Review: Armadila (2020)

Vienna Shorts International Competition
Segment: About the Unsease

Courtesy of Trieste Film Festival

Life is generally cruel, but it tends to seem even more cruel at certain ages and in certain places. Imagine, for instance, being a 13-year-old somewhere in Serbia. Responsibilities exceed the assumed level of doing well at school and helping around the house, while wrestling own demons of adolescence. For instance, some teens have to take care of their younger siblings, which can be a pain in the ass. And nobody ever tells a teen how a grieving process works, and what “the dog went to the seaside” really means.

A short, hormonally charged drama Armadila, written and directed by Gorana Jovanović, opens with a close-up on a teen girl’s face, while she is listening to an old, somewhat forgotten new wave hit on her phone. It is after school-time, and Sanja (Iva Pernjaković) has to carry her baby brother with her, while looking for her missing family dog Krle. Her friend Darko (Nikola Zečević) wants to spend time with her, even to flirt a bit, and the feeling is mutual, but both kids are in their own trouble. Darko has made a mess by sending a clip of his brother and his girlfriend to their mother, so he has to run from both of them. Darko and Sanja have to spend some time together until the situation boils over, but the territory they are walking on has something to hide…

At first glance, Armadila is a classic case of the Eastern European “misery porn” cinema, laced with teenage quirkiness or at least how a not-teenage filmmaker imagines quirkiness. But it is also a film that tends to grow on a viewer, for a number of reasons, both technical, craft-wise and sentimental. Firstly, the casting is excellent and both of leads show a great talent. Additionally, Gorana Jovanović has some good directing instincts, such as opting for a 4:3 aspect ration to reflect the boxy state of mind her protagonists are in. Apart from that, the filmmaker also takes the responsibility for the visual identity of the film by assuming the roles of both production- and costume designer.

In the end, Armadila, playing currently at Vienna Shorts, after last year’s editions of Sarajevo and Uppsala and this year’s Trieste, is a film worth seeing.

Runtime: 10’ 30’’
Country: Serbia
Language: Serbian
Directed by: Gorana Jovanović
Written by: Gorana Jovanović
Cast: Iva Pernjaković, Nikola Zečević, Angelina Buljubašić, Dušan Bojović
Cinematography by: Lav Predan Kowarski
Editing by: Gorana Jovanović
Sound design by: Luka Barajević
Sound recording by: Vladimir Janković
Production design by: Gorana Jovanović
Costume design by: Gorana Jovanović
Colourist: Jure Teržan
Produced by: Gorana Jovanović
Executive producer: Miloš Ljubomirović
Production company: Servia Film
Supported by: Film Centre of Serbia