Jas sum od Titov Veles (I am from Titov Veles) (2007)
Director: Teona Strugar Mitevska.
Starring: Labina Mitevska (Afrodita), Ana Kostovska (Slavica), Nikolina Kujaca (Sapho), Dzevdet Jasari (Aco), Peter Musevski (Viktor), Jovica Mihajlovski (Doctor), Mitko Apostolovski (Barber), Trajce Davcev (Young Barber Boy), Dragisa Dimitrievski (Protestor), Alexandar Georgiev (Factory Guard), Keti Doncevska-Ilic (Marija), Ruiz Mustafa (Nurse), Jordanka Todorova (Good Looking Nurse), Kiril Korunovski (Father).
portrait of an economically declining post-communist Macedonia in which three sisters try to escape from their dying community
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Afrodita as narrator says that she is one of three sisters. The other two are Sapho and Slavica. Sapho is the middle child and plays pro basketball. She has one utmost goal: "To leave this cursed place, and get away for good." Afrodita at age 27 is the youngest sister and still a virgin. Slavica is 35 years old and not married. The eldest sister has been on methadone therapy for nine years now.
They all live in Titov Veles, Macedonia. (Macedonia, ruled for 600 years by the Ottoman Empire is surrounded on the northwest by Kosovo, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south and Albania on the west. The town is now called Veles and is in the center of Macedonia, aka, FYROM, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on the Vardar River.)
Afrodita says that the town was named for Tito, but that changed when Macedonia declared its freedom from Yugoslavia in 1991. Her town has a lead factory that is "poisoning us all". The community is slowly dying.
Afrodita walks over to a demonstration against the factory and its poisons. Lead dust is 200 percent over the limit. In his stomach, a child developed a football-sized tumor.
Afrodita sits down on top of a wall. A woman demonstrator comes over to her and pulls the small lass off the the wall. She tells Afrodita that it is not by accident that she can't speak. Afrodita spits in her face and the woman calls her a "stupid junkie".
Slavica comes over to the fence and tells Afrodita to come with her. Sapho calls Slavica over to her. Afrodita says that her father died when their mother left them. Her parents were from Lerin in today's Greece. Following WWII, 75,000 people were sent to camps in Eastern Europe. As young children, her father was sent to Romania and her mother to Czechoslovakia.
Together, the three sisters nap on a bed. Sapho gets up and goes out with her high heels on. When the alarm rings, Afrodita grabs her purse and runs out of the house. She then runs to a barber shop. She sits down in the back of the shop, but then when no one is looking, she slips out a back window. She goes to another place where she slips in through the windows. She hands a document to the man working there. The fellow flirts with Afrodita and says: "I don't know who's prettier, you or your sister." He stamps and signs the document and then gives Afrodita 8 small bottles of methadone for her sister. She then returns to the barber shop via the back windows.
Afrodita wonders just when did her mother stop loving her father. A fellow getting a shave wonders out loud how much money Tito and Yugoslavia got from Macedonia when they were in charge? The men in the shop all start laughing.
Afrodita delivers the methadone to her sister. Then she goes to the dining room. She removes her shoes and skirt and then lays on the table. Then she takes off her blouse. She smiles and says: "I am pregnant."
A line of very white men dressed only in their white boxers walk along walk through the water and the fog to a building. A woman in some kind of metal contraption watches them. From her mouth comes out a baby. The line of men all painted white now go back into the water, but each one carries a baby.
Slavica tells the naked Afrodita to get off the table. (Some nudity.) Youngest sister, however, won't budge. So the eldest sister tries to cover her private parts with a dish towel. Afrodita moves it down exposing her breasts. Slavica prepares herself something to eat and now tells Afrodita to move because her work shift will be starting soon. Afrodita grabs her hands and puts them on her belly to feel the baby. Slavic laughs and asks her: "What are you, the Virgin Mary?" She sits at the table and starts eating. She tells Afrodita that she should be eating for two now.
