Kukla, born in 1991 in Brežice, Slovenia is a film director and musician. In 2014 she finished the film academy in Ljubljana (film and tv directing). Her last short film Sisters won Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand Int Festival 2021.
Sina (24), Mihrije (21) and Jasna (25), girls in their early twenties, have been best friends since childhood. They live in a brutalist neighbourhood in a small Slovenian town, being second generation of immigrants from former Yugoslav republics, living in Slovenia. Coming from very traditional families, they are far from traditional themselves. They live by their own principles i.e. “rules” they set by themselves for themselves. They don’t drink alcohol, have no social media and do not get involved into romantic relationships. They train martial arts and ride small old motorbikes around town. They’re a “lost case”, as they have no intention of marrying and have no major ambitions as to their careers i.e., they see them as unachievable. Their lifestyle often leads them into conflicts with the boys in the neighbourhood who perceive them as a threat.
When they’re not training in the gym, girls spend most of their time on the stairs in front of a block of flats observing the estate. Their attention is caught by a tall young woman, for whom it later, after they meet, turns out she is a transgender young woman in the process of transitioning, called Fantasy.
Fantasy bewitches the girls and they begin spending a lot of time together. Fantasy introduces them to the world of nightclubs, illusion and make-up, a brand new and different world from theirs, the world they find attractive and repellent at the same time. She questions their beliefs and shakes the ground they walk on. By spending time with Fantasy they slowly start changing their lives.
Despite strong opinions against love relationships Sina becomes romantically entangled with her married boxing coach who owns the gym. Jasna, who is increasingly getting fed up with working in a night club and living with a frustrated mother, decides to take a job on a cruise ship in France.
Mihrije faces the fact that she has an arranged husband to marry and runs away with Fantasy to Macedonia, to visit Fantasy’s dying father. They travel to picturesque Kruševo, Fantasy’s hometown which seems like an etno fairytale. Fantasy turns into Filip to protect herself from the potential violent attacks on the road and their family perceives Mihrije as Filip’s girlfriend. Mihrije’s emotions towards Fantasy become more and more intense as she slowly falls in love with her. Fantasy deals with the pressure from the family situation with large amounts of alcohol. Mihrije breaks off a “sisterhood rule” of no alcohol and joins her drinking. The night before leaving the town they get really drunk and really close. Mihrije loses her virginity with Fantasy.
After returning to Slovenia, Fantasy ignores Mihrije. At Jasna’s goodbye dinner girls feel alienated and estranged from each other – each has their own dreams and their own path, it seems as if the collective spirit and their hopes for their future community have vanished. Being aware of that and frustrated because of it the tension breaks and girls get into a physical fight. On the way home Mihrije stops at Fantasy’s apartment only to find out that Fantasy has died.
The shock is so heavy on Mihrije she makes no further enquiries, but goes straight to Jasna’s, where she falls into pieces. She begs Jasna not to leave, which makes Jasna’s departure even more difficult. Sina also comes by and mourns with Jasna in consoling Mihrije, but in the night nevertheless escapes to join her lover.
There’s just Mihrije and Sina now, both pregnant. While Sina decides to keep the baby and raise it on her own, Mihrije decides that everything connected to Fantasy will become just a memory. She plans to move to her cousins’ in Denmark, start her studies and a new life.
The feature film Fantasy is a discourse on (gender) identity in a patriarchal society and on fantasy being an umbrella unifying concept for projections of gender-identity roles.
Idea of Fantasy was inspired by girls I remember from my childhood, the “forgotten ones” in baggy clothes with ponytails low down by the hair line, who somehow remained prisoners of their family and their environment for not fitting the rigid rule lines of womanhood in patriarchal Balkans, and whom I remember would hold their mother by the hand even as adults.
I grew up in Krško, a small industrial town mostly known for its nuclear power plant. As all industrial cities that were formed in former Yugoslavia, Krško was inhabited with citizens from southern countries – Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, something like a small Balkan town but these people were not accepted well by the local Slovenians and formed their own quite closed communities. By leaving my hometown and encountering the queer culture of large Western European cities as a high school student, I detected huge difference in perception of gender there and at home in Slovenia, where the patriarchal mentality of the Balkans remains very much present.
