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Midwinter night’s dream

 San zimske noci (2004) on IMDb

Serbian Oscar Nominee

Serbia, Winter 2004. Lazar returns home after ten long years of absence. He is a different man today: having regained his liberty, he has decided to free himself from the heavy burden of his past and to start a new life in a country that also seems to want a better future. Little by little, among these three beings marginalized by society, a special kinship will develop.

Director: Goran Paskaljević
Screenplay: Filip David, Goran Paskaljević
Original story Goran Paskaljevic
Music: Zoran Simjanović
Director of photography: Milan Spasić
Editor: Petar Putniković
Art director: Tijana Marić
Costumes by: Jelena Andjelković
Sound: Velibor Hajduković
Sound supervisor: Branko Neškov C.A.S.
Producers: Goran Paskaljević, Lazar Ristovski
Associate Producer: Jose Maria Morales


Lazar Ristovski – Lazar, Jasna Žalica – Jasna (Mother), Jovana Mitić – Jovana, Danica Ristovski – Director of the Centre for Handicapped Children, Boda Ninković – Man with the rose, Nenad Jezdić – Lawyer, Lav Gersman – White magician, Erol Kadić – Scrap merchant, Ljiljana Jovanović – Milan’s mother, Fedja Stojanović – Neighbour, Jovan Ristovski – Lazar’s cousin, Vlasta Velisavljević – Fisherman, Dušan Janićijević – Old refugee, Ana Puderka – Wife of Lazar’s cousin, Azra Čengić – Woman in the taxi, Ratko Miletić – Worker.


2005 Special MENTION at 52. PULA Internacional FIlm Festivalu for the lead role
2005 The prize for acting awarded at the International Minsk Film Festival – lead role.
2005 The GOLDEN KNIGHT awarded at the Chelyabinsk Film Festival, Russia
2005 FIPRESCI awarded

2005 Gran pri NAISA for the lead role – Lazar
2005 FIPRESCI awarded – by domestic film critics for the lead role
2005 Nashville Film Festivali – Dreammaker Award
2004 San Sebastian Film Festival– Special Jury Price
2004 Tromso Internacionalni Film Festival – FIPRESCI – International critic award


A Midwinter Night’s Dream

Goran Paskaljevic’s heart-felt „A Midwinter Night’s Dream“ draws a pessimistic picture of post-war Serbia, caught between the guilty nightmares of recent wars and the rise of ultra-nationalism. Yet, its brooding story of a veteran desperately attempting to connect emotionally with an autistic girl and her refugee mother makes it one of the director’s most powerful dramas. Lean, pared-down filming draws viewers in and the threat of imminent violence (not actually on-screen like in „The Powderkeg“ aka „Cabaret Balkan““Cabaret Balkan“) keeps them. Festival kudos and critical support will be needed to overcome film’s tragic bleakness, however, and attract the distribution it deserves.
Using a real autistic girl (Jovana Mitic) in a central role, the film shows great sensitivity in exploring the autism and the uneasiness it causes in „normal““Normal“ people. Here autism can be read as a metaphor for Serbia’s ills: people’s alienation from one another, their inability to grasp the meaning of their actions, their panicky fear of losing their identity. Paskaljevic’s anguish is that all attempts to wake up his countrymen seem futile.

Lazar (Lazar Ristovski, who co-produced the film) returns from 10 years in prison a silent, deeply wounded man. He discovers a strange woman, Jasna (Jasna Zalica), and her autistic teenage daughter, Jovana (Mitic), living in his apartment. They are Bosnian Serbs displaced in the war. Acknowledging his rights as owner, Jasna numbly agrees to move into an overcrowded refugee shelter but in a sudden rush of pity, Lazar lets them stay in his house.

As the trio slowly draws closer to each other, their individual dramas are revealed. Jovana’s father deserted the family when he realized his daughter was not a normal child. The mother brought her to Serbia in the mistaken hope of a better life.



Lazar’s anguish is equally great. In an eerie, very delicate scene, he goes to visit the aged mother of his best friend Milan and asks forgiveness for killing her son. His terrible pain surfaces again in an electrifying confession scene, when he describes to Jasna how he deserted the Serbian army after witnessing his company perform a gruesome atrocity in Bosnia; then he started drinking and killed Milan in a meaningless barroom brawl.

Only after all the ghosts are out of the closet do Lazar and the woman become lovers. His great affection for Jovana helps the girl open up at the special education school she attends. She even takes part in a touching performance of Shakespeare’s „A Midsummer Night’s Dream.“

She provides a kind of therapy for him, too, by giving him a way to temporarily regress into childlike innocence and come to terms with his feelings of guilt. Just when happiness seems within reach, an act of senseless violence shatters their future. As in „The Powderkeg,“ the audience is meant to identify the origins of this violence — which would otherwise be an arbitrary plot twist — in the war and general political conditions.

