Dina Duma’s upcoming feature “Skateboarding Is Not for Girls” turned heads at Sarajevo Film Festival’s industry section CineLink this year. The story about a Romani Muslim girl from Skopje, Adela, trying to save her sister from being sold to the bridal market and dreaming of joining a group of female skaters, received the Film Center Serbia and the Female Voices awards. The latter, sponsored by Slovenian Film Center, aims to support and promote female voices from the Southeast European film industry.
“For us, filmmakers from the region, CineLink has become indispensable for development of our new projects,” observes producer Labina Mitevska of Sisters and Brother Mitevski, also behind “God Exists, Her Name Is Petrynia.”
“As we were developing our company, we were guided by the belief that it’s our duty to speak openly about the world today. To comment, fight and try to change it. I recognized those qualities in Dina’s story. It’s about some of the countless contradictions in the world we live in.”
The film, which will be shot in April 2024, will mark Duma’s second directorial outing after Karlovy Vary premiere “Sisterhood.”
“I had an amazing experience, working with non-actors [on that film] and I feel confident it’s what I need for this one as well,” says the Macedonian director, who will look for her characters in the Roma and skater communities.
Her technique involves a “certain amount of improvisation,” she notes, allowing for the script to be adapted to the sensibility of her performers.
“I always want to know about their personal stories and experiences and incorporate them into the film. This is how I create a cinematic world that’s credible and characters that are made out of flesh and blood.”
Duma got to witness the ongoing practice of “bride sale” and never forgot it. She was stunned to discover the tradition has spread all over the Balkans, with the biggest market operating out of Nova Zagora in Bulgaria.
“Unfortunately, I write from a personal experience. I have known about this tradition since I was the same age as my main protagonist,” she says.
“I had a friend from school, from the Roma community, we were 12 and she was sold at this market to a much older fiancé. Soon, she stopped coming to school and I never saw her again. I was very young and there was nothing I could do, but her story stayed with me.”
As her protagonist fights for her sister’s future, Duma will show their powerful bond. She feels a responsibility to tell stories that speak to the young generation of women, she says, ones that can start a discussion: for them and with them.
“There are not enough films coming from Europe that speak about the new generation, or show female characters that deal with relevant topics of today. I feel that we are forgetting these young women and by doing it we are forgetting about our future.”
Admitting the scenes of skateboarding will be crucial, Duma is glad to add another title to the growing selection of films finally acknowledging female skaters.
“I am a big fan of ‘Skate Kitchen,’ ” she says.
“These are the only moments where the characters experience freedom in the most profound way. As we are planning to start casting early, we hope to find girls who can skate or we will teach them. The skate park is the most important location. It’s where Adela regains her inner feminine power, it’s where she feels the strongest.”
But she is determined to explore both sides in the film, in a “gentle and respectful way” to both communities.
“There are more and more girls skating in Skopje’s skateparks. When I was young, this was considered a ‘male sport’ and I always wished I was a part of a skate girl gang. However, what I have here is a Roma girl from the Muslim community where skateboarding is not allowed. It’s something only boys can do and that’s where the title comes from.”
“At its core, it’s a dark story. But I don’t want to make a dark film,” she says.
“On one hand, we have girls being told they’ll have to marry at a young age and become mothers, there are rules on how they should act, dress and interact with boys. On the other, we have the young ‘internet generation,’ but they also have rules on how they should act, dress and interact with boys. So who is really free?”