78 Days


Reviewed by: Tara Karajica

78 Days
"Gašić adroitly weaves together the perspectives of the three sisters, each one at a different point on the road to maturity, painting a complex picture of growing up in wartime." | Photo: Courtesy of IFFR

Serbian filmmaker Emilija Gašić’s debut feature is an inventive, compelling and moving coming-of-age story.

Set in the first half of 1999, this filmed footage story follows three sisters who begin a Hi8 video diary in their countryside home after father is conscripted during the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. They capture each other as they put make-up on, pick cherries, play party games, get into fights, fall in love or help their mother cook. This vulnerable and intimate world is perhaps their only shelter from the reality of bombing, sirens and war.

Back in the Nineties, everyone had those Hi8 cameras that they would predominantly use for special occasions such as summer and/or winter holidays, Christmas, Easter, weddings, birthdays, baptisms, graduations, and other celebrations, perhaps even funerals depending on the proclivities of the family, but never for the display of quotidian life and even less so family dynamics. This is precisely where the humour comes into play – let’s face it, some scenes and dialogues are funny – but also the question of the film’s genre. Is it documentary? Is it fiction? The line is not fine; it’s invisible. And Gašić plays with her audience so deftly because the gaze here doesn’t feel performative at all, but is rather purely observational.

Moreover, what makes it even more believable is her meticulous recreation of life in Serbia at the end of the Nineties. Those who grew up then and there will know it immediately. She masterfully reconstructs the look, feel and poetic nostalgia of home videos from that period with documentary exactness, paying special attention to the way cameras arbitrate the connections and interactions between people. One might even be tempted to go as far as to venture that Gašić is being experimental, but only to a certain extent. In any case, she strikes the right balance between comedy and drama, without ever overdoing it.

By setting time constraints to her narrative and limiting her timeline to 78 days or the length of NATO’s bombing of Serbia, Gašić explores the limits of the sisters’ careful existence and sudden and fast growing up. It is a coming-of-age tale and a story about sisterhood and sibling dynamics within the larger picture of communal interactions in a residential space with one shared camera. Gašić adroitly weaves together the perspectives of the three sisters, each one at a different point on the road to maturity, painting a complex picture of growing up in wartime. She also flawlessly conveys the typical ex-Yu mantra of getting used to whatever is thrown at its people, be it war, bombing, pandemic… They go with the flow and they accept whatever comes their way with stoic passiveness and resignation. Taking things too seriously would have disabled all their coping mechanisms and, in that way, they are very similar to children.

The heartbeat of this heartwarming and carefully crafted piece of nostalgia is the nuanced performances of Viktorija Vasiljević, Milica Gicić and Tamara Gajović as the three sisters, who each bring their own sensitivity and individuality to their characters thanks to Gašić’s precise and assured directing. The splendid supporting turns by seasoned actors Goran Bogdan and Jelena Đokić delicately convey the multifaceted individuals that parents are as well as the tremendous plight of parenthood in times of war. Inés Gowland’s unobtrusive, natural lensing with a Hi8 camera brings all its emotional weight to the film. It is so captivating that it is ultimately difficult not to become thoroughly engaged.

78 Days - which had its world premiere in the Bright Future section of Rotterdam International Film Festival - is a moving nostalgic glimpse into a moment in time that remains a very vivid memory for an entire generation of Serbs and those will most definitely be (a tiny bit more) hit by its emotions. A creative exploration of a painful topic. A recreation of a moment in childhood that begged for closure. And what a closure it is! Gašić takes us on an absorbing, intimate and naturalistic cinematic journey. Her gaze is unique, bold and avant-garde and demands and deserves to be seen.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2024
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After their father is conscripted during the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, three sisters begin a Hi8 video diary in their home.

Director: Emilija Gasic

Writer: Emilija Gasic

Starring: Goran Bogdan, Pavle Cemerikic, Jelena Djokic, Mile Cvijovic, Tamara Gajovic, Milica Gicic, Biljana Konstantinovic, Andrija Martinovic, Ivana Simovic, Danijel Cvetkovic, Masa Cirovic, Viktorija Vasiljevic

Year: 2024

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Serbia


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