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the film


Directed by Jeff Daniel Silva | 80 minutes | 2011

After the Kosovo war devastates a young couple's homeland and their dreams for a normal life, they set out unexpectedly from the Balkans, along a wild journey to rebuild their lives anew in America.  Arriving in California amidst the peak of a housing boom that would soon burst, the film reveals their trials and tribulations over five years of turbulent economic, political and personal tides to reveal an unorthodox depiction of the American immigrant experience.

Filmmaker's Statement
I first met Ivan and Ivana while I was in Kosovo in 1999 filming a documentary about post-war Yugoslavia entitled "Balkan Rhapsodies". At that time he and his wife were working for the United Nations (Ivan as driver and Ivana as a translator) and dreaming of an escape from the violence and ethnic backlash going on throughout Kosovo by the Albanian led KLA. After a violent forced expulsion from their home in Pristina they fled to a Serbian enclave and suffered a further year of constant threats and provocations. Ivan and Ivana knew they had to find a way out of Kosovo to some "normal country" as they would so often say.

When I left Kosovo in the winter of 2000 I was troubled by what I witnessed and distraught that my new friends might never get out of Kosovo alive. A year later however, I received a surprise phone call from Ivan in broken English telling me that he and his wife had found a way out of Kosovo and that they were now in the USA ready to start over.

The film, Ivan & Ivana, picks up with my friends about 6 years after that phone call and their arrival in the US and focuses instead on their incredible newfound prosperity, their emotional ambivalence of their relationship to the US, and the lingering traumatic memories that continue to inform their identity.

In contrast to most documentaries, Ivan & Ivana tends to eschew drama in favor of quotidian moments and the spaces before and after climatic moments. Focusing on these non-events and giving the viewer only the barest of narrative exposition, the film lingers on gazes and body movement to express story-telling through tension, emotion, and the senses. Oscillating back and forth between a confounding layering of uncontrolled moments, provoked performativity and inquisitive dialogues,the film unveils important social and political issues, while at the same time it complicates the ethical challenges of documentary filmmaking.

Historical Background on the Serbian/ Kosovo conflict
Yugoslavia was often referred to as a crossroads of civilization, a place where ethnicities, religions and Eastern and Western Europe collide. It's rich and troubled history is extremely complicated and still hotly debated amongst historians and people from the Balkan region. The subjects of the film Ivan & Ivana grew up in Yugoslavia, now known since the dissolution as separate sovereign republics of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Kosovo (still under dispute). While a basic understanding of the bloody history of Kosovo and Serbia can certainly enrich one's relationship to the film and it's characters, the fundamental themes of war, loss and resurrection are universal. Ivan & Ivana makes no pretense to tell the history of the Balkan's nor does it pass any judgments or lay blame. There are hundreds of other books, essays, and films one can read or watch that focus specifically on the complex history of the Balkan's. While every historical text is prone to subjectivity, below are a few links that offer an opportunity to gain greater insight and depth of understanding of Yugoslav history:

Crisis Group: Kosovo Conflict History
BBC World Wars: Yugoslavia 1918 -2003
New York Times Kosovo News
Kosovo: How Myths and Truths Started a War by Julie A. Mertus
The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers, 1804-1999