After a six-year hiatus from feature filmmaking, Serbian director Ivan Ikic, best known for his bruising coming of age drama “Barbarians,” is back in the director’s chair and hitting the European festival circuit. Ikic will next screen his ambitious “Oasis” at Venice Days, Venice’s independently run section that, this year, offers a distinctly Eastern European bent to its 10 competition films.
Ikic’s offering is a special one, utilizing non-actors to tell a story close to their (and the filmmaker’s) heart. Per the film’s official synopsis: “Upon her arrival at an institution for people with mental disabilities, Maria becomes fast friends with the equally fiery Dragana. When it becomes clear that they are both in love with the more withdrawn Robert, their relationship is upset and gradually grows into a dangerous game of hide-and-seek to win him over. Condemned to a lifetime of hiding away from society, the three teenagers’ profound longing for independence and human connection takes hold.”
Set in an actual institution and featuring its young residents in their first ever attempt at acting, the film promises to take its audience into “a world society looks away from, in order to tell a powerful story about what it means to be alive, needed and loved, and how life will always find a way to burst through the cracks.”
“As a film student, I had the opportunity to visit one of these institutions and do some documentary work there,” Ikic shared in a statement. “What I found was a love triangle with a melodramatic plot between a male resident and two of the female residents, which almost came to a fatal ending. This story surpassed the possibilities and limits of the documentary I was filming at that moment, but became the core inspiration for this film.”
The filmmaker added, “The film was shot in real locations at an existing institution and actual residents found there played the main characters. The actors went through a workshop where they were slowly introduced to the characters they are to play, while the script was adapted to the participants’ real characters. … In me, they found a mediator, a way to channel their honest cry to the world, a world which does not understand them, and which does not wish to. I have taken a vow that their cry will, somehow, be heard.”
Check out the first trailer for “Oasis,” available exclusively on IndieWire, below. The film will celebrate its world premiere at Venice Days later this week. Israeli writer/director Nadav Lapid, whose “Synonyms” won the 2019 Golden Bear at Berlin, will preside over the Venice Days jury.