Dea Gjinovci • Director of Wake Up On Mars
“I didn’t want to make a medical or investigative film; my main aim was to paint the portrait of a family”
Unveiled in a world premiere within the competition section of the 19th Tribeca Film Festival, an event currently unspooling online for juries and film professionals, the Swiss-French co-production Wake Up On Mars [+] is the first full-length work by documentarian Dea Gjinovci.
Cineuropa: How did you come across the “Resignation Syndrome” that you explore in Wake Up On Mars?
Dea Gjinovci: I read an article in The New Yorker about children in Sweden who were falling into comas after receiving eviction notices: refusals of their requests for asylum. Their reaction was so extreme from a psychological perspective that I found myself captivated and moved by the subject. The journalist in question had interviewed the Demiri family and there was a photo of Ibadeta and Djeneta in their comas. As my father comes from Kosovo and I’m from Albania, I immediately felt a connection with this family: I knew their culture, their heritage, the traumas they’d inherited from the war… I contacted the doctor originally interviewed for the article. She told me that she’d already had a lot of interest from various media sources, notably National Geographic, and that she didn’t really see the point in me making a film because I was a young, independent director. Still, I sent her my first short film, Sans le Kosovo. This film really moved her and, a few days later, she called me back to meet the Demiri family. After talking with them for two hours, there was a real sense of intimacy and trust! I think they needed to talk to someone who spoke the same language as them, who had some understanding of the traumas they’d experienced in Kosovo. I spent ten days with them during my initial scouting work in July 2017, then I went back a few more times over the course of a year and a half to make the film.