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NEWSARTICLE

Tribeca Takes: Darko Lungulov on Here and There

How winning Tribeca's Best New York Narrative award changed my life: I met the Vice President, almost won a foreign-language Oscar, and am now about to have another New York premiere.

 

Darko Lungulov's debut narrative feature about a New Yorker who travels to Belgrade is as geographically diverse and sensitive as the city of New York itself won the Best New York Narrative award at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. This year, the Serbian director was back at Tribeca, serving as a juror in the same category.

 

[Note: Here and There had a lovely review in the New York Times.]

 



My life could be divided into "Before Tribeca" and "After Tribeca." A year ago, my ultra-low-budget, shoestring labor of love, the New York story Here and There, won the Best New York Narrative Award at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. A year and 23 international awards later, I am about to start the theatrical run of Here and There in NY and the rest of the country with the opening on May 14 at the Quad Cinema.

 

My first feature will premiere in the city where I went to film school and grew up as person, doing heavy lifting as a mover—"a man with a van"—and studying for City College exams at night… the city that shaped me with its tough love and demanded the maximum from me as an immigrant. Thank you, New York!

 

During my last semester in college, I was selling Christmas trees on the street during the day, and working on my thesis film at night. After standing for 14 hours out in the cold, I would come to the editing room, where it was so hot, I would strip my clothes, and edit in my underwear.

 

 

Here and There
had a great run at TFF 2009, with six sold-out screenings, a great Variety review, a place amongst the "10 films to watch" in indieWIRE, and—most satisfying—the audiences seemed to love it a lot.

 

And than, when we won the Best New York Narrative award, I was blown away! The film, directed and written by a naturalized New Yorker, is the Best NY story?! Wow! That's the best compliment I could ever dream of. I still remember the feeling of that New York night, walking with my art award—a fabulous piece by Hank Willis Thomas—away from the awards ceremony. I just couldn't stop walking, I just couldn't take a cab or go in the subway—I just wanted to walk and walk and walk the streets of New York with my big bubble-wrapped painting under my arm. I walked the streets where I used to put the flyers for my "man with a van" business ($15 per hr/per man), where I used to sell the Christmas trees, claiming that I'm from Canada, since people wanted to hear that, where I use to sell silver jewelry for my Lebanese employees at Italian festival street fairs in "Little Italy." I smiled at New York, and New York smiled back at me. Thank you, New York!

 

During TFF, invitations already came in—for the legendary European festival Karlovy Vary, for "Variety Critics Choice—Europe Now!" selection, and for many other great international festivals. After Tribeca, in just seven short months, Here and There screened at over 30 festivals and won over 20 International awards. I got to go to Tokyo, Turkey, France, and even Orlando, Florida!

 

Back in Serbia, soon after I returned from Tribeca, I was invited to a dinner in honor of vice-president of the USA, Mr. Joseph Biden—who was on an official visit at the time—as one of the artists connected to the USA. The protocol director introduced me to Joseph Biden as an award-winning filmmaker from the Tribeca Film Festival.

 

Soon after, The Serbian Film Academy voted for Here and There as a candidate for the foreign language Oscar! I was at the Milano Film Festival when the news came in. I immediately went to have a drink with my producer George Lekovic, even though it was only 10 am and I am not supposed to drink alcohol. That whole day I was practicing my acceptance speech.

 

 

A few days later, other news came in: producers of the runner-up film complained that Here and There has too much English language in its dialogue to be considered for the foreign language Oscar. The media controversy started: for the next 10 days, until the Serbian Film Academy made their final decision, I was answering 20 phone calls a day, giving "how do I feel" interviews, measuring every word of what I said about the runner-up film. I just wanted the Academy to make their decision, so I could continue with my life. Finally, the fax came from The American Film Academy: "If it's true, that the winning film has more than 50% of dialogue in English," they suggested that the Serbian Academy should send the runner-up instead. My acceptance speech would have to wait little longer.

 

However, the whole media controversy surrounding my film came at just the right time. The film was in theatrical distribution in Serbia at the time, and it was the best PR you could imagine. We ended up with 30 000 admissions.

 

Now, a year later, I am back in New York, for the U.S. theatrical distribution, which will start May 14 at Quad Cinema. I am nervous and hopeful, afraid and happy. I went the other day just to marvel at the poster of my film with the "Coming Soon" sign on it.

While Lightyear and E1 will do our DVD and TV rights distribution, our theatrical distribution is a "do-it-yourself" operation, with help from friends from an arthouse distributor, Cinema Purgatorio. It is a true indie-indie distribution. We are deciding whether we'll spend money on the postcards or buy tiny advertising space in the newspapers or a $3/day Facebook ad. It is nerve-wracking, but it is at the same time a good feeling of being in control. I also used a "crowd-funding" platform RocketHub, to raise the funds for the U.S. release. It was spectacular! In return for rewards such as tickets for the premiere or T-shirts and signed posters, fans were contributing money. It funded roughly 1/4 of the expenses and made a huge difference, and at the same time I sold some tickets in advance.

This year I was invited to be on the Tribeca Film Festival jury, which was a great honor and great fun. I saw many terrific movies, met many excellent filmmakers, and had the amazing opportunity to take a part in the decision-making process regarding the Best New York Narrative award winner, which turned out to be Monogamy, by Dana Adam Shapiro. I hope that this award changes this filmmaker's life as it changed mine.

Thank you, Tribeca Film Festival! Thank you, New York! Now come see my movie... Please!

 



Read our Faces of the Festival interview with Darko Lungulov here. For more info on Darko Lungulov and Here and There, take a look at the official page from the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival Guide.

 

Here and There will open at the Quad Cinema on May 14 in New York City. Cyndi Lauper, David Thornton, and director Darko Lungulov will be present at the premiere screening. Director/writer Darko Lungulov present for Q&A for the evening screenings (6:15 PM & 8:20 PM) throughout the whole run (May 14 - 20th).

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