Father (Otac) (Serbia/France/Germany/Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia and Herzegovina)
In Serbian with English subtitles. 120 min. Streaming online at the 2020 Vancouver International Film Festival from September 24 to October 7 at VIFF Connect
When Nikola (a thoroughly committed Goran Bogdan) hears that his wife has committed an extreme act of desperation to protest the starvation and poverty they’re enduring, he bolts from his worksite to reach her, ignoring an offer to be driven there. This action at once encapsulates his character—he’s wilful and stubborn to the point of error but ultimately driven by a deeply rooted devotion to his family.
It’s this seemingly boundless internal force that fuels his 300-kilometre journey on foot from his small, impoverished Serbian village to Belgrade to appeal a decision by a corrupt social work minister who has taken his daughter and son away from him. While neither excruciating nor overly dull, his trek is a bleak one. Along the way, he faces numerous adversities and grim realities, with many being predictable but often in clever or unexpected ways.
Writer-director Srdan Golubović crafts an unsentimental, unrelenting, and austere depiction of the measures that this powerless individual feels compelled to resort to in order to be heard. However, if actions speak louder than words, what become indirectly evident is that even though he has zero control over the outcome of his efforts, what he does achieve is the superhuman strength to persevere in the face of impossibility—no matter what the outcome.