Recent Comments


    Talking Housekeeping With Filmmaker Goran Stolevski

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    Out gay filmmaker Goran Stolevski (Of an Age) returns to his native Macedonia for his warm “hangout” film Housekeeping for Beginners. Dita (Anamaria Marinca) reluctantly agrees to care for her lover Suada’s (Alina Sebran) children, the teenage Vanesa (Mia Mustafi) and the preteen Mia (Dzada Selim). She also lives with Toni (Vladimir Tintor), a gay man, whose current boyfriend, Ali (Samson Selim), also seems to have moved in. As they form a makeshift family—Dita and Toni get married—legal and other forces threaten to upend things.

    Stolevski’s film deals with serious issues involving queer people and ethnic minorities in Eastern Europe, but he films it all with a light touch that immerses viewers in the lives of the characters. The filmmaker spoke with me for the San Francisco Bay Times about his warm and engaging new film.

    Goran Stolevski

    Gary M. Kramer: Housekeeping for Beginners features several gay or lesbian characters, but they are not always able to live authentically. What can you say about the film’s idea of a “chosen family”?

    Goran Stolevski: It is a family imposed by circumstances. Most of the household were kicked out of their homes. This house presents itself as a possible sanctuary. I’m drawn to stories with characters that are in a position they cannot escape from and have to figure out how to live their best possible lives given that. That is very common for queer people in these places, where your choices are limited and made for you.

    Gary M. Kramer: The film is very intimate and episodic. Can you talk about your approach to storytelling and creating the film’s tone? It’s really a fun hangout film.

    Goran Stolevski: “Hangout film” is a good phrase—I didn’t think of that, but that’s the feeling I was working towards. I wanted the story to keep catching you by surprise. Things are percolating underneath all along. I assume the viewer knows an Eastern European gay person’s life is going to be difficult and we don’t have to explain why. Taking that for granted, as a storyteller, you look for fun bits. No one’s life is a morose social drama every hour of every single day.

    Because there was so much darkness and heaviness shaping these lives, I felt my job was to look for lighter moments, and the fun in it, and mess with the perception that things may be socio-politically dire. There is hope; it’s not all doom and gloom. In the same way is the color spectrum in the film—I never wanted to use a filter. I wanted every color to be available. If there is a tone of colors not prominent in the backdrop, we’ll find it in the costumes. In the same way I want to experience joy and sadness, fun and pain, romance, and everything in the story.

    Gary M. Kramer: There are discussions about race, ethnicity, legal issues raised, and other topics. What prompted you to cram all these issues into one story?

    Goran Stolevski: I wanted that story to percolate. I don’t set out with here’s an issue, and I’ll include it. It’s more:  what does day-to-day life feel like, and how do we capture those facets for these people in that time and place? The [presentation of] ethnicity and race is reality. A small percentage of the population is Roma, but growing up, a quarter of the kids I knew were Roma, and a quarter of the country is Albanian, which is Dita’s ethnicity. It wasn’t an ideological statement, it is more, “This is what life feels like.” The more variety you have, the more richness and situational conflict emerges from that. 

    Gary M. Kramer: Housekeeping for Beginners is a film about healing. It shows how this makeshift family can get through crises big and small together by leaning on each other. What observations do you have about the film’s message?

    Goran Stolevski: Healing and grief need to take place, but life doesn’t stop for you to be able to do that. I wanted to stay with them through that process and honor the reality of what that would be like; it would not be easy. I wanted to honor that on screen. When life is difficult for someone, and you adapt that into a story and make it simpler, I find it a little offensive. I wanted to be realistic. I didn’t want it to be too bleak. I am very emotionally attached to these characters, and I don’t want them to suffer unnecessarily. I want people to feel connected to this group of people who feel real, and detailed, and three-dimensional despite their minority statuses. They are a stand in for something that is universal. You are not less universal because you happen to belong to a minority. Your feelings are not minority or niche. They are as intense as anyone’s.

    © 2024 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” He teaches Short Attention Span Cinema at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and is the moderator for Cinema Salon, a weekly film discussion group. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on April 4, 2024