Precious - Deep under the hoodie
Precious showcases that it is possible to make a quality and innovative film in Bosnia, without the need for a high budget or resorting to war themes.
Hair cut down to "zero", "quick" glasses, "kidney" bag and tracksuit which hides the "proud to go to gym" body and a broken front tooth; all in all, Alem (Dino Bajrović), the protagonist of Irfan Avdić's short film debut Precious, is the personification of a city bum, in this case, a Sarajevo hood-boy from Alipašino Polje. From the appearance of this seventeen-year-old, through "spreading" while walking, to his manipulative treatment of peers with occasional outbursts of aggression in a desire to prove dominance, his complete appearance leaves the impression of the usual shallow violent mind, eager for attention. However, what is far from the view of the world is an orphan, who tries to live the best he can, in very difficult conditions with his old mother Stan (Faketa Salihbegović - Avdagić).
Precious has been named the best film of the student program of the 24th Sarajevo Film Festival, where it also won the KisaKes award for the best short film. Also, the film has received special recognition from the 16th International Film Front Festival in Novi Sad and has screened in EFP: Future Frames at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2019. Although it seems that the young director appeared out from the "clear sky" and created success, Avdić has been attracting significant attention for a couple of past years with his work in the film industry.
In a few successes, two are certainly a bit more worth mentioning. The first is Avdić's student quote exercise, called Fuck you from 2016, which, thanks to its self-reflexive, critical-analytical approach, gained significant attention from the regional media, and was viewed almost 200k times on YouTube. In the same year, Avdić won the incentive for the development of a screenplay for a feature film called 11 Days of Dying at the Zagreb Film Festival as part of the "My First Screenplay" workshops. The significance of the workshop "My first screenplay" is best seen in the films developed so far in Zagreb, including the film The Load by director Ognjen Glavonić, which premiered at 2018. Cannes Film Festival.
In the introductory scene of the film Precious, four teenagers inhale smoke and talk during a school break. The excursion date has been moved, so there is a possibility that not all students will be able to raise money for the trip on time, explains Aida (Matea Mavrak). Adi (Saša Krmpotić), whose father Edin (Emir Kapetanović - Zumbul) has a good job, doesn't care. "Whoever can go, will go, whoever can't will not go!" he utters while his friend Benjo (Filip Radovanović) grabs his head and thinks how his parents will raise money. Alem does not comment on his possibilities for going on an excursion...
Although a seemingly average teenager, he tries not to be a burden to his sick grandmother Stana, so he keeps her away from what is happening at school, whether it is grades or his deviant behaviour. In order not to have to take from the minimum pension of the old woman, he sells weed, for the local dealer Paze, which brings him some solid pocket money. But selling weed will still not be enough to raise money for an excursion. How to save Stana from worries, how to raise money for the trip, how to show his peers that his life is no worse are the thoughts that hang under Alem's bumpy exterior.
Just like its protagonist, director Avdić grew up and lives on Alipašino Polje, which is very noticeable in the film. The director certainly understands his environment, does not rise above it, and therefore manages to make a consistent and sensible film. Noticing the problems of the environment and life on the edge of poverty, around him, he builds a story that penetrates under the "facade" of a juvenile delinquent. The events shown reflect the sad everyday life of Bosnian society, without embellishing, condemning, choosing the sides or looking for the culprit. Just as the protagonist Alem is a much more complex person than his appearance, so the very question of morality presented in the film is much more complex than the standard division of good/bad.
Precious does not give viewers a reason to condemn the currently hopeless youth and the deeds of a delinquent, because the path chosen by the protagonist is nothing but a logical sequence of events caused by the values that society stands for. Educational institutions that reduce their activities to mere formalities, media that promote sensation, excesses and glamorize consumerism, and egocentrism that has occupied society in general, have put Alem in a position to embark on a path of petty crime, which could grow into something much bigger and more complex.
Avdić and his co-writer Adi Lucić managed to show the entire spectrum of the mentioned problems through a story that lasts only 27 minutes. The class teacher treats Alem "professionally" and does her job superficially, without a trace of empathy. She is not paid to think and worry about who and what her students are outside the educational institution. Alem's friends and peers are accustomed to a more or less pleasant consumerist life. They are completely unfamiliar with the concept of work and supporting themselves or their loved ones with work, so their empathy for Alem is quite superficial.
The film also features representatives of the fictional media, "C1" television, who are excitedly faking empathy in the desire to increase viewership. True care and compassion are reduced to a family circle, which the protagonist lacks. Precisely because of the lack of sincere, non-judgmental compassion, Alem finds a role model and protection in the small criminal Paze.
Apart from the fact that the script of the film has been carefully and qualitatively designed, what adds to the significance in many ways are certainly the camera (Alen Alinović) and the production (Andrej Hamzić). By choosing authentic locations (Bingo market on Alipašino polje, in front of which two policemen were killed not so long after making of the film) and the camera's focus on facial expressions and constant contrasting of the protagonist concerning other characters (light, position in the frame), the young team of Precious showed that it is possible to make a quality and innovative film in Bosnia, without the need for a high budget or resorting to war themes.