April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM). Many filmmakers are no strangers to trying to change the world. Aćim Vasić, one of them, talks about his latest film Prey (2018), which raises awareness about stalking.
Aćim, how do you define yourself?
I’m a writer/director, doing activism with meaningful films.
What is feminism for you?
I heard about feminism probably as a teenager, but only as an adolescent I realised what it truly stands for. I remember that it opened my eyes to various inequalities between genders, which I wasn’t aware of before, because as a kid one grows up thinking that many things in daily life are fair, equal and simply normal, I guess… but as one matures and gets more involved in the world around, one sees all the abnormalities that at first hand seem so illogical and unnecessary. One asks onerself over and over “but why?” And then one starts to discover all the brave activists who devote their lives for various issues, among which is feminism. Feminism made me think also about other inequalities in our world.
How did you become a film maker?
I studied engineering in Serbia, my father is an engineer, you know how it goes… but after two years, my mother witnessed that I prefer playing video games and watching films than studying for my exams. Luckily we had a life-changing conversation “What would you really love to do, son?” I confessed that I don’t know yet, but that I knew I couldn’t visualise myself as an engineer, my mind wasn’t wired for mathemathics and physics. So after some research, I made a decision to go into filmmaking. I didn’t really know much about it at the time, I knew Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Bergman… but I have never seen any masterpieces. As a teeneger I mostly watched blockbusters and as a kid I watched early Hollywood and Hitchcock with my grandmother on TV. Before and during the ‘engineering failure’, I had ideas for stories and daydreaming, which was much more fluid wiring in my head. That’s why I picked creative direction. Then I moved to France, where I am since 2004. Year after year, filmmaking means so much more to me than I could’ve ever imagined.
Your film “Prey“ (2018) is about a man who is following women walking down the streets at night. What was your drive behind making this film? Also, what do you want your audience to gain, feel and/or do as a result of watching the film?
For “Prey” it was basically a “WHAT IF” idea that grew into a short film. “What if women would follow men? How many women-stalkers would be needed to make one man to feel afraid?” I hope someone will gain/feel/do something, if and when they get inspired by it. The only thing I can wish for is that this short film would inspire anyone to do something.
You have said: “It made me think that us ‘men’ live in another dimension where we can’t even imagine how unpleasant and scary it is for many women on daily basis to face these traumas.” Can you elaborate on this? Have you ever been harassed? Also, how to end street harassment?
From my experience, many men don’t know what it feels like to be a woman, walking alone, day/night, passing next to one man, or group of men. The feeling, those thoughts, fears of verbal or physical harassment, not many men are aware of that. Hundreds of expectations and fears that stream through women’s mind, no matter if a man will catcall or not, it is something that we men can’t experience. We should use VR for that. Maybe someone already did that. When my mother was a student, two men grabbed her in front of a building at night, but luckily she managed to scream just before they put their hands on her mouth, her uncle opened the window and those two men escaped. That was the first and personal mind-opening realisation for me about harassment, when she told me that story when I was a kid. I have been harassed verbally, at work in France, but I don’t need to go into details here – I was able to confront it. It was a huge experience that made me again reflect on women, and how much more harassment they must experience at work too. And to answer the last question, about how to end street-harassment – there are many more experienced street-harassment activists who probably have better ideas on this (e.g. Holly Kearl). Nevertheless, from my inexperienced point of view – it’s about raising the level of awareness, like for all other inhumane issues, and of course better education and elimination of other inequalities like racism and poverty. I haven’t researched but I’m curious to analyse and compare differences of countries where street-harassment is low with the ones where it’s high, and have direct insight.
What does “being a man” mean?
Honestly, since becoming an international person who has met thousands of different people from many different countries, I know less and less what “being a man” means in general. It’s a word that makes more confusion than clarity. It depends on culture, place and time. A man – 100.000 years ago, 100 years ago; now or in 1000 years – had/will have a different meaning. Is “being a man” a nickname for a male human speciman with cultural and social expectations attached to it? We all know what patriarchy would tell us about what “being a man” means. But is “being a man” just an idea that tests itself through time?
What are the challenges of what you do?
Major difficulty, like for most filmmakers, is finding producers who have/can find a budget for films. It’s a great test for one’s persistence. The easiest thing in filmmaking is to quit – it’s wonderfully perfect for it. There are many rejections, saying ”no”, criticism and discouraging people/occasions that there is nothing easier than to quit and free oneself from any difficulty. So, it’s a huge challenge to persevere. Other than that, every film has its own challenges, but once the budget is there and the filming has begun, these challenges are for one’s creativity and they could be fun, if one is an optimist and a problem solver.
What are the main ways film makers, e.g. art directors and directors, can contribute to social impact? What kind of impact do you aim to achieve?
I think that all film crew members can contribute to any social impact – if only the screenplay is about that. If they really want to make a difference and make an impactful film, then they should work on films with those kinds of stories. In my case, I don’t really pre-plan or aim for any impact of my short film. I believe in the idea of the screenplay, I visualise it and then make it. After that I only wish that my short film would be watched by as many people as possible. Luckily we have internet. And if any impact happens, then great!
What creative activists, film makers, etc would you say have influenced you the most, and why?
I am not sure if anyone has directly influenced me. Many artists and filmmakers I respect are celebrities who, besides being activists, share online work of many non-famous activists and organisations that need exposure in order to motivate other people to join them and become more aware of the cause. In order not to make a long list of names, I would mention JR, a local Parisian/international activist.
What’s next up for you?
Another short film, a drama all filmed in one-sequence shot. After that I hope to make either another short or a longer film.
Vimeo (The Prey movie): https://vimeo.com/275113239
Twitter (The Prey movie): https://twitter.com/prey2018