Writer and director Goran Stolevski has had a whirlwind two years. He recently returned to Australia after shooting his third film, “Housekeeping for Beginners” in Skopje, North Macedonia to attend the world premier of his second film “Of An Age.” That took him to the Melbourne International Film Festival and before traveling on to Western Australia for CinefestOz where the film won the festival’s only recurring award, and one of the industry’s richest, worth A$100,000 (or $65,000).
The Macedonian-born, Melbourne-raised film maker broke onto the international stage earlier this year with his feature debut “You Won’t Be Alone”, a supernatural folk-horror tale about a girl who becomes a shape-shifter in a 19th century Macedonian village. The film won critical acclaim at Sundance and received a limited theatrical release in the U.S. through Focus Features, which also holds worldwide distribution rights.
For all that, Stolevski is no overnight sensation.
He has spent the past twenty years writing scripts and making 25 short films (“Would You Look At Her” won the jury prize for a short film at Sundance in 2018). “By the time anyone took notice, I had written 13 features before I had even directed my first one,” said Stolevski speaking with Variety at CinefestOz.
“Of An Age” is set in Melbourne in the summer of 1999 and follows the intense gay romance of a Serbian-Australian ballroom dancer, Nikola “Kol” (Elias Anton) and his dance partner’s brother, Adam (Thom Green). A decade later the pair meet for a bittersweet reunion. It was shot in the suburban streets that Stolevski inhabited after migrating at age 12 with his family from Macedonia.
“I was very absent from my life in my high school years which is immediately after I moved to Australia. It wasn’t necessarily because I was an immigrant, I just didn’t feel like other kids,” he said. To escape, Stolevski consumed the videos in his Melbourne school library watching up to 400 films a year.
His third film, “Housekeeping for Beginners” is set in present-day Macedonia. “It’s very different from my first two films,” Stolevski said. “It’s about a queer woman who is forced to raise her partner’s daughter and she doesn’t want to be a mother. I was inspired by a picture from the 1970s of a queer household in Melbourne. It transported me to a time when it was about creating a cocoon in a society that isn’t very welcoming but is still within that you can have joy in everyday life. In present day Australia that context doesn’t work, but in present day Macedonia it still can.”
While his films revolve around compelling, but distinctly different, themes, Stolevski agrees elements of his life and his experience as a migrant filter through indirectly. “Emotionally and geographically they are very much coming from life. But the events didn’t really happen to me. I don’t write autobiographically. I don’t want to see the events of my life on screen,” he said. “I write from an instinctive emotional place. And I trust that my ideology comes through.”
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