A former teacher and a pretty musician work as cleaning ladies in Amsterdam.
Joining a Balkan band brings harmony to their lives as emigrants. The path of a refugee is most often the one of a 'somebody' to a ‘nobody’. Sometimes it is the other way round.
The path of a refugee is most often the one of a 'somebody' to a 'nobody'. Sometimes it is the other way round.
The wars in the former Yugoslavia resulted in a huge number of refugees leaving the country. Many of them, and mostly the better educated ones, went to the cities of Western Europe, especially Amsterdam, a city that had become famous for its notions of freedom long before. Hundreds of exhibitions, published books, documentaries, music performances and a huge music production left a clear imprint on the global cultural scene in the last two decades. A feature films about this urban minority of the ex-Yugoslav diaspora, unburdened by nationalistic atavisms, would be a pinnacle and a logical continuation of this authentic meshing of cultures, as well as a universal tale of the essence of a life in the diaspora.
Music scenes from the USA to Amsterdam, Sarajevo or Skopje have seen the establishment of an authentic music style, often called Balkan-beat, represented by bands such as Kultur Shock, Dubioza Kolektiv, Balkan Beat Box and Mala Vita. “Odd meter” is a story about the people who established that scene, about artists with a refugee background, people who lay down laminated floors or clean houses during the day to be able to be on the stage at night, to go back to their real self. The two focal characters are two women; Jasmina is an educated and talented middle-aged woman from Sarajevo who ended up as a house keeper in Amsterdam, Saška is a beautiful and young musician from Skopje who came to Amsterdam looking for fame. Saška is the master, Jasmina the servant, but nothing is permanent and stable in life, and so their roles change later. We are all both masters and servants, it is only the circumstances that place us in the particular role.
Jasmina dedicates her life to her daughter Amina, but the combination of their tragic history and the differences in accepting the new environment poison their relationship. Saška will eventually help them understand each other. The other two characters are Jaap, a Dutch man who loses himself and only finds salvation in the already lost Čova, a drummer and a refugee from Belgrade.
I see the film as a warm and humane, but also a bitter drama, based on real people, comprising several interwoven love stories, quite a few humorous moments and even more music. The composition of the film dynamically follows the logic of odd meter; the lives of all protagonists march on despite the unbalancing nature of historical tragedies and personal frustrations, nevertheless they slowly begin to lean on one another, they form a band (both in the real and allegorical sense) and, thus, find a new harmony in their lives. The world will and cannot change, but love and music can make it substantially more sensical and bearable. (Antonije Nino Žalica)
written by Antonije Nino Žalica
finaNcing / pre-production 2017
Principal shoot 2018
Format 2k DCP
First festival submission Sarajevo 2019
Producer Denis Mujovic & Dijana Olcay-Hot
Budget 1.2 mill euro
Filming Locations Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Amsterdam, the present
Former teacher and singer Jasmina (44), a refugee from Bosnia, lives alone with her daughter Amina (17) in Amsterdam. For her daughter, with whom she is in a state of constant struggle, Jasmina cleans other people’s houses in “private arrangements”. Paul (35) hires Jasmina to work in his home. Jasmina’s superior is Paul’s unmarried partner Saška (28), a beautiful and talented musician from Macedonia. Jasmina’s friend and neighbor Jaap (44) is a dentist and also a wannabe-musician. He is divorced and has a seriously troubled relationship to his son Jelle (9). His best friend is Čova (44), a skilled drummer from Belgrade who earns the money to sustain his refugee life as a painter and parquet recliner. Jaap drinks alcohol in his surgery and is developing suicidal tendencies. Čova drags him to a Balkan party on the occasion of a gallery opening. There, they start a Balkan band with some other musicians, with Jaap as the bass player.
Jasmina cannot come to terms with serving „one of her own people“, who is even younger than her. Paul is always on the road. After a fight with Saška, Jasmina decides to quit the job. At home, she has to face a nervous daughter and the tough decision whether to accept an invitation by Mirko, a man she feels drawn to since their days in a refugee camp, to live with him.
Jasmina goes to work one last time to work off her last day, which she was paid for in advance. There she meets a desperate Saška in an empty apartment. Debt collectors have stripped Paul’s apartment, he has fled the country, and Saška must leave the apartment. Jasmina saves Saška from taking an overdose of pills and takes her to her own apartment. Amina gives Saška a most unpleasant welcome, insulting her harshly. Jasmina slaps her daughter who leaves the apartment in a rage.
