Review: My Universe (2020)

courtesy of FEKK

Although a completely Croatian production (by the Academy of Dramatic Arts – ADU), Yuliya Molina’s documentary My Universe was crowned in the national, Slovenian competition at FEKK. Knowing the filmmaker’s life- and career story, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Molina was born in Mariupol, Ukraine and grew up in Slovenia where she studied sculpture before moving to Zagreb to study documentary filmmaking. The very process of her moving to another city was documented in her previous autobiographical documentary Ljubljana-Zagreb-Garage which was focused on the stuff one accumulates over time as the principal object of moving and the principal source of frustration. The film played at last year’s edition of FEKK.

Some autobiographical elements are also present in My Universe, even though the protagonist of the film is not Molina, but a young woman named Nastja. She is somebody Molina could identify with on numerous grounds: she is also a visual artist and she comes from the immigrant background – Nastja is half-Russian.

But more importantly, she is a gay rights activist, and the film’s topic is her craving for acceptance by her cultured and compassionate, yet conservative Russian mother Galja. Nastja’s free-wheeling lifestyle and the choice of artistic topics and themes (the motive of vagina is present in almost every of her works) is hardly something her mother, coming from another world, can understand.

A lot of filmmaker’s compassion can be read from the way she follows her protagonist in different daily routines from up close. The rawness of the final product (shot and edited also by Molina) actually works in that context, adding to the sense of urgency. Towards the end, in the very emotional moment, Molina lets Nastja open up and speak directly into the camera. That kind of stylistic deviation might seem abrupt in some other filmmaker’s work, but given the context of Molina’s unprofessional background and previous work, it only highlights the empathy she aims for in My Universe.

courtesy of Yuliya Molina

Original title: Moj Svemir
Year: 2020
Runtime: 27’ 55’’
Country: Croatia
Languages: Croatian, Russian
Directed by: Yuliya Molina
With: Nastja Kljaić, Galja Kljaić
Cinematography by: Yuliya Molina
Editing by: Yuliya Molina
Sound design by: Marko Klajić, Dino Ljuban
Production company: ADU Zagreb