Short Film Palme d’Or Winner Nebojsa Slijepcevic and The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent

‘The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent’ was the winner of the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Nebojsa Slijepcevic, the short film ‘The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent’ is starring Goran Bogdan and Alexis Manenti, takes place in a single setting, a train, and tells the story of a true event in Bosnia and Herzegovina 30 years ago, when one man refused to keep quiet.

I spoke with Nebojsa Slijepcevic at the Cannes Film Festival about the film. After watching the film, I felt it was complete, and that it is a great example of what a short film should be. Slijepcevic’s film ‘The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent’ went on to win the Short Film Palme d’Or two days later.

Eric Ethan: Can you give us a brief description of what the film is about?

It’s a short 13 minute long film based on a real event that happened in Bosnia during 1993. This whole film takes place in a train which is stopped by paramilitary forces, Serbian paramilitary troops who start taking away passengers who have Muslim surnames. It was part of ethnic cleansing operation. And all the other passengers are really scared and silent except one, Tomo Buzov, who stands up and I don’t want to spoil what happens next.

What is your connection to the true story?

Well, there is couple of connections. First, obviously. I’m from the region, I’m from Croatia so it’s the neighboring country but it was also in the war at the same time when Yugoslavia was dissolving and Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, all these countries were in the same one country Yugoslavia where I was born in. So somehow I feel connected to everything that was happening in this region during the era but also I see some something really out of time this story. I can imagine this story happening today in a way, maybe not so extreme but also I see an allegory for all the violence against minorities that’s happening today in the world and tensions that’s happening in my region as well.

I see how this film could be a scene in a larger film, yet feels complete on it’s own. Do you feel like that was intentional? Did you try to go from a feature film to taking a scene and creating something smaller?

Yes.. Well, I can imagine it being part of a feature film. But I don’t think it would be stronger. I think really this, in the end of the film, there is some questions hanging on in the air. But I think that’s the point of the film, that the viewer comes out of the film with questioning what has happened. Who should have done something differently? And hopefully I hope that viewers will also ask themselves what would they do in the similar situation. And I think for that 13 minutes was the right length.

And what were some of the challenges in the making of this film?

There were many challenges. First, the whole film takes place in a train, which is an impossible location to shoot in, because the trains are very narrow spaces. And I also wanted to do things that make it even more difficult. First, I wanted this train in a film to be full of people, so to have like six people in a small compartment and many extras on the corridors.

And also I wanted to have a moving camera that will have long, slow moves, that will show sometimes the camera turns around itself for 360 almost degrees. And it was all extremely hard in such confined space. So we had to make sort of choreography between the actors, between the camera, the extras, the camera operator, the director, me, I was hiding in strange places. So it was quite challenging, but I think we did a great job.

Where were you hiding?

Well, whenever I could. Sometimes I was lying on the floor or in the next compartment and then ducking when the camera is passing through. Sometimes I was also banging on, I was playing a part, I was not seen in the film, but I would bang on the walls or make some noises for the actors that you can hear in the film.

The acting was very well played out. Can you talk more about how you work with the actors on this?

Well, first I had great actors. Some of them are very experienced like Gordon Bogdan or Alexis Mananti or Dragan Mićanović. These are guys who had many films behind them, so I learned from them during the process. And I started with… with talking, only with talking, not with rehearsing. And I was also, when I was preparing the film, I made huge research about this crime.

And I had a big dossier of more than 1 ,000 pages of different articles from newspapers or from trials, court trials. I had the positions of witnesses. So for each actor, I made a small dossier, like with some text, with some witness depositions from the real people who were in the train. And we started from that, from just talking about what’s meant to be in the train. And the blocking and the acting rehearsals were actually very short in the end, only on the set. But everybody were already emotionally prepared for the role, and it just worked all together.

Is there something that you would like people to possibly take away from the film?

Well, for me, if the film is good, then it becomes an experience that we feel like we lived it in our real lives. So I would really hope that viewers who, the audience who see the film will feel like they have a new experience, that they lived through something. And I also hope for this film to make people ask themselves some questions, because I don’t know the answers. I can only ask the questions, so that’s what I try to do with the film.

Can you talk a bit about your experience at the Cannes Film Festival? How they’ve helped your career, what they’ve done for you as a filmmaker?

Yeah, I don’t want to disappoint you here but actually I’m completely newbie in Cannes. This is my first time with a film in Cannes. Only once before, couple of years ago, here on Marché du Filme, very briefly for a day. So for me, this is like a new territory being in Cannes, which is in a way familiar because it’s a film festival. I’ve been to many film festivals, but this one is like THE film festival. It is the one on steroids, you know. So it’s fantastic to be here. One thing is something that I find great and this is something quite different to what I’m used to, especially on documentary film festivals, where I spent a lot of time, is this enthusiasm of the audience, you know. This is really fantastic when you see the audience react loudly to the films. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s completely mistimed, but I like this way when people really live through the films, you know. And are not afraid to show it loudly. For me, this is the real cinema.

And finally, do you have any encouragement for young filmmakers, for Croatian filmmakers? How to make films, how to keep going with films?

Yeah, I think this is maybe the best time in history to make films because it’s so many opportunities and everything is accessible, you know. You can make research very easily, film research, you know. You can have marvelous technological achievements, you know, for making films. So I think the only thing you have to do is to be really persistent, you know, and to work hard and to repeat something I repeat to myself, you know. This is hard work, you know, and you should approach it as that, you know. This is like work that you have to do every day and then the results come.

Short Film Palme d’Or Movie Wine Pairing

We’ve paired the winner of the Short Film Palme d’Or, ‘The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent’ with a bottle of Célia et David Large Jack Rabbit Slim’s, 2022 Beaujolais.

I selected this movie wine pairing for having tasting notes that are Dry and Steely, Textured with Lemon, Lime, Quince.

Célia et David Large Jack Rabbit Slim’s 2022 Beaujolais


Jack Rabbit Slim’s 2022 Beaujolais Blanc Protégée from Célia et David Large.

Out of stock

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