MIDNIGHT TRAIN / North Macedonia
Writer-director Stefka Mancheva is a recent graduate in Film Directing from the New Bulgarian University. She completed her course of study in 2007, and spent the next ten years traveling the world — a roller-coaster adventure that took her to 14 countries on three continents. Last year, she returned to her alma mater and her first love — filmmaking, and completed her graduation film to obtain her final degree.
She’s preparing to shoot her short Creme Caramel, with which she participate in the New Arrivals: GoShort Campus 2018. Blind Spot will be her feature debut.
The Balkans is a small and globally little-known region in the southeast of Europe. This is the home of Ayshe, Ana, and Veroniki: three women in their early 40s from three different cities. There’s a train that passes through the heart of this region every night and connects its cities and its people – the Midnight Train, an express train line. The route of the train also connects the stories of Ayshe from Belgrade with the story of Ana from Skopje, and ends up with the story of Veroniki in Thessaloniki. The three stories are seemingly independent from each other, but they are intertwined with the passing of the Midnight Train.
In Belgrade, in a small Roma community, Ayshe has just married off her 12-yrs old daughter to a middle-aged man due to the difficult financial situation of the family. Although Ayshe never agreed with the arranged marriage, her husband made the decision and according to customs, as a woman she had no choice but to comply. Yet, a few days after the celebration, Ayshe is bothered by the thought that the groom might be engaging in sexual intercourse with the little girl. Ayshe decides to take her daughter without anybody knowing and to run away with her. Her plan doesn’t go smoothly and she finds herself chased by the men of the family, who even fire bullets in her direction. She manages to reach the train and get on it, escaping the men who are chasing her, but it’s too late for the little girl.
Ana is a professor of architecture in Skopje and a respected scholar. She and her husband had a car accident and her husband is left with amnesia, he doesn’t remember her nor their marriage. Ana sees this is a second chance at keeping their marriage, as they had been discussing divorce before the accident and her husband was seeing another woman. She takes care of him in the best way possible, all the while trying to make him fall for her again. Yet, once the husband regains his memory, he is disgusted by the manipulation and decides to leave her for good. Ana cannot cope with the abandonment and attempts suicide by driving up on the railway tracks. However, the train stops before it hits her – the reason why the train stops is because there is some emergency, a girl on the train is dead.
In Thessaloniki, Veroniki is confronted with the reality of having her biological baby after she and her husband adopted a girl from the orphanage, Sarah. Being 12 and with the family for some time now, Sarah is very jealous of the new baby and tries to keep Veroniki scared that she wants to do something to it. One night, while the husband is away on business trip to Belgrade, Sarah pretends to choke the baby with a pillow. Veroniki goes insane with anger, telling Sarah that she should leave the house. After Sarah leaves in the middle of the night, saying that she will go to the train station to wait for her father to return, Veroniki receives a phone call from her husband. He says that there was a tragic event on the train he took from Belgrade to home – a little Roma girl died from internal bleeding before reaching Skopje. This is Ayshe’s daughter. The devastating news is a wake-up call for Veroniki who immediately goes to the train station and is reunited with Sarah. The two of them hug and agree to never be apart again.
When I was a child, I spent most of my time with my grandmother Angelina. We would read books and sing songs all day long, and she would always hang out with me. Except for one period of the day – the afternoon hours right before dinner. This was the time when she would gather up her grandmother-friends over a cup of Turkish coffee and some chit-chat. They would talk for hours, exchanging incredible stories about the lives of others. Being a child, I wasn’t allowed in the room where the elder women shared their entertaining stories, but rather, I was supposed to work on my homework in the other room. However, the house had thin walls without good isolation and I could hear almost everything. This is how I heard about the three peculiar stories that I write about in “Midnight Train”. These are the three stories that were most shocking to me when I first heard them and that have stuck with me throughout the years. I have spent long hours thinking about the psychology of the people involved in the stories, about what motivated them to act in the way they did and also, about what they felt when their lives changed radically. The conclusions that I came up with during the years were often fed with excerpts from my own life experience.
The central theme of the project is the feeling of unjust loss. Because I want to create an atmosphere of darkness and alienation, I have chosen a form of script writing that is divided in itself: the fragmentary form. I show three different stories independently, and I link them only at the end of the script. In this script, I follow a short period of the lives of three women from three different cities, focusing on the moment in their lives when they lost their most valuable possession. I have chosen the perspective of the woman in each story because as a female writer, I relate to their psychology and therefore, can build each one of them as a fully developed, flesh-and-blood character. The three stories are all connected by the Midnight train, a train which connects the three cities and which brings about the resolution to the (both external and internal) conflicts in the lives of the women.
The project won the only prize at the EASTWEEK script writing workshop during the Trieste Film Festival in 2015 and was awarded a scholarship for MIDPOINT Script Development Workshops. At Midpoint, the project won the BEST PITCH AWARD and was invited to EAST MEETS WEST Coproduction Forum at Trieste Film Festival 2016. In addition, the project has received the national grant for script development from the Macedonian Film Agency in 2015.
THINGS I LIKE:
- Flea markets
- Silver disco shoes
- Walt Whitman\’s poetry
- Sun rays through blinds
- Analogue photos
- Pencil and paper
- A plane\’s take off
- Clean bedroom sheets
- Coffee and croissant
- Socks with cool prints