YOUR GUARDIAN 20-Minute Film Short, Part 2: Q & A with Director Mimi Vloavic Who Elaborates on the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How (The 5Ws & H) of Her Sublime, 20-Minute Short Film

Director Mimi Vloavic

WORD Synopsis: It’s 1992, and Mina (played by Iva IIincic) has just graduated and believes that she’s met all of the expectations of her patriarchal father as well as the whims of her family and extended family. She’s been very obedient.
Igor, her boyfriend, played by Petar Djurdjevic, who is soon to be drafted, has plans to avoid conscription by fleeing to London – and Mina has promised to go with him. She plans to break the news to her father on the day of her family’s Saint Guardian celebration.

Mimi Vloavic: The whole film is based on this holiday called Slava. And Slava is a holiday of a saint protector of a certain family, and different families choose different saints for their protectors, for their guardians. So, this is a holiday for St. Nicholas who is also famous as guardian of travelers and sea travelers. So, that’s why we have that layer of the story as well that this. All is happening on that day of St. Nicholas.

And so, for Slava, we make a bread with ornaments that represent what we wish for our family in this year. So, for example, there’s some grapes for fertility, there’s a book for education, so there’s little symbols on it. And this scene in the church represents the blessing of this bread with the whole family in it. And there you would also say the family members’ names that you want to be blessed. And Mina, played by Iva IIincic, says the name of her boyfriend, whom her family disapproves of and gets a very striking look from her other family members. And I think that scene, quite short, not a lot of words, represents what the film is about quite nicely

Gregg Morris: So, how did you come up with this idea?

Mimi Vloavic: Well, I felt this feeling of claustrophobia inside my own family, and there was part of guilt related to it because I have a very loving family that cares about me greatly, and I understand how big of a privilege this is, but I still felt like … and only later could I phrase this feeling that I had, this disturbance from inside.

Director Vloavic

And I could phrase it once I was away, once I moved to London for my master’s studies. And I just noticed that all of my major decisions were family decisions.

And there is something nice about this little family council happening every time a major decision needs to be brought. But I think that’s why I felt like I need approval for everything. And maybe it wasn’t even major decisions anymore, it was most of my decisions.

And, yeah, that’s why I really wanted to explore this and I could recognize the pattern that wasn’t starting with me, that was starting with my parents and their parents, and their parents and their parents. So, that’s why I wanted to explore the story of my parents trying to leave the country, trying to immigrate in 1992, but having obstacles from … familial obstacles.

Gregg Morris: So, this is a film short, so I’m asking, are you planning on or are you in the process of doing a feature film either related to your short or based on your short?

Mimi Vloavic: To be completely honest, I’m still not sure which medium is it going to be, but there is a bigger story here and I just haven’t decided. There’s been ideas about a miniseries and there’s been ideas about the feature, and I have the feature structure in my head, but I like this idea of miniseries where what we filmed could actually be episode one and then we could explore a bit more about other characters in the same time.

So yeah, I still haven’t decided, but it is very much boiling in my mind, this idea of a longer version of this.

MimiVlaovic Instagram


Gregg Morris: You have a quote (in publicity material) that really interested me, you said that … you’re talking about, “I’m wanting to explore the struggle to let go of your family expectations, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Everyone has opinions and expectations of their life, which is very typical for Balkan environment.”

But isn’t that universal for all families? That the kids and family, their parents, their relatives and grandparents, there’s this dynamic thing going on where the kids are trying … they’re getting ready to leave home, they have their own interest in careers and they still have to deal with family expectations. Did I say that right?

Mimi Vloavic: Yeah, absolutely. It is a universal thing, but living in London for five years now, I have noticed that English families bother their children much less about their choices than it would be typical for a Balkan family. So, that’s the way I phrased it … that’s the reason I phrased it this way. Because they I feel like we are … I mean, I don’t feel like we are a collectivist nation, Serbia, and I think this is something that’s common for all collectivist nations, like China and India and ex-communist countries as well, more than individualists like America and the UK, where I do feel like people become individuals at the age of 18, even though they probably know what the expectations of their parents are. And I’m generalizing a lot, so this is specific from family to family.

But yeah, I do feel like here in Serbia, kids live with their parents until the age of 30, 35. It’s much more difficult to finish a BA degree, so they are studying for 10 years instead of three. So, it’s all a bit moved and they are very much adults, but their parents are still meddling in their lives.

Gregg Morris: So, you’ve done an amazing amount of work. And so, one of the things … you did documentaries too, or either shorts or feature length documentaries. Could you describe some of them? Describe the ones that you liked best.

