LOST YEARS / Slovenia
ARON HORVATH BOTKA
I was born in 1991 in Slovenia. I graduated high school in Lendava and studied fine arts for three years in Ljubljana. After the third year I applied to AGRFT (Academy of theatre, radio, film and television in Ljubljana) to studied film directing. I got my diploma in 2016. Now I\’m finishing the film and television studies master program and freelancing in the audio-visual business.
Since 2015 I\’ve produced a few short films that were accepted to festivals in Europe and around the world. The most important ones are the 38. International Cinematographers\’ Film Festival Manaki Brothers in Bitola, Makedonija in 2017, the 36th Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran, Iran in 2018, the Vilmos Zsigmond Film Festival in Szeged, Hungary, Yale Student Film Festival in 2017 and the 14. SEEfest, South East Europe Film Festival in Los Angeles.
I just finished my last short film Bits, that will have it\’s national premier at the 23. Slovenian national film festival in Ljubljana.
Billy (31), lives in a small Slovenian village near the Hungarian border. The days are passing by while he is working in his petty uncle’s market, taking care of his grandmother, who is struggling with dementia meanwhile he is daydreaming about leaving this place with the local bus, that drives through the village once a day. Sometimes he gets into a conflict with the local bully Boris, the mayor\’s son who is often teasing him because of his nationality.
Billy’s only companion is Mak, a dumb guy, who has had an accident with a motorcycle a few years ago and is now in a wheelchair. He is helping him in the shop, communicating trough a small wooden desk. Billy\’s other friend is a set of old tapes his father left behind when he left. Billy was only a few days old.
One day while daydreaming of places far away, the bus stops and a foreign girl named TANA (29) steps into the shop. Billy immediately finds her interesting. She is in the urge for the toilet and Billy shows her the way. While she is in the toilet, the bus drives away with her backpack. After a little hesitation Billy gets Mak\’s motorbike and takes Tana after the bus.
They cross the border and quickly get lost in the Hungarian field roads because Billy never left the village and doesn\’t know the way. Looking for the right way, they run out of gas. They walk through the fields and start talking. Tana explains, that she is traveling to Bosnia to meet some relatives, when they, suddenly encounter a strange man named CSILLAG (45), who is trying to set up a base for a close encounter with the extra-terrestrials. Billy is interested in him and his work, but Tana is sceptical. She decides to continue on her own – even without Billy, who turned out to be incredibly incompetent friend.
Nevertheless, Billy still wants to help her, so he finds out the destination of the bus and goes after Tana. He finds here at a local party wedding, drinking shots and dancing wildly. At first, she ignores him, but then she softens up and pulls him to the dance floor.
They continue the trip together and share some personal information about each other. Billy tells Tana about the death of his mother in his childhood and about his grandmother taking care of him. Tana tells Billy, that she never met her mother. She was adopted and she is now travelling to Sarajevo to find her real mother. They get closer through their stories, when a train comes and they head to the city.
They arrive to the city after dark. It\’s Billy’s first time in a city and he is fascinated by the people, the streets and the night life. They manage to get to the bus station. At the lost and found they stumble across an annoying bureaucrat, who is not willing to hand out Tana’s backpack without her bus ticket. Billy steps up and stoles the backpack. Tana buys a new ticket directly to Sarajevo. She even invites Billy, but he has to return home to his grandmother. They hug in goodbye and she drives away.
Billy fills up the motorcycle and drives home. Driving through the fields thinking about all the new things he saw that day suddenly a bright light shines in the far distance. Billy stops and looks. A UFO lifts up from the fields lighting up the whole sky and flies away. Billy is stunned by the sight.
Billy returns home and takes his grandmother to bed. Everything feels different. His grandmother looks at him meaningfully before falling asleep. She passes during the night. Billy is devastated, but his petty uncle demands him to work despite their loss. He goes to the market when Boris and his gang appears again. They start to annoy him as usual. With all the things he went through, Billy bursts. He realises that he has nothing left to stay for. He punches Boris, steals his car and heads after Tana leaving his village and his old life behind.
For me, Lost Years is a story about my generation, a story about moving on. This is a time when we have to separate from our parents and become truly independent.
I find a lot of people my age (in their late twenties, early thirties) who are struggling to become independent. Sometimes because it is hard work, sometimes because it takes guts.
The older we get, the harder is to make it on your own and the stronger we\’re holding to our roots, less chance we get to make it on our own.
Young graduates in Slovenia have to be lucky to land a job that covers all the expenses of living, and even luckier to find a job that gives you a decent start. I don\’t even want to begin talking about finding a job that you would like or love and make a living out of it. This situation is even more delicate in the rural parts of our country.
As a writer, I want to reflect these kinds of problems through the strange, magical world of Billy.
He is an outsider in his village because he is wandering about the outside world. He acts like someone who does not belong there and for this, his surrounding doesn\’t understand him. The loving and caring relationship with his grandmother is pure, but it\’s also an alibi for him not to fulfil his dreams. It\’s a comfortable safety net with a responsibility. Therefore, Billy accepts his fate of being stuck and he\’s caught up in his everyday routine and daydreaming about places he’s never been to.
Tana is an outside element that appears suddenly and pushes Billy out of his comfort zone, puts him on the road, where he actually realises that there are much more exciting things than he ever imagined.
Being open to and trying out new things is important. It gives new experience and encourages inner growth. As the story evolves the world slowly starts to open up in front of Billy’s eyes. Bit by bit, by the end of his journey, Billy realises the inevitable – there is nothing left for him in the village, he has to find his own path.
Through his relationship with Tana, I want to create a sensible loving character, who is always prepared to help. Tana\’s character not only pushes him out of his comfort, but makes him realise, that he is not on his own. The same goes for Tana.
I imagined Lost Years as a mix of Kusturica\’s magical realism and Kar Wai Wongs dreamy atmosphere.
I want to emphasise the relationship of place and time throughout the whole film. As the scenery expands the time starts to run faster.
The film is about my generation and I feel that somehow starting out as a young film director I\’m in the same place as Billy the protagonist. This is the main reason why I feel that the time to make this movie is now. Who knows what\’ll happen in a couple of years. Where\’ll we be.
The other big reason I feel this project needs to happen now is that I imagined this film as a love letter to the scenery near the Slovenian-Hungarian boarder where I have grown up.
After I left to study I visited it from time to time. I realised nothing has changed and that there is a big chance that it never will. I found something poetic about this and made a short film by the name We should be going somewhere. While making the short film, I realised that there are no Slovenian films that represent the Slovenian minority and its scenery in Hungary. As a member of a minority I would like to research and present the alienated feeling that we carry on through our lives as a minority in these rural parts of the country. The ever-actual question of being a minority in Slovenia and a foreigner in our home country, Hungary. This theme became central for me when I was forming the characteristics of Billy and his surrounding in the screenplay.
My goal is to make a movie that speaks to all the people who have the experience of leaving loved ones behind and to all the people who struggle with starting on their own. I want to push the audience over the edge and make them feel good about themselves go and have an adventure after seeing the film, plus there are no genre films in Slovenia.