October 10, 2007

SIUC film program graduate claims another honor

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Award-winning film director Milcho Manchevski — a 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's film program — is on the path to potentially securing another Oscar nomination.

Macedonian filmmakers recently chose Manchevski's 2007 drama "Shadows" as their entry in the foreign-language category for the 2008 Academy Awards.

This is the second time Manchevski is representing Macedonia in the Oscars — his first film, "Before the Rain," was a 1995 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Announcement of the Academy Award nominations is set for Jan. 22; the 80th Academy Awards presentation is Feb. 24.

"We are very proud of Milcho's continued accomplishments," interim Mass Communication and Media Arts Dean Gary P. Kolb said. "This is another great achievement echoing his success with 'Before the Rain.' Milcho was an extraordinary student. His success, in part, rests on the holistic filmmaking education he received at SIUC and is a testament to the quality of our Cinema and Photography alumni who continue to win national and international recognition."

Manchevski is honored by the selection.

"It is an honor, even though I don't make films for awards, nor for recognition," he said. "I only hope that the film touches at least one individual, that it touches his or her heart. That is the best you can hope from a work of art. Everything else is greed."

"Shadows" premiered at the 32nd Toronto International Film Festival last month. The 120-minute, Macedonian-language film focuses on physician Lazar Perkov.

According to a Bavaria Film International film synopsis, Perkov not only has a beautiful wife, young son, and nice home, he is also trying to live up to everyone's expectations. His life begins to change, however, after his rescue in a near-fatal car crash, and he meets people who speak to him from the afterlife.

The film is "about one individual's struggle," Manchevski said.

"He is alone. I think we can all identify with this," he said. "It is also a film about confronting your fears head-on, and I like that idea. Finally, it deals with the shadows of our ancestors.

"Once you honestly face things it may help you be more alive, even if those things are the voices of the dead," Manchevski said.

"It's a slow-simmering, old fashioned psychological scary film about one man's struggle with madness and his fight to right a wrong done by his family," he said. "I was inspired by one thought — sometimes the dead speak louder than the living, and I wanted to confront fear. Fear can be good."

"I hope they experience a bit of what he is experiencing in his own personal whirlwind — fear, confusion, redemption," Manchevski said. "I also hope they find the experience sexy and funny, as often humor goes hand-in-hand with tragedy."

Deborah Tudor, associate professor and chair of Cinema and Photography, notes Manchevski's career — which includes the 2001 film "Dust" — is marked by critical acclaim.

"His earlier film, 'Before the Rain' won numerous festival awards, including the prestigious Golden Lion for best film at the 1994 Venice Film Festival, and was also an Oscar nominee," she said. "We are enormously proud of his success and proud of the supporting role we played in his career. When a graduate achieves this kind of stature, it reinforces our program's good reputation."

"Before the Rain," captured 30 international film festival awards. It is also listed in The New York Times' book, "Best 1,000 Films Ever Made."

Manchevski came to SIUC after hearing the late Richard Blumenberg — an SIUC film professor — deliver a lecture in Manchevski's hometown of Spokje, during Blumenberg's visit to the former Yugoslavia. Blumenberg helped the then 19-year-old, who was already involved in film win a scholarship, and also after arriving in Carbondale, Manchevski said.

"He was a great influence and dear friend," said Manchevski, adding that he credits SIUC as being "essential in my formation as a filmmaker."

"That is where I got familiar with the film language, the technology and aesthetics of film," he said. "I learned a lot from the teachers and I am occasionally in touch with them. It was also important that the other students were film-crazy."

Manchevski's other awards include for "1.72," which received the Belgrade Alternative 1985 Best Experimental Film Award. He also received Best Video honors in 1992 from MTV and Billboard Magazine for Arrested Development's release, "Tennessee," an effort that Rolling Stone Magazine in 1994 labeled one of the 100 best videos ever.

A New York City resident, Manchevski is an assistant professor and teaches film directing at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Graduate film program. Teaching gives Manchevski "a new energy and fresh outlook on filmmaking," he said.

"Some of our students are extremely gifted. I like that process, so I try to make time. The only way to do it, though, is to take a sabbatical when prepping and shooting," said Manchevski, who then edits his projects while teaching in New York.