Mimi Vloavic: Describe the ones that I’ve directed?

Gregg Morris: Yeah, how many documentaries?

Mimi Vloavic: Documentaries? I’ve done one short documentary that I’ve directed, but I have done production design, interestingl,y on a documentary recently for ITV, which was quite interesting. I have been working in multiple departments, and I mean, I can imagine that you know how difficult it is to earn a living as a writer/director.

So yeah, I’ve been exploring other parts of filmmaking as well, and that’s why there’s so many films in my biography because I’ve been doing a bit of everything. But a documentary that I’ve directed was about a group of friends, a group of artistic friends, artists, trying to enroll into the dramatic academy in Belgrade, which is extremely prestigious and has a very difficult enrollment process and following them and how it goes.

Gregg Morris: And you wrote three novels for kids books, correct?

 Mimi Vloavic: It wasn’t kids’ books. I mean, it was for young adults and teenagers, but it was novels. It wasn’t picture books, but novels for young adults. I’m just in awe that you all this work, done all this study, and so you’re a filmmaker, but you’re really, it sounds like, multimedia and you have an understanding or a participation and all of this is cooking … I mean, production designer, costume, short films, I mean, it’s all cooking. And so that’s why, I just think that I’m really impressed with it.

She Continues: There’s a lot of people that have advised a different way, advised choosing one and sticking with it, but I don’t know, I don’t even feel like these were choices. I feel like life was happening in a way where I just went with this all and I thought that it’s all quite connected. It’s still storytelling based and it’s very … both my production design and costume work is very character based. I love going into details about the characters, so it is … and then writing obviously is all about the characters, but writing was my first form of expression because I could do it on my own. I didn’t have to have a team, like for a film.

And I wrote since I was a child, literally a child. My first book I wrote when I was 13 and then published at 15, and then the second one was 16 and the third one, 17. The words were pouring out of me and there was no self-censorship at that time.

It’s this naive brain, where everything seems like a good idea. Then I would get my manuscripts back all in red from the publishing houses and I would be like, “What’s wrong with these people? This is brilliant.” But yeah, it was an interesting process. And then my self-criticism kicked in my 20s, and it all became much slower because I’, rethinking what I say and a lot more.

{Gregg Morris Note: In the course of the Q&A, I asked Director Vloavic, if YOUR GUARDIAN was a reference to her inner voice. I sensed that I had missed a significant point and I didn’t want to fumble. Guardian Angel was better than “inner voice” but there was so much more to it. So, she elaborated.}

Mimi Vloavic: There are multiple layers to the title, Your Guardian. The title in Serbian is Čuvam te and Čuvam te, is this beautiful verb that isn’t translatable, for me at least, because it means a lot of things. It means protecting you, it means taking care of you, it means loving you, but it’s a … warm verb. So, I felt that guarding, like guardian, is the most … I felt like it’s the most … how do you say this … the most accurate translation of it, because it can be connected to the guardian angel and we have the guardian saint appearing in the film and then it should basically represent all of these people around one young female person who’s just graduated and is moving on the crossroads of life.

And all the people that are trying to guard her from life and impose their own ideas, while she needs to basically guard her own voice, as you say, inner voice from these outer voices. And that’s something I need to learn as well. And this film was a part of my process to learn this.

Gregg Morris: So, where’s the screening now?

Mimi Vloavic: It’s screening at a lot of festivals around the world. I’m quite lucky and blessed with this. I’ve been shortlisted for the Young Director Awards in Cannes this year. But now, in the future, we have two American screenings. We have Hell’s Half Mile in Bay City, Michigan, and then just let me check, I think it’s Newport Beach in California. Yeah, Newport Beach Film Festival in California, in October, so these two.

Tonight (day of the interview) we’re screening in Belgrade again, I’m in Belgrade now and I’m waiting for a screening on the Fine Line Film Festival. And because it’s almost two years since we’ve finished this film, I’m looking forward to the festival circuit being over, to be honest, even though it was an amazing journey and I would love to share it with wider audiences on some sort of distribution platform. There isn’t a lot of choice for short films, but yeah, I will try my best. So, it should be available by the end of the year, but I’m still not sure where. We are on Instagram, so if anyone wants to follow the life of the film, I’m quite active on Instagram and the film’s page is Čuvam te Film and I can write it in your chat.

Gregg Morris: I keep saying, “Erm.” Okay, back to the film, they’re going to be showing up in the United States, those two festivals, in October. Around when? I could look it up. I could google it, but-

Mimi Vloavic: Yeah, the Michigan Festival is the 22nd of September and the California festival in Newport Beach is 13th of October.

