• First Film Competition


Dragana Jovanovic

The sound of a Skype call, a young woman appears, lying on her bed. “Can you turn the screen towards the wall to your right?” The young woman follows the instructions given off camera by a voice we soon understand is the director’s. In this way, Dragana Jovanovic reveals the protocol behind her film from the start: remote directing, using computers. It’s April 2020. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, she invites around forty of her friends in lockdown to describe their most recent dream via Skype. Subverted from its basic use for communicating, Skype becomes a tool for directing that’s unique every time, devised and adjusted by both parties. Aurora’s Dream is not only, then, a collection of dreams but also a combination of performances that engage both the body and the mind. The circle of friends becomes a troupe of performers; the succession of dreams and their vivid, embodied stories eventually gives the impression of a collective subconscious. According to Jung, the existence of this subconscious illustrates that “we are not of today or of yesterday; we are of an immense age”. It is no doubt to open up the film to this depth of time and vision that Dragana Jovanovic interweaves the series of dreams with another collection, a collection of fragments of paintings from the entire history of art. Aurora’s Dream thus transcends the context in which it was made, becoming something quite different from a lockdown film – a free and whimsical exploration of the human psyche as a phenomenal factory of images and stories.

Cyril Neyrat

Aurora’s dream is based on a collection of dreams told by a series of
women and men during the COVID lockdown. What inspired this idea to you?
What was the first impulse, to which need or intuition did it respond?

Dreams reflect the most significant elements of our everyday reality offering both gentle advice and strong commands to act.

Amidst a pandemic’s uncertainty, I had the urge to capture the collective mindset by exploring the unconscious — the most genuine and uncontrollable aspect of our personalities. I wanted to make a film about those uncharted realms of mind and soul where we retreat asleep, but are hesitant to confront, express or even remember after waking up.

In late 2019, as I exchanged dreams with my family and friends, I sensed a possible collective anticipation of an impending and substantial change. The news of the pandemic began to circulate, but it wasn’t until the end of March 2020 that its impact pervaded the waking thoughts of people across Europe. I wanted to explore how crisis-induced social changes reflect on our psyche.

I drew parallels to the collective dream experiences preceding significant social upheavals like world wars and natural disasters (such as described in C.G. Jung’s Autobiography “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”, as well as the lesser-known book “The Third Reich of Dreams” by Charlotte Beradt. This anthology, initially forbidden and later overlooked, compiled dreams from Germany after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, foreshadowing the onset of World War II, years before its actual onset.)

What made you draw a parallel to the “Sleeping Beauty” fairytale?

In my work, I explore motifs and archetypes found in folk and fairy tales, ancient mythology, and religious narratives. My films reinterpret these old stories taken from the collective unconscious and place them in diverse contemporary contexts. The inner world of my characters takes center stage, and their dreams play a significant role in the development of the narrative. I strive to capture my protagonists’ dreams in relation to the reality they inhabit, incorporating elements of magical realism.

During the onset of the pandemic, I became fixated on the literary archetypes of revenge. I perceived the pandemic as a form of punishment enacted by Mother Nature.

The tale of “Sleeping Beauty” starts when the uninvited, banished fairy takes revenge and curses the newborn princess. Drawing a parallel, I likened the actions of the disregarded fairy to the repercussions of neglecting one’s own psyche. Just as the fairy seeks retribution for being rejected, an uncared-for soul may manifest its grievances through the emergence of mental illness. 

If we considered the pandemic in the context of the fairy tale, the evil fairy’s spell could have been compared to the destructive force of neglected nature. Overpopulated, exploited, and devoid of care, the Earth, much like the fairy tale’s curse, may resort to self-regulation through calamities that claim numerous human lives.

The curse of death is softened by a hundred-year sleep. Isolation during the pandemic took us out of our lives into a place that mirrors the hundred years of sleep in the fairy tale. And what happens when beauty falls asleep?

The film reaches far beyond a simple collection of individual dreams.
It grows into a very singular exploration of a collective unconscious, as you said. Can you develop a bit?

It’s the old, trans-generational knowledge within each human. 

My intention, however, was to depict it within my own generation — those on the cusp of or already entering “middle age”, pressured to make significant life choices. Whether consciously or not, in this period of life there’s a sense of urgency to take the last train and reach our true “self”. And if we don’t reach it consciously, it will reach us, most likely within a dream.

