Sarajevo City of Film for Global Screen (SCF GS) is an initiative by Sarajevo Film Festival and Turkish Radio and Televison, aimed at financing small projects from the countries in the Balkans. The first tender was won by the script for Good Day’s Work, written by Slovenian-Italian filmmaker Martin Turk, but winning the tender had its conditions, which gave the initial script a new twist and set the story square into Sarajevo. The uncomplicated social drama, a product of mere 19 days of filming on a micro budget, was first warmly accepted by the audience in Sarajevo, and then invited to be screened as a part of the Fast Forward section at the 23rd Busan International Film Festival.
Good Day’s Work actually deals not with one, but with a sequence of days in the life of Armin (Aleksandar Seksan), a middle-aged father and husband, who just can’t seem to catch a break. He is jobless and trying to find a job to support his family, but seems to be too meek and principled to actually stand a chance in the harsh real world. On top of that, it feels like the fates conspired to make his life even harder – every move he makes ends up backfiring and leaving him even worse off than before. On the way to a job interview, he witnesses a hit-and-run and immediately tries to help the victim, but the police interview ends up making him late, with another person getting the job he wanted. To support his pregnant wife and son, he agrees to take a job working in a slaughterhouse, but lacks the stomach for it, and ends up working there as a guard; but even that leads to calamities.
When he discovers that long-term employees are stealing the meat, they try to force him into a deal he’s not willing to make; not only that, when he tries to do the right thing, he ends up losing his job. But this not the end of it – his son gets in trouble for being aggressive in school, a consequence of him observing his father’s overly passive behaviour, and Armin gets in trouble with his wife over missing an obstetrician appointment. The pressure builds as Armin tries, and tries again, while burying his fears and doubts deep within himself – and a person can only take so much before they explode.
The film walks the thin line between believable and overly-fictionalized, but walks it well. The pressure builds steadily, with new and new obstacles thrown into Armin’s way, but they never damage the overall balance. The feeling of love he has for his family – and his family for him – offers a solid counterweight to the bleak reality, and right until the end, that keeps the story from losing itself in the darkness.
The cinematography plays a vital role in the film by firmly placing the city of Sarajevo at the background of the story, using realistic hues that give the film an almost documentary-like feel. What also helps keep the feel of reality in place is the excellent casting; both visually and acting-wise, Aleksandar Seksan is perfect in the central role of Armin, looking both approachable and not entirely resigned, but lost and passively panicking due to his family’s situation and another baby on the way.
There is a palpable lack of films that deal with everyday life and everyman in Sarajevo without including the war and/or its consequences. Even with the international team behind it, Good Day’s Work makes for a solid film that represents the city and its people – and their struggles – well. On top of that, given the short time and the micro budget that it took to make this film, Good Day’s Work deserves a lot of praise and is definitely worth the watch.
Written by Sanja Struna
All photos © Obala Art Centar & Bela Film