Gregg Morris: And you’re going to be there, right?

Mimi Vloavic: That’s a tough question. I think I will need to choose one and I think it’s going to be California. I’ve, interestingly enough, never been to the United States, and I really, really want to come and I got my visa out finally this year. So, now I can come for the next 10 years without any issue, but I’ve missed a couple of festivals just waiting for my visa because it took six months for my standard visa to be approved.

So yeah, that’s why it’s been a long way and yeah, I would love to witness it on a screening where I can hear Americans react to my film and my culture. I think I’ll be in California for the Newport Beach.

Gregg Morris: So, I was wondering if you felt anything from your parents about your book, because in a sense this is about you, in a sense, at least on one level, and that you might’ve drawn on some things from them. Have you felt any emotion or anything from that? My question makes sense?

Mimi Vloavic: Yes. I think I understand. The characters are based on them. There’s a lot of me in it, but it is based on them and some of their experiences and they knew that I’m going to do this, and I was wondering, should I share the drafts of the script or not? Should I share the casting choices or not? They are a big part of my life and I love hearing their opinions, but I didn’t know what will be their judgment process. Will they be biased or think someone’s more good looking, so think that’s a better actor for them? Something like that.

They’re not film people. So yeah, I was unsure and it was very freaky casting people for your parents. It’s very interesting and it’s been one of the weirder experiences of my life. And what was interesting is that in the top … choice of top two actresses for the main role, there was a girl who shared the same birthday as my mom

I mean, in my culture, but I am maybe not a whole of my culture, but I can be superstitious and I believe in signs. So I was like, oh my God, is it a sign? Is it not a sign? Is this the person or not? And in the end, I chose a different girl because I felt like she … I am really interested in what she has to say. That’s how I chose and Iva Ilincic, she’s an amazing actress. And I think I would be interested in whatever … If she was retelling Little Red Riding Hood or anything, it would be compelling to me. And that’s why I thought that she is the strongest choice for this role.

So, I needed to isolate those superstitious thoughts and connections with my real parents to think what’s better for the film itself and to separate it. And then my parents, when you’re asking about their emotions, I’ve decided then to include my mom as the costume designer in the film because I saw how she’s really excited about it and she does costume and styling as a part of her career. So, the costumes in the film are authentic from my family. They’re well-kept costumes from the ’90s from my family, and she loved being there. And it was lovely having her there, even for the accuracy of the time period because I wasn’t born in 1992, so I wanted to make sure that I’m presenting it in the right way.

So yeah, my dad loves watching it. They’re both quite supportive and yeah, I had mostly only good reactions from them. My grandpa is still alive, and he also liked the representation of himself, even though it’s not the … I mean, how do you say that? Not the most likable character in all moments of the film. I think he was very proud of the firmness and hearing his quotes. It’s really some of the sentences that he says on family lunches and dinners, are in the film word by word. So yeah, so I think he loves it. They’re all very proud and glad to be in it.

Gregg Morris: Montenegro, that’s considered being in Eastern Europe. Am I right on that?

Mimi Vloavic: Yes.

Gregg Morris:  Okay. The reason why I asked, excuse me, I teach at City University of New York, so it’s like six major … five major colleges and a bunch of institutes and stuff. But we have a considerable student population that’s from Eastern Europe.

Mimi Vloavic: Oh, wow.

Gregg Morris: Yeah, yeah, it’s big and it’s tri-state, it’s New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. So, it’s big. So, any chance that there might be a screening or something in this direction on the East Coast, because you’re way over there on the West Coast, you’re screening. But I mean, it’s just big populations of Eastern Europeans who are American and Eastern Europeans who are still … They’re not American citizens yet, but they’re immigrants that live here and stuff. And here it’s big. That’s one of the reasons why I [inaudible 00:26:41] … I’m sorry, go ahead.

Mimi Vloavic: Yeah, I would absolutely love to, but I need recommendations for festivals that I should apply to, to make it … so, it doesn’t have to be today, but if you remember anything or hear about anything in your area, I just need to click and apply for it and then it has a chance to be screened there. But interestingly, you mentioned Montenegro, and it’s not in the subtitles, but the Serbian audiences will know, the father character is Montenegran in the film, which shows that he also immigrated to Belgrade for love when they talk about it over lunch.

Which is why he in the end understands why she wants to leave as well. But yeah, so I think the Montenegran audiences could very much relate to this family patterns. And I love Montenegro. I’m quarter Montenegran.