Čova and Jaap’s band still needs a lead singer; they try to persuade Jasmina to join them. Jaap falls in love with Saška. Having been bitterly disappointed and abandoned by all of Paul’s friends, Saška agrees to work with Jasmina. Jasmina is a strict woman to work for, and she often reprimands her young helper. Still, while cleaning other people’s houses, they sometimes sing together; and sometimes they even stumble across an instrument and perform one or two Macedonian or Bosnian songs in new clothes and unfamiliar places. Saška joins the band while Jasmina still refuses.
Amina is in hospital with an alcohol poisoning. Jasmina stays to watch over her comatose daughter. Saška incidentally witnesses the idyllic nature auf Paul’s new life in Mexico and realizes that she had been just the “other woman” all the time. Jaap shows up at her door, which Saška promptly smashes shut in front of him. The next morning, Jasmina brings her excruciated daughter home. Before she fell into a coma, Amina beat up and injured one of her friends and is now facing the danger of legal charges. Jasmina has to go to work and Saška stays to take care of Amina.
The members of various bands are gathering in a lounge prior to a Balkan party. Mirko agrees with Saška that he will try to settle Amina’s legal problem. Before their final rehearsal Saška and Jaap exchange harsh words. Jasmina arrives to talk to Saška about Amina. She meets Gino (47), a musician and old friend from Sarajevo, who persuades her to sing after all. Jasmina walks on the stage, but before she starts to sing, she receives a message that her husband has been found. We find out that he had been abducted during the war and that his body has been found and identified after twenty years of uncertainty. Jasmina travels to Sarajevo, she visits her husband’s grave and their old apartment. She finds her old stage dress in her old wardrobe; she takes it with her and boards the plane. Back in Amsterdam, she is welcomed by Mirko and Amina, now beautifully spruced-up. They immediately head to the next concert. Jasmina joins the band on the stage; she dedicates their first song to her deceased husband. The audience is thrilled; among them are Amina and her friends, one of them wearing bandages, but they are all happily reconciled. The band celebrates behind the stage. Jaap and Saška are hugging, obviously in love. Mirko approaches Jasmina. She realizes that what she feels for him is far more than simple gratitude. The concert continues, music plays into the credits.
Addendum: Jasmina and Saška, hung over after their concert, cleaning the floor in a house, singing and planning their next performances.
The subject of “The Odd Meter“ is close to our hearts. One of the characteristics we love about people from former Yugoslavia is the survival instinct, despite or perhaps because of all the troubles and sorrows that life can bring. We feel compelled to tell a story that concerns people living in diaspora, and at the same time tell a universal story, a story that all of us can relate to, no matter where you are from. We want to pay homage to music coming from the Balkans, but we also wish to pay homage to strong woman, to the unpredictable faith and to youngsters growing up between different cultures.
We feel and have noticed there is a very ‘hungry’ and expectant market for a film like “The Odd Meter“, a film that tells the story of many of us. Our release strategy therefore is to have a world premiere at one of the important (Eastern) European festivals, like Sarajevo, Karlovy Vary or Pula Film Festival and with that recognition as springboard appeal to present it to the audience in the Southeast Europe and the diaspora, collaborating with strong production and distribution partners to help grow the audience for this film. There is a largely untapped market among people from the former Yugoslavian countries living in diaspora and with this film we plan to break through to it. According to recent statistics, around 85.000 people from former Yugoslavia live in Netherlands, 50.000 in Belgium, 200.000 in Sweden, 500.000 in Austria and more than 900.000 Germany. We are hoping to reach out to this as well as the autochthone audience.
We are obviously planning to rely heavily on music, releasing the soundtrack from the movie, where we are going to collaborate with the bands like Kultur Shock, Dubioza Kolektiv, Foltin, Fatima Spar and The Freedom Fries and Mala Vita.
This financial plan is based on a natural co-production, based on the characters in the movie that are from the Balkan countries. The shooting location is mostly in the Netherlands. “The Odd Meter“ is therefore planned as a co-production between Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and the Netherlands. (Denis Mujovic & Dijana Olcay-Hot)