Review: Viktorija,15 (2020)

screenshot from the film

In her debut medium length documentary Viktorija, 15 Mina Petrović paints a vivid portrait of a 15-year-old drummer from the small Serbian town of Smederevo who gets a brief chance of living her passion to the full extent through a girls rock camp, and consequently – through her first ever rock’n’roll fuelled trip abroad. Intimate, but just about enough to keep Viktorija (Viktorija Milošević) mysterious, the film is about more than one girl’s dreams. The documentary also shows the tireless effort of the ‘Rock Camp For Girls’ (Rok kamp za devojcice) tutors, whose goal is to empower young generations of women to express their love for music and go creative places they didn’t dare, or didn’t have a chance to go to before.

The non profit program (it was founded in Portland in 2001, now counting over 60 camps world-wide), in Serbia supported by the Cultural Gender Practices Network – Femix, is aimed at girls aged 11-14. It was kicked off localy in the summer of 2017 and was held ever since in different Serbian towns, offering basic courses in playing electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and drums.

Viktorija, a talented musician with strong interest in heavy metal and photography, attended the camp in its kick-off edition, and in the film – she is missing the collective spirit of the like-minded. Foremost, she’s missing her tutor Selena Simić, drummer of the all-women Serbian death metal band Nemesis. The name of Simic’s band is one of many written in thick red paint on Viktorija’s bedroom wall, and her fear of being forgotten and replaced by another girl as new “teacher’s pet” is overbearing.

The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, with Smederevo as one of its most important cultural centers has given birth to many rock bands that marked the Serbian music scene over the past 40 years. But just like anywhere else in the country, the scene is dominated by men. Deeply affected by conservative, patriarchal way of thinking in the society, young girls have to find creative ways to come to their personal goals. Without creative projects like Rock Camp For Girls, this journey would be even more difficult.

Far away from being unhappy in the loving home with supportive parents, Viktorija is met with limitations of her age, gender and the local environment. Kids at school are listening to the Serbian folk music during breaks, and she is left with only one friend with whom she can discuss anything that floats her boat. Among other things – about her dream to travel abroad one day.

Both girls have never been anywhere outside of Serbia besides in the surrounding republics of former Yugoslavia. And, although born in 21st century, decades after the war had turned one country into seven, they instinctively don’t count Croatia or Montenegro as foreign territories. Abroad is somewhere else, where people speak different languages and play rock’n’roll.

We are introduced to Viktorija in a pleasantly paced tempo, observing her while ideling in the local park, playing drums or dying her hair. When the talking begins, it ocasionally feels scripted with erratically planted subjects of conversation, but this might also come from the nervousness in the presence of the camera. That this might actually be true is indicated through a sudden change of body language once the story moves to Iceland. It is there Victoria is sent to without pre-warning, as a reward for her unquenching thirst for playing and creating music. Her enthusiasm grows even more through interactions with girls from across the world, but then – it’s all back to the same old.

With distorted sound that brings the amateur practice closer to reality by evoking the feel of re-recorded cassette tapes or a live gig at someone’s basement, Viktorija, 15 profits from its dedication to its subject’s passion. It’s an unintentional fly-on-the-wall sensation it creates, with the viewer being that annoying insect buzzing where they shouldn’t. Intrusion is something one is aware of, and slightly embarassed about, and the cinematographer Neda Mojsilović doesn’t stop reminding us of it.

The main problem the film might face in the future is related to its mid-lenght, making it too long to be programmed in short film sections and too short to be considered for the feature-length screenings. Also, Victoria frequently appears unnatural in front of the camera, raising questions about her actual relationship to the film.

Viktorija, 15 has just had its world premiere in the national competition of BelDocs .

Original title: Viktorija, 15
Country: Serbia
Language: Serbian, English
Runtime: 51 minutes
Directed by: Mina Petrović
Producers: Jovana Karaulić, Ikonija Jeftić
Co-producer: Miodrag Popović
Director of Photography: Neda Mojsilović
Sound Recorder/ Sound Designer: Luka Ožegović
Original Music by: Luka Ožegović
Colour grading: Goran Todorić
Editor: Mina Petrović