Gregg Morris: So, what do your female and male friends, or your filmmaker friends, the people you hang out with, what’s their impressions?

Mimi Vloavic: There’s a lot of different impressions. Yeah, it’s mostly been very supportive. My partner who is British, loves it, is in love with the film, has watched it so many times that he knows the lines by heart. And that’s most of the Serbian that he fakes, is the quote from my film, which is beautiful. But I had my best friend, who said that it’s horrible and that I’ve done a horrible job. So, there’s been very different impressions.

It’s again, about the taste. I’m not mad at all at my best friend. He’s a lover of very tough cinema, slow cinema, and cinema that destroys your will to live. So, I definitely don’t think my film would be considered as a part of his favorite genre. But yeah, it’s been interesting.

Gregg Morris: So, what genre would this film fit into?

Mimi Vloavic: I would say this is very … basically, it is a drama, but I think that it has a coming of age elements, romance elements, and comedy or elements in it as well. But it is a drama, really.

Gregg Morris: Your favorite genres?

Mimi Vloavic: Favorite genres? Yes, I think you can see it from my film, even though it’s a drama, but I grew up on romantic comedies and atypically for an indie filmmaker, I have … It’s been most of my film influences have been romantic comedies, and I love them. I love musicals, I love genre.

So yeah, those are my favorite genres. But I don’t know if I’m going to make those necessarily. I would love to try, but that’s something that I love to watch. Musicals completely fulfill my heart, every time I watch them. Both theater musicals and film.

Gregg Morris: Oops. Oh, no. You have any ideas, anything that you could say to future filmmakers, student filmmakers? CUNY has … City University of New York, they have a lot of film programs and students trying to make it. I would say most of the students that I know of, or deal with in film, they’re gung-ho. They’re ambitious and optimistic, but being an independent filmmaker is really challenging. So, what could you say to them? If you wanted to say anything, what would you say? If you were talking to a class of beginning filmmakers, what would you tell them?

Mimi Vloavic: That’s a really tough question. and I’m not sure that I’m in a place to offer advice yet. Because I don’t think that I’ve made it yet, if that makes sense? I think that this film is a good starting point for some career, but it’s still … As you say, it’s so tricky. And I have worked a lot in the past, but as you saw in my resume, in every possible department, just to grasp a bit of the film industry, really.

I don’t know if I would recommend that to anyone. I’m not sure that that is the right way. What I can say, one thing that I would say to my younger self as a female …  as a female filmmaker, I have had, especially in growing up in a very patriarchal society, I have had so many self-imposed mentors, like older, middle-aged men that were trying to guide my career.

And I wouldn’t ask them, I wouldn’t be interested in it or anything, but I felt like I … I was always a very obedient child, which is, I think, where this claustrophobia also came from. I wasn’t a rebel, I wasn’t rebellious. And so, I was taught to listen to elders and respect the elders. And obviously, you should listen and respect the elders, but if someone wants to mansplain you something and be your self-imposed mentor, I would say, don’t feel like you need to sit there and listen to them and don’t listen to their advice because they’re from a different generation and the different mindset and just listen to yourself and what you think you want to say and what you have to say. That’s something I would like to have spared less time on those conversations.

Gregg Morris: There’s this big strike (2023 SAG-AFTRA)  … strike in my country with the … so right now, there’s no new stuff being made in the United States. Could that be a boost to your film because it’s new and it’s fresh and you didn’t break any rules? So, I’m just wondering if it could have an effect … would attract more attention because it’s new and it’s real and it’s interesting and you have a good reputation

Mimi Vloavic: Maybe. I’m not sure because I think it’s a very different audience that follows mainstream platforms and festival platforms, but it would be a great … It is a great opportunity for festivals to promote themselves and offer this alternative content to the mass viewers, to the masses, yeah. So, that is a brilliant idea. I think that they should push for it because so many interesting things. I think because our attention span is getting lower and lower, unfortunately, and I really don’t like it, but short films are a good option because of that. Twenty minutes and you’ve watched the whole story and you didn’t lose half of your day. So, yeah.

Gregg Morris: So are there any questions or topics that I should have asked you about, that … or something that you wish I had asked or … that I didn’t?

Mimi Vloavic: Music is very important for this film because we got permissions from Yugoslav musicians from the ’80s and ’90s and that has been my time machine into the era. So, it’s been very important for me to listen to it. I listened to it on repeat while writing, and then we had rehearsals to it. So yeah, that’s something I always love mentioning. And then maybe some references for the film.


Gregg W. Morris can be reached,

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