Sophie Vukovic’s thought provoking and well-structured meditation on everyday experiences of teenagers growing up in a multi-cultural world of the XXI century, challenges the notions of a nationhood and its effects on forming the identity.
A detailed, personal narrative of this documentary feature debut cuts across stereotypical categories of thinking present in education and a public discourse alike. It questions assumptions on how a sense of belonging and self-identification spring out of one’s nationality, asking about individuals whose lifestories place them on the cross roads of multiple countries and traditions. The self-portrayal of Yugoslavia-born, Australia-, China- and Sweden-educated adolescent narrator of the film, captures a world of under-represented and under-comprehended in-betweens within a firm, single national traditions that make a lived reality of a growing number of people. The unnamed, but empirically perceived vacuum of spaces between nations manifests here in results of educational process of a child in its institutional and personal dimension, hunting for answers that sooner or later need to be formulated.
Answering the questions is not however an aim of Shapeshifters. The film is a personal story of a child, who with innocence and awe asks the first fundamental questions about surrounding world. Its subtle and sophisticated construction goes between memories of school experiences, reflections on emotions they caused, and conversations with narrator’s parents that bring in an additional inter-generational perspective. The historical events of the 1990s and 2000s: immigration from Eastern Europe to the West, the rapid development of Australia and China, the Balkan War, the open-society policies in Scandinavia come across unnoticeably as they form and influence narrator’s biography. The narrative moves from the 2013 immigrant demonstrations in Sweden back to home video movies from the 1990s, and further forward to a letter to a school friend, and is put in frame of an impressionistic study of a growing individual with all the anxieties and uncertainties characteristic for this period. The next points of a story: relations with friends and colleagues, and journeys to Croatia that is now narrator’s ‘home country’ after the split of Yugoslavia, enrich a tale further, opening subjective individualistic impressions to a wider authentication. The personal view becomes a sign of times, a representation of a wider trend, shown in an inobtrusive and insidious way.
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