Ena Sendijarević's Take Me Somewhere Nice, which is receiving an exclusive global online premiere on MUBI, is showing from May 21 – June 20, 2019 in MUBI's Debuts series.
“He’s the kind of person who thinks that nobody understands him, but I do,” the actor Ernad Prnjavorac responds when I ask him what to make of Emir, the character he’s playing. People have kept asking questions about him; they didn’t understand him when reading the script. I used Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment as an inspiration. Just like Raskolnikov, Emir is on a path of extremism and radicalization. I held on to the thought that probably the people commenting on Emir’s character wouldn’t understand Raskolnikov either. Luckily, my actor does.
We are in the middle of shooting my debut feature film, Take Me Somewhere Nice. It’s end of summer and we are shooting in scorching hot Bosnia, the country where I was born and had to leave when I was five years old, because of the war. After some years in Berlin, our family ended up in the Netherlands. A few years ago I made a short fiction dramedy about this strange period of time in our lives, these first steps of integration into Dutch society. (You can watch it here.) After making this short, I had the desire to make a film about someone who goes back to “where they came from.” To dive deeper into the complex relation between an immigrant and their home country.
This is how I came up with the story of my three antiheroes in Take Me Somewhere Nice: A girl who is born in Western Europe (in this case, the Netherlands) and who returns to the country where her parents are from (in this case, Bosnia, a country outside the E.U. but inside Europe). She goes on a journey with her cousin Emir and his charming best friend Denis. This triangle of characters represents an East-West European power dynamic. Alma is characterized by a privileged naivety, Emir holds resentments towards the West, and Denis is madly attracted by it.
Sometimes Take Me Somewhere Nice is described as a road movie and a coming of age film. I understand why, but I would rather call it an existential comedy. More than anything, I tried to capture a certain kind of existential fear that characterizes teenage years. On one hand, you still look at the world with the openness of a child. On the other hand, you feel how the hostile grown-up world is pulling you towards a position that intuitively feels bad. Most of the adults you meet are sad or bitter in some way or another. You are running out of time, but at the same time there seems to be an endless amount of it. I think these dilemmas that confront us in our teenage years never really leave us. At least, I feel like I still struggle with them. In Take Me Somewhere Nice I wanted to embrace them, to go back to this reckless, melancholic but also sexual energy.
My desire to capture a certain kind of teenage revolt, to show the beauty of anti-heroes and broken people, but also to show how society feels like a hostile place, directed me towards filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Aki Kaurismäki. Films like Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and The Match Factory Girl are some of my favorites, and I wanted to use their energy as an inspiration. These two filmmakers have one name in common: Bertolt Brecht. His vision became a big influence to me as well. His ideas of “estrangement” (making tangible how society is a construction through the stylization of the world that is created) played a big role when constructing my film world.
The film has travelled around the world and I had the chance to talk to audiences worldwide. In Poland a girl said: “I think this film is about a person that wants to be strong, but it’s hard.” A woman in Spain said: “I think you need a therapist. And I can tell, because I am one.” One of the questions that is asked the most is why I used humor to tell this story. I respond with a quote by Billy Wilder: “If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you.”
I am very happy to share my film with you on MUBI and I hope you enjoy!