On Friday, Feb. 15, an award-winning international producer Srdjan Stakic screened a full-length documentary about a refugee woman from Syria, a low-brow Swedish TV comedy about two silly detectives, a teaser for the upcoming non-scripted Netflix show about Asian food, and a full-length horror feature.
“Dreams of Daraa” follows a four year journey of a Muslim woman with three children from war-inflicted Syria to Jordan to Germany, where they seek asylum. It differs from other straightforward documentaries of a similar caliber by using unique combination of vérité footage, archival video and watercolor animation.
This story hits close to Stakic, as he sought asylum himself in Sweden as a young adult in the nineties escaping his war-torn home country of Yugoslavia. As a result, he worked for the United Nations for ten years before realizing he wanted to move to Los Angeles and become a producer. He spoke of it being strange his ego that, after a successful career, he had to start over by getting coffee for someone at the age of thirty-three.
Due to the war, he and the filmmakers could not go to Syria to shoot the documentary. Instead, they got in touch with local filmmakers from Syria and asked them to collaborate. He spoke of the importance of keeping the budget low and hiring local filmmakers when possible. Most production companies and studios are hesitant about doing this, as they don’t trust the local below-the-line talent.
Stakic also spoke of the importance of “following the story,” even if it turns out very differently from what the filmmaker thought it would turn out to be. For example, there were originally two women they wanted to follow, but had to choose only one, even if they both made for interesting documentary subjects.
It is often said in Hollywood, “it’s not what you do, but who you know,” and Stakic’s professional life confirms this saying. By virtue of a connection in Sweden, Stakic produced a first-ever American-produced TV show for Sweden called “Swedish Dicks,” as in “detectives.” It’s now in the making of its third season. U.S. audiences can find the first season online, although they might be discouraged by its crude and stereotypical portrayal on manners of Hollywood, men and sex. A friend of his knew Keanu Reeves and asked him to be on the show, and as a result, that helped the momentum of the series.
He also screened a trailer for his upcoming Asian food travel show, “Family Style.” The show travels to several Asian countries, as well as California, where a host — like a chef, a singer or a famous Instagram personality — shares his favorite food spots and homemade meals.
Lastly, he screened “St. Agatha,” a new horror feature about a pregnant woman who goes to live in a convent in the 50s. He told a story of how different the script was in the beginning, and how initially he had to buy the basic premise and title, then hire a different writer to rewrite the script.
Not being a gore horror film fan himself, he did stress the horror genre’s ability to carry over to the rest of the world: comedy is regional and too specific, while dramas don’t gross that much, but the horror genre translates well everywhere. The film was directed by prominent horror movie director Darren Lynn Bousman of the second, third and fourth “Saw” films. “St Agatha” was also screened for free on the large screen at the UNO’s NIMS theater on Friday.