I suddenly got an insight into many parallels between both worlds, particularly between the phenomena of sworn virgins and transgender people. I started wondering what would happen if a sworn virgin and a transgender woman or man met? Are sworn virgins transgender men? Are the Balkans in a sense an environment which actually accepts the appearance of gender fluidity except it has not been called or thought about it that way?
The film’s main heroines Mihrije, Sina and Jasna are in a way representations of modern day “sworn virgins” (women in the rural Balkan regions who take the role of a man), but aren’t doing so consciously and do not recognize it as their identity. Their relationship is a meeting of different cultures, part of their roots and families – Mihrije’s parents being from Kosovo, Jasna’s from Bosnia, while Sina is a child of a mixed marriage between a Serbian and a Bosnian, which also mixes with the culture of Slovenia, the country they all live in.
When they meet Fantasy, a young transgender woman, a new, unknown world opens to them, which demolishes their established ways of thinking and understanding the world and creates a new perception of reality they were familiar with before. Fantasy fascinates them, her life story and her »version of femininity« open new questions inside them – about gender, sexuality, identity, values, goals, ambitions, personal relationships and finally, about themselves. By getting to know Fantasy and by losing her, girls spring from an “Orlando”-like experience, develop each in their own individual way, experience becoming different and become their own version of a woman. They create their own woman, they create themselves.
I see this topic and the idea of the film as something that is in nature
specifically local yet universal at the same time. The discourse about gender always circles around the term “male gaze” but what I am interested in discovering is the much needed female gaze, the female’s eye that I believe had been buried somewhere deep down for centuries if not thousands of years. The women in our film learn to start to look at themselves through their own lens, not being mirrored in the expectations or the conventions of their environment. The thought of gender identity leads me to the question of identity in general. I wonder, after the chaos, when the air clears and the silence makes us listen to our inner voice, what do we hear? Are we free?
Sestre (Sisters) was the short film I directed as some sort of a study film for Fantasy. It was concepted as the pre-story of Fantasy, introducing the world of the three friends and their rules/manifesto and their mentality. While working on it I have been guided by the film itself since I believe it is a live matter and the same time it was also a research of the topic, characters and relationships between them. In Sestre the actresses for main characters – Mihrije, Jasna and Sina have already been found, as well as some side characters. Most of them are first time actors who are in a way “playing themselves” and deliver authentic raw expression while co-creating the story as I always see the script of the film as an open form. When searching for the person who will transcend the character of Fantasy to the screen I want to give voice to the people who’s voice is still not represented enough, so Fantasy will be played by a transgender person in transition (as it happened in Sestre) as I want the film to be as authentic and as honest as possible, while also giving a chance to somebody who is actually surviving the experience.
The style, the atmosphere and what we hear
As mentioned above I believe film is a live matter that leads us into its’ own direction if we are willing to listen. Fantasy is a film lead by dream logic, since the concept of fantasy is the driving force, the umbrella term of the idea of our film. The visual language is supporting that thought and taking the viewer on a ride between reality and fantasy, cruising between pseudo-documentaristic perspective on the reality of our main characters (the brutalist Rozzol Melara neighbourhood and the greyness of their routines as well as their sweatsuits) and the contrast of the world Fantasy introduces to them – the magic realism, colourful fantasies inspired by etno Balkan elements on the other side. Their neighbourhood will be set in Rozzol Melara, a brutalist concrete complex of apartment buildings that is built in the shape of a square an plays as some sort of a concrete fishtank. On the other side there is the trip to Kruševo, a picturesque colourful town in the mountains in Macedonia, a place where mysticism meets the rawness of the Balkans and the place where Mihrije experiences a life changing moment. My main goal is to show the honest, raw and authentic reality of our characters but to play well with and through the fantasies in their head, visually and emotionally bringing the film into the times we live in.
Since sound and music play as equally big role as the visuals do, the film Fantasy will embark even further on the journey the film Sestre has started, combining different music video elements and implementing them into the narrative of the film, positioning music not only as a commentary element but almost as a supporting character as well and with the use of it explore the internal world of the characters and of the culture they were born into. I see and hear Fantasy being a hybrid between film and a music video, engaging the contemporary viewer through the rhtyhmic contrast of poetics and realism.