Students to Watch: Fourth-year film student retells her grandmother’s WWII past

Fourth-year film studies student Hanna Jovin is the director of her thesis project, Erika, a short film about her grandmother in Bosnia during the Second World War.

Erika is about an unlikely friendship that builds with two young girls, Sadika and Erika. It’s based on a true story of Jovin’s Bosnian grandmother.

Last summer, Jovin went to Bosnia and her grandmother opened up about her childhood.

“She told me this story about this German family occupying her house during the Second World War,” Jovin says. “Some of the best times that she had during the Second World War was when she befriended this German girl.”

Erika is completely in Bosnian and German. Jovin knew it would be an ambitious project, being both a short film and in foreign languages. 

“Some of my actors don’t speak those languages so we had to teach them phonetically how to pronounce them and memorize the sounds in order to keep it authentic,” she says.

Hanna Jovin is a fourth-year film studies student and the director of Erika. (Robyn Bell/Ryersonian Staff)

The Erika team spent their budget limit of $10,000 and funded some of the costs through a Kickstarter campaign. In addition, Whites International granted $1,500 that helped them rent lights and different camera gear.

“The program does not provide a budget. Everything is out of our pocket,” she says.

As a female filmmaker, Jovin feels responsible to be aware of how women are represented in the industry. The Erika crew were half female and half male film students.

I’m very conscious of choosing a very even split. On Erika, we had a man who’s DP [director of photography], a female producer, a male producer, a female who’s doing art direction, a female sound designer,” she says.

Jovin loves storytelling through film and she leans more toward female-driven stories.

“I find that there isn’t a lot of representation for women behind the camera and in front of the camera,” she says.

In 2015, two per cent of the top 250 films were directed by women, which is the exact same amount in 1998.

I’m going to do my best to pave the way for other people, but sometimes it can be very discouraging when you’re getting these statistics,” she says. “It’s hard because in film school, it’s very 50/50. So, something very clearly happens after we graduate where all the guys are getting jobs and we’re not getting the funding.”

Her art direction and illustrations in the documentary animated short film White Lines aired on TVO, and made it into the Oscars qualifying list at the 2016 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana. It was directed by Jessie Posthumus, who also wrote Erika.

“For the most part, that’s where we’re going to be screening our films, at festivals. I’m not going to be screening my film at Cineplex, you just can’t expect that,” she says. “The main place for indie or student filmmakers is festivals.”

When Jovin watched Titanic, she knew she wanted to work as a director.

“It was the first time that I saw a film and I was like, ‘Wow, film can do that. It can tell a story like that,'” she says.

Her favourite directors are Terrence Malick, Sofia Coppola and Toronto documentary filmmaker Sarah Polley.

Jovin is trilingual, she can speak English, Serbo-Croatian and French. Her language skills helped score her her first internship at production company 52 Media in the summer of 2013. She worked on the documentary, Sector Sarajevo, doing pre-interviews, translating and transcribing interviews.

While at Ryerson, learning to take criticism, being open to people’s ideas and not having an ego have been Jovin’s most important lessons.

“I find there are so many egos in the creative industries. If you just shed your ego, it’s so much easier to do your work and not be offended by every little thing,” she says. “Because if you don’t, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.”

Erika will premiere at the 2017 Ryerson University Film Festival (RUFF) on May 5 and 6.


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