At the International Film Festival Rotterdam, a fete for film fanatics celebrating and highlighting the best visionaries and storytellers of the moment, only one film can take home the prestigious Tiger Award. This year, the Special Jury Prize was won by Ena Sendijarević for exceptional artistic achievement in her debut film, Take Me Somewhere Nice: a film that follows three characters, a girl from Western Europe and two boys from Eastern Europe, as they embark on a road trip to visit the girl’s father. “It feels amazing!” Ena proclaims upon receiving the €10,000 prize, as we talk in the Art Nouveau décor of the Grand Café in Amsterdam’s Central Station. “The festival really believes in how cinema can affect the world and what the relationship between the two… very close to my own outlook on the medium.”
Before falling into directing and screenwriting, Ena’s goal was to become a doctor, or rather a plastic surgeon; “my parents really wanted me to be a doctor, then I thought that was the only creative thing I could do as a doctor”. She hesitated, however, ended up enrolling in media and culture course, and began her journey as a filmmaker. “I fell in love with what cinema does, what it can do, the relation you can have to what’s on the screen, the way you can experience and get in touch with your own loneliness but do it together with other people.” In Take Me Somewhere Nice, it was Ena’s intention to explore “what it is to be European, so to say. Or what it means to have a passport that comes from a certain country.” As a Dutch-Bosnian citizen, she knows herself the struggle of identity, moving to the Netherlands as a little girl to escape the war in Yugoslavia.
Ena often went on road trips with her family, travelling to Bosnia during the months of summer—“these huge fights and even sleeping in the car at parking lots” echoing the narrative of her debut film. There’s splendour in the confinement of a small space of a car, she explains, as “there is something beautiful about that, not being able to escape […] And being in love, everything is okay and when you’re in love. Basically, you’re just in love with the world”. Playing with the themes of migration and identity enabled Ena to put “a lot of thoughts and feelings about these subjects” into her script, with the help of DoP Emo Weemhoff, production designer Myrte Beltman and costume designer Nedda Nagel and to create a stylized world with no intention to “depict reality”.
As a filmmaker, Ena is fascinated with anti-heroes, particularly the characters in Todd Solondz’ black comedy, Happiness. “All the characters are anti-heroes because they’re all struggling with life, they’re weird, pretending to be normal”. Fascinated by characters who recognise their imperfections, Ena feels we’re increasingly living in a world “where everyone is trying to show how perfect they are” through the visual mediums of the Internet and beyond. This notion might explain her love for American sweetheart Britney Spears, who also took a road trip of discovery in her 2002 film Crossroads, and the pains of her struggles in life, love, fame and fortune. “The story of Britney Spears is the story of survival”, she states of her teen idol, “so when I have a bad day, I just think of Britney Spears being bald.”
Ena might not be shaving her head soon, but her understanding of human compassion, dreams and faults makes her a teller of tales worth watching. Take Me Somewhere Nice screens in over 30 theatres this weekend—perhaps Ena can take Britney on the road?