Conveying deep feelings in a whisper, Ristovski gives one of his finest perfs, a powerfully understated portrait of the nightmare-ridden veteran who seems to have no greater enemy than himself. In an unusual piece of casting, Zalica — who is actually a Bosnian Muslim — suggests a life of suffering and courage with reticence and a worried smile.

The charming, sweet-faced Mitic becomes a credible character thanks to editor Petar Putnikovic’s careful selection of footage. As with Gianni Amelio’s use of young Andrea Rossi, a real handicapped boy, in „The House Keys,“ Mitic does not actually perform, yet gives film an enormous boost by her presence. The 35mm blow-up shows off cinematographer Milan Spasic’s fine digital camerawork. >From a mud-brown junkyard that resembles a grim scene of post-war destruction to a heavenly cherry orchard, the images carry a strong but subtle symbolism. Zoran Simjanovic’s throbbing score shoots through the film with urgency and tension.

Camera (color, DV-to-35m), Milan Spasic; editor, Petar Putnikovic; music, Zoran Simjanovic; production designer, Tijana Maric; costume designer, Jelena Andjelkovic; sound (Dolby Digital), Velibor Hajdukovic, Branko Neskov; associate producers, Philip Zepter, Jose Maria Morales.. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 20, 2004. (Also in Toronto Film Festival — Masters.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Boda Ninković, Erol Kadić, Danica Ristovski, Lav Gersman.



Deborah Yung


Goran Paskaljevic

Goran Paskaljevic studied at the well-known Prague school of cinema (FAMU) under Elmar Klos. His first short film Mister Hrstka (1969), considered as “offensive to the socialist system and harmful to the social order” was banned by the Czechoslovakian regime. He has made 30 documentaries and 14 feature films, shown and acclaimed at the most prestigious international film festivals (Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian…). The rise of nationalism in Yugoslavia forced him to leave his country in 1992. In 1998 he went back to make The Powder Keg (aka Cabaret Balkan in the USA) which won international critic’s prizes at the Venice Film Festival and the European Film Awards. In 2001, the Variety International Film Guide marks him as one of the top five directors of the year. His latest film Midwinter Night’s Dream (2004) exploring the post-war Serbia won the Grand Jury Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Personal website in English, French, Italian and Serbian: www.paskaljevic.net

  • 2006-The Optimists (Optimisti)
  • Toronto – Masters – World Premiere
  • 2004-Midwinter Night’s Dream (San Zimske Noci) San Sebastian Film Festival – Grand Prize of the Jury Toronto Film Festival – Masters Prenominated for the European Academy Awards, in all categories Best
  • Serbian film of the year Nashville (USA) – Dreammaker Award for the best feature film Montpellier (France) – Golden Antigone for the Best Film Tromso (Norway) International Film Festival 2005 – International
  • Critics Prize (FIPRESCI)
  • 2001 How Harry Became a Tree (in English) Venice Film Festival – in competition Toronto Film Festival – Masters – Gala premiere
  • Newport Beach Film Festival :
  • Best film in all categories
  • Best foreign film


  • Best actor winner Colm Meaney
  • 1998 The Powder Keg ( aka Cabaret Balkan in USA) (Bure baruta) In the USA – (released through PARAMOUNT Classics) Venice Film Festival: International Critics Prize – Best film in all categories EUROPEAN
  • CRITICS AWARD for the best European film 1998 American National Film Board of Review Awards – Voted one of the top five best foreign language films 1999 in the USA Toronto Film Festival: Masters Santa
  • Barbara (USA) Film Festival – Grand Prize Haifa (Israel) Film Festival – Grand Prize Antalya (Turkey) Film Festival – Grand Prize
  • 1995 – Someone Else’s America (Tudja America) – (in English) Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight) – Audience Award Valladolid Film Festival – Grand Prize (Golden Spike)
  • 1992 – Tango Argentino (Tango Argentino) Venice Film Festival – Audience Award San Francisco Film Festival – Audience Award
  • 1990 – Time of Miracles (Vreme cuda) Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight) San Sebastian Film Festival – International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI)
  • 1987 – Guardian Angel (Andjeo cuvar) Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight)
  • 1984 – The Elusive Summer of ’68 (Varljivo leto ’68)
  • 1982 – Twilight Time (Suton) (in English) (Produced for MGM/UA, starring Karl Malden) Chicago Film Festival – Grand Prize UNICEF Grand Prize
  • 1980 – Special Treatment (Poseban Tretman) Cannes Film Festival (competition) – Best supporting actress (Milena Dravic) Golden Globe Hollywood – Nomination for Best Foreign Film
  • 1979 – …And the Days are Passing (Zemaljski dani teku) Venice Film Festival (competition)
  • 1978 – The Dog who Loved Trains (Pas koji je voleo vozove) Berlin Film Festival (competition)
  • 1976 – Beach Guard in Winter (Cuvar plaze u zimskom periodu) Berlin Film Festival (competition), International Critics Prize



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