This “coming of middle age” becomes even more complicated when the big actions need to be on hold due to the worldwide standstill. The pandemic immediately contributed to a “collective midlife crisis experience”.

Can you tell us about the cast? Who are the people who tell their
dreams? How did you choose them, according to which criteria?

The main criteria for choosing the protagonists were vivid dream experiences that shook them and stayed with them before or since the onset of the pandemic. I reached out to my close friends and colleagues and many among them gladly responded to the invitation to participate. If some of them didn’t feel comfortable sharing these intimate narratives, they would instantly come up with the proposal of alternative potential protagonists. So, there were friends, friends of friends, and so on. 

It was easy for people to engage as it was a lockdown period. A few hours for film shooting at their home seemed like a fun thing to do. 

Every single testimonial that I shot came into the film, as a fragment or a whole story.

The opening of the film seems to reveal a shooting protocol: you and
the protagonists staging the shot, in the distance, from one screen to the other. Can you tell us more about your method,
the collaborative way you worked with the dreamers?

My friend and co-editor in the first stage of making and editing the film, Ian Purnell, told me about skype-recorder, an app that records Skype video calls but captures and exports separate images of each participant’s screen. It was an epiphany – “after all, it’s possible to make a movie during lockdown”.

Upon the protagonists’ commitment to participate in the film, I would request them to select one or a few of their most significant dreams, write them down, and tell them aloud, privately, prior to the shooting. I wanted to hear their dreams for the first time on set.

To familiarize myself with their home interiors, I requested photos prior to the shoot, enabling me to envision the ideal framing for the images. I was suggesting clothing colours that I believed would complement both the individuals and their surroundings.

Due to the wide webcam lens, any movement close to the camera distorts the image. I was asking the protagonists to place their computers further away, and I would later reframe the shots by zooming in. It was a DIY method on both sides of the screen.

The dreamers would also need to move objects around them preparing the shot. We discovered all the possible objects in one’s household that can serve as a camera tripod. The computer screen can be tilted to change the shooting angle. 

My goal was also to place the protagonists in comfortable, yet flattering positions to resemble subjects represented in paintings of sleeping beauties throughout history.  

Paintings, framed and detailed in many ways, play an important part in
the construction of the film. Why this association of painting with
dreams, and how did you conceive the editing of these fragments of
paintings throughout the film?

Sleeping human bodies, especially females, are one of the most present motifs in art history. There’s something incredibly attractive about a sleeping subject, whose mind is absent, and the body passive. Doesn’t give consent, but also doesn’t resist. These painted individuals offer us a canvas upon which we can project any image or identity we desire. And the question is always more exciting than any possible answer: What’s going on behind their closed eyes?

I’ve also selected paintings presenting the archetype known as “the quest for vengeance” or “desire for revenge” that is very common among gods in different mythologies, heroes in folk and fairytales, Bible, Quran or any other religious narrative. I was comparing those vengeful heroines/heroes from the paintings to the vengeful thirteen fairy, vengeful psyche, and nature.

Aurora’s dream is punctuated by a series of shots through which you
include yourself in the collection, in the narration, but in a singular
way, through waiting. Can you explain this choice?

The film is divided into chapters. I used fragments from my own dreams, memories, and thoughts to shape the tone of each chapter and establish a clear connection with the following protagonists. The interruption within my narrative was crucial: as in a dream, or a fairytale, where events, characters and spaces change in a sudden manner. 

Interview by Cyril Neyrat




  • First Film Competition

Technical sheet

Serbia | 2023 | 60’

Original version: Serbian, English, German
Subtitles: English
Script: Dragana Jovanović
Photography: Dragana Jovanović
Editing: Dragana Jovanović, Ian Purnell
Music: Goran Vejvoda, Mitar Subotić
Sound: Jakov Munižaba

Production: Danilo Lazović (DOK 33 Productions)
Contact: Dragana Jovanovic

On the Other Side of the Pillow a Rose Was Blossoming, 2018, 26 min
VREME, 2016, 52 min
The Princess and the Pea, 2015, 8 min
Le Foyer, 2014, 5 min
December, 2013, 7 min