but they're not majors, right?

They didn't get into Toronto or Cannes or Sundance or Tribeca or any of these major things. And so a lot of people then around me said, Oh you give it a try, just let it go and move on and go and do another project. And. I didn't because like I said, I keep going and I believe in my heart that every project that I do, I have to get it all the way to the end and only when all the doors have been closed and there is nothing left for me to even try and open, do I say, okay, thank you very much.

I'm going to move on to the next project. So I would say, lower your expectations because it's very easy to get caught up in People around you who love you and who see the talent that you have and even the beauty of the story you're trying to tell and the hard work you're putting in, and they're just filling your head with these ideas of greatness.

And if you let that become the dominant narrative in your head, you are, you might end up getting severely disappointed. And I think again, I was when we didn't get into any of those festivals, I was very disappointed. And I had to constantly remind myself that I believe in this film. I believe in this story.

I think this is a story that the audience is going to love whenever they eventually do see it. And so that's what kind of keeps you going. We're at the end of the road because now it's just up to voters to work out who's going to be. In those envelopes for that lady or gentleman to open on the night, right?

But let's look at something more realistic as my final question. When you started, you knew what the story was, how you wanted to tell the story, how you wanted to stimulate emotionally, etc. What lessons do you want audiences to take away?

The biggest lesson and the biggest message of this film is that under, like I said, underneath all those labels that we put upon one another and groups that our communities and our politicians and our elders put us in. We are all human and we need to remember that it is something that I wholeheartedly believe in my parents instill that in me.

And even after everything that we lived through in Bosnia, I still divide people only in two categories. And that is if they're good or if they're bad and what that we all know what that means. But what it means to me is if in their hearts, they have love and they function from that place. And they remember that humanity, they remember that.

It doesn't matter that the person next door to you is of a different religion, different ethnicity, different race, different sexual orientation, different political party. If that person is a good person, you remember to do good for them and to them, and they will do the same to you. And there are people who have greed and hatred in their heart, and it doesn't matter.

They just see everybody, including the members of their own quote unquote group. As enemies, and they will do everything just for self centered reasons. And so I really want the audiences who see this film, who are moved by it, because I believe that people who are moved by this film are those people who come in the first category, the people who are good, who recognize that goodness on screen because they have that goodness in them.

To remember that, to carry them on in their day to day life, so that if they see any sort of injustice, That stirs their heart strings and they can do something about it. That they do something about it when they see it, regardless if the injustice is being done to the member of quote unquote their group or some other group.

Because the group, the groupation and tribalism and otherism is what gets us into wars and into trouble and into hatred. And we need to find ways to overcome that. And I really hope that this film about two women who are very ordinary, who had no power on the surface. And still risk their lives to save one another, even though they weren't the members of the same group.

And in some parts of the world, they're members of the warring tribes. If they could do it, then we can do it, too. Sabina, thank you so much for giving me your time today. I know you're very busy, and I know that your nerves must be going like this. What

Keeping you occupied at the moment, apart from the thought of what are they saying, what are they saying, have you got your new plans in place already? Yeah, the biggest one is I want to turn this into a feature film, I wanted to from the beginning, and I am now, I mean it's hard, I think for the next four days I'm just gonna be trying to distract myself so that I'm not freaking out in my apartment.

But I've started writing the feature script for this. And so that's as far as a writer, that is my current project. And I have a couple of feature films that my reps and producers are trying to find financing for. And one I've, it's been my passion project for, at this point, five years this is how long it takes guys.

If you want to be a filmmaker like I said, stamina. It's the kind of conversation that it's like every Christmas. Vacation that I go to visit my parents in Florida and meet their friends. They're always like, what are you working on? I'm like, oh, it's still the same project that was last year, And but it's a feature film that's set in a Bosnian community in Florida and it's about the first generation of immigrants that, us who came, the refugees, but the children who came we came as kids, and then 20 some years later, the different paths that transition put us on, and how how we navigated that, and it's a Neonora crime thriller about two brothers on two different paths in this particular world, and it's something I'm really passionate about, and I hope that, Maybe once we win the Oscar the financing institutions and people and gods are going to finally say, okay here's the money you need to make this film and I can finally make it.

So keep your fingers crossed everybody. I really appreciate it.

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About the Podcast

An Englishman in the Balkans
Find out more about Bosnia and Herzegovina
Encouraging people to find out more about Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"Welcome to "An Englishman in the Balkans" podcast, hosted by David Pejčinović-Bailey.
In this podcast, you'll get a unique look at life in Bosnia and Herzegovina through the eyes of an immigrant. Each episode, David shares his experiences living in this often misunderstood country, and introduces you to some of the interesting people he's met along the way.
From exploring the rich culture and history, to discussing the challenges and joys of immigrating to a new country, this podcast offers a thoughtful and engaging look at life in the Balkans.
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About your host

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David Pejčinović-Bailey

I am a podcaster, living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and sharing my experiences of living in this often misunderstood country.