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by Barbara Albert
In Somewhere Else we see different approaches to life, to present and future. What Barbara Albert primarily wanted to communicate to us is an albeit weak and uncertain message of hope, as well as a strong, very strong desire to start again. At the Viennale 2022, section Österreich real.
After the war
The war in Yugoslavia brought with it numerous dramatic consequences on the lives of those who experienced it first-hand. But how did young people experience it? How did their lives and their perspectives for the future change? Director Barbara Albert was immediately close to this reality and in her debut documentary – Somewhere else, made in 1997 and re-presented to the audience on the occasion of the Viennale 2022as part of the retrospective Österreich real of the Filmarchiv Austria – she interviewed four young people, asking each of them to tell their own story.
In Sarajevo, the consequences of the war are still visible. The city seems to be no longer what it once was. People are still frightened, they seem almost annoyed when they notice that someone with a camera is filming. “What does she want from us? She wants to make money by taking advantage of our situation!”, says a couple, the moment they notice the presence of the film crew. The protagonists of the documentary, on the contrary, are kind and helpful, almost as if they really needed to confide in someone.
A girl strolls through the city streets. She would like to start studying medicine. Meanwhile, she remembers what Sarajevo was like before the war and when young people used to meet near the statue of a seated woman. A young musician, on the other hand, seems to have much less energy. He still does not know what awaits him in the future. In Somewhere else we see different approaches to life, to present and future. Yes, because, in fact, what Barbara Albert primarily wanted to communicate to us is an albeit weak and uncertain message of hope, as well as a strong, very strong desire to start again.
Made two years before Northern Skirts, which would finally make the director famous worldwide, Somewhere else has many elements in common with the aforementioned feature film. Firstly, the war in Yugoslavia is placed in the foreground (although Northern Skirts is set in Vienna); secondly, we are faced with two ensemble movies, both centred on stories of young people who still have to find their own place in the world; finally, the choice of music deserves special attention: light pop songs contrast with the strong realism of the images and create, together, a perfect harmony.
It is interesting to note how, just before the end in Somewhere Else, we reach a moment considered almost the symbol of a new beginning: the New Year’s Eve party (an element also present in Northern Skirts, by the way). From this moment on, in fact, we see how in the course of a year the lives of the protagonists, but also – and above all – their approach to the future have changed. A cautious optimism is now part of their everyday life. The war is still remembered, but it now seems to be a past event. Somewhere else is freshness, resilience and hope. To the young people the (difficult) task of building a better future.
Original title: Somewhere Else
Directed by: Barbara Albert
Country/year: Austria / 1997
Running time: 60’
Screenplay: Barbara Albert
Cinematography: Christine A. Maier
Produced by: Universität für Musik & Darstellende Kunst