Review: I’m People, I Am Nobody (2022)

Can a man guilty of something be a victim of something else? Can a sex offender, an exhibitionist with heavy psychological issues, be innocent if in possession of child pornography and ultimately being charged for paedophilia, laid upon him by a notoriously corrupt judicial system such as Maltese, operating in a society enclosed and xenophobic which does not offer him a chance of a fair trial?

This is the case with Stevan, the unseen protagonist (there would be a lot of talk about his physical invisibility and the attempt to get away with it throughout the film) of Svetislav Dragomirović’s documentary I’m People, I Am Nobody. It premiered last year at DOC NYC, played festivals such as Bergamo and Beldocs, before we caught up with it at Dokufest.

After the introductory textual cards in which Dragomirović explains his relation with Stevan (the subject is the filmmaker’s father-in-law) and his initial feelings when he learned about his case and the realization about what had happened, the film adopts the structure of chapters. Those chapters cover different aspects of Stevan’s case, from the background, the cause and the act itself, to his time in prison and his perspectives both from the present and future, going deeper and deeper into the subject’s mind which is certainly deranged, but not clear why and to which extent. Some of Stevan’s insights are lucid, while others are delusional, without a sense of distinction between the two on his part.

The complete narrative material comes from three sources: Stevan’s tapes in English recorded in an attempt to draw the attention of the international human rights organisations to his case, his phone conversations with his sister Gordana and also the conversations about Stevan conducted between Gordana and Stevan’s fellow inmate Nikola. Apart from picking the most suitable and most purposeful stuff from the available material, the filmmaker does neither intervene or comment it, although it is clear that the truth is somewhere in between Stevan’s and prosecutor’s standpoint, or in a completely different realm for that matter.

Dragomirović, however, has to “invent” all the visual material to accompany the narration, since he (and pretty much nobody else) is not allowed to see Stevan, let alone record him talking. The filmmaker films most of the material coming from 17 different countries, and, with the help of the editor Nemanja Milojević, assembles it in an associative way, sometimes turning to the dramatic (by adding the tension via music and sound design), sometimes to the abstract, experimental direction, completely distorting any figurative, palpable imagery.

The associations achieved that way are never too obvious or banal, but they are never too far-fetched and abstract, since the filmmaker and editor manage to hit the right spot between the extremes, while also holding the tone that is neither judgemental nor apologetic. I’m People, I Am Nobody is a film that sincerely deals with a hard topic that is difficult to address in every possible way, asking the complex, philosophical questions that will remain looming over the viewer long after the brief 71 minutes of the film’s runtime is over.

Original title: Niko vredan pomena
Year: 2022
Runtime: 71’
Countries: Serbia, Germany
Languages: Serbian, English
Directed by: Svetislav Dragomirović
Written by: Svetislav Dragomirović
Cinematography: Svetislav Dragomirović
Editing: Nemanja Milojević
Music by: Vladimir Pejković
Sound Design: Ines Adriana
Colourist: Nikola Marinković
Produced by: Svetislav Dragomirović, Lorand Balazs Imre
Production companies: Gray Tree Film, Film Dough