Staša Bajac is a writer & director, a story editor and script consultant. She holds BA and MA in Dramaturgy at Faculty of Drama Arts in Belgrade, as well as MA in Narative Film and Audio-Visual Technologies at UdK in Berlin.
Four of her original plays have been published in Serbian: Reconstruction premiered in Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad in December 2016, having won the Assitej’s competition for best play that deals with a taboo topic, aimed at young audiences; Waterfalls was chosen among top five of the Heartefact Regional Competition for the Best Contemporary Socially Engaged Full Feature Drama Text; while This One Is Going To Be Different won the aforementioned competition and is in the repertoire of Atelje 212. The sequel, This One is Going To Be The Same is set to premiere in June 2021.
Humidity, the first feature she wrote with the director Nikola Ljuca was screened at Berlinale Forum, ACID Cannes, Sarajevo FF etc. and brought her two awards for best screenplay. Her second feature Asymmetry, developed with EAVE and directed by Maša Nešković, premiered at Mostra Sao Paolo, followed by screenings at Trieste, FAF, Sydnay where it was awarded as Best Film. Short films Thursday by Nikola Ljuca, and Space Between Us and Twosome by Maša Nešković that she wrote were screened at international festivals, winning numerous awards. She is one of the writers of TV series Grupa that premiered at Sarajevo Film Festival, Državni službenik, as well as a staff writer on Žigosani u reketu TV show.
She is currently finishing her first documentary With a Heavy Heart, supported by Film Centre Serbia; developing her feature project The Stranger which received initial funding in Serbia, and in preproduction of short film Morocco, also supported by Film Center Serbia.
She is a Berlinale and Sarajevo Talents alumni; Torino Film Lab story editing trainee and a consultant for CineLink’s Dealing With the Past platform. She acted as a Jury Member for FIlm Center Serbia’s script development fund, as well as Author’s Film festival Brave Balkan competition program.
The play Okapi explores the relationship between an individual and ruling structures, in the age of mass surveillance and online social networks. It is based on the premise that we live in a form of participatory totalitarianism, where unlike in most of authoritarian societies, the information we provide about ourselves is done so consensually. The text strives to deconstruct these mechanisms and finds the origins of human exhibitionism of identity («I am not unless I am observed»).
The play is divided into three parts: The first part shows Goran, a man in his thirties and mystery woman Katarina. Images of Goran’s life are shaped through his monologues about certain events and Katarina’s observations about him and declarations of her love. The reader is tricked into believing they are in an intimate relationship, but soon it becomes clear that Katarina stands for something much bigger.
As the first part explored the idea of privacy becoming public, the second goes on to show how public spaces become private. Goran is a journalist, interviewing the state prime minister Viktor Ban. To every one of his questions about the forthcoming law that would allow full state surveillance without a warrant, Viktor responds with answers about his scandalous love affair. It aims to depict how interest in the intimate details of politicians, the rise of TV shows with “true story” in their title and voyeurism directed at public personas depoliticize the public space, creating emotional pornography that dumbs down citizens who become uninformed and easily manipulated.
The third part is set in a kids park, where two little girls discuss all these matters in great detail, with references to classic and contemporary philosophers and scientists. I myself feel like theatre is one of the last sanctuaries of subversive thought, but on a larger scale it frightens me that we have to, in a sense, playpretend in order to debate such important issues. I feel like to say or do something provocative, you have to brand yourself benign to (possibly) be given a platform, one that has clear boundaries.
The epilogue of the play is a love letter from Katarina. It reveals that our initial impression about Goran and the entity of Karatina being in an intimate relationship is, ironically, correct. It binds together the three parts, just as the subject and the state are bind together.
The title Okapi, as shown at two different points in the play, represents everything those in power, whom ever they might be, don’t know, the power of our secrets and our determination to keep them veiled.
This One Will Be Different
The multifaceted, complex nature of gender roles in Serbian society is the subject of which was the winner of the fifth annual Heartefact prize, a regional open call for dramatists from the former Yugoslavia, who are invited to submit an original script on a sociopolitical theme. The play is centered around three girls who are trying to find the ideal man, this one that’s going to be different to all the others, and how they should go about finding him and what they need to do to themselves — physically and mentally — to be desirable to him.
The play, which is entirely character driven, unfolds as a candid dialogue between its three female leads: Ivana, Mirela, and Jovana. The audience becomes a fly quietly stuck to a beauty salon wall, eavesdropping on an intimate yet brutal conversation between the trio, in which the more clued-up (and more jaded) Mirela and Jovana trample all over naive Ivana’s almost child-like understanding of love and romance, disabusing her of her innocence and reinforcing the patriarchal standards that they themselves have internalised. They lay down the law like a pair of drill sergeants, dictating to Ivana how she has to look, act, and think if she’s going to tie down an unnamed and unseen man that she’s smitten with. Through their words, we’re offered an insight into the pressures placed on women in male-centric Balkan societies.