In his car, a drunken man, perhaps the basketball coach, drops Sapho off. She goes to leave and he pulls her over to him to take a goodbye kiss. Sapho now gets out of the car and goes into her dining room. She moves Afrodita's legs out of her way and sits down at the table. Afrodita is now sitting on the table. Slavica tells middle sister that she should give up on trying to get a visa. It will never happen. Sapho is not giving up yet. She tells her sisters that the man who dropped her off at the house thinks that Slavica is beautiful and wants her for his wife. He is coming over on Saturday for lunch. The guy lives in a big mansion outside of Skopje. Moreover, he is the new owner of the factory. Slavica tells Afrodita to go with Sapho to the hospital and take a pregnancy test.
Slavica goes back to work at the steel mill. Afrodita walks over a field and up onto a slag heap. She sits on top of the heap and looks at the town. She remembers back to the time when they were on a train headed out to the sea on her first vacation. A beautiful woman sat next to her and asked her what she most wanted? Afrodita told her: "To be a Pioneer and for Tito to visit my town." She got her wish, because the following year Tito came to Veles.
Afrodita goes into the factory dining room. She sits down across from Slavica. Slavica tells Afrodita that she would even marry without love. Afrodita is thinking about pregnancy and her sister gets irritated at her because Afrodita is not really listening to her. Afrodita leaves the table.
The next morning Slavica slaps Afrodita around shouting: "Where is my medication?" Sapho tries to stop Slavica, but Slavica is a big woman and she just pushes Sapho to the floor.
Afrodita goes to the methadone window. The clerk says that it's not her day until Monday. Afrodita hands him a note.
The next scene is where Afrodita is waiting for the methadone clerk. It looks and sounds like they are going to have sex. He says they have to hurry because he doesn't have much time. He tells her to go into the bathroom and prepare herself. When she comes back she is nude. She lies in bed on her back. He flips her over and tells her she is too tense and the more tense she is, the more it will hurt. After sex, the clerk just falls asleep laying down on her back. She watches a lady bug walking around.
Sapho is in the women's locker room. After everyone leaves, she dresses in a janitor outfit and starts mopping the floors.
Afrodita gives Slavica an injection of the methadone. Then she goes into the bathroom. Slavica is telling her that she needs more than what she gave her, but Afrodita ignores her. She picks up four bathroom tiles where a small hole has been carved in the concrete. Inside the hole are odds and ends made of glass, but also there is some methadone there too. Afrodita adds a glass diamond decoration to her collection and then puts everything back like it was. She cries. Afrodita says in her head that with her sister's addiction, it's no wonder that she, the youngest sister, developed a resentment toward other human beings.
Sitting on the end of the bathtub with her feet in the water, Afrodita starts cleaning herself "down there".
Sapho comes in and pushes the sleeping Slavica off the bed. Then she pats her face to wake her up, saying: "You have to get up. Viktor is coming, get up." Slavica goes back to sleep, so Sapho pulls her by her legs up to the bathroom. She knocks on the door to tell Afrodita to let her in.
Slavica is now dressed to go out. Sapho tells her she looks beautiful, which her sister appreciates. Sapho then tells Afrodita: "I told you a hundred times not to wear my clothes." The women are ready for the arrival of Viktor.
With him Viktor brings a brand new stove and a new washing machine. When they all sit at the table, Afrodita seems in a very defiant mood. She sits and just stares at Viktor. He asks the two other sisters why does she just stare at him? Sapho reaches over and pinches Afrodita, but this just makes Afrodita more defiant. She moves her chair and herself very close to Viktor and stares some more. Viktor asks her why does she stare? No answer. He says he hopes that Afrodita's not speaking is not a family genetic inheritance. The two other sisters tell Viktor it's not hereditary. One day Afrodita just decided to stop speaking. Viktor starts eating his chicken with two hands. Adrodita is a bit disgusted by this.
Viktor takes Slavica with him to his factory. He says he likes strong and healthy women. And he liked her from the first time he ever saw her. Viktor also tells her that he has two daughters, whose mother died recently. He cups his hands on both bra cups. He says he needs a healthy woman to give him a boy.
Viktor says Slavica feels tense. He has her sit in a chair in the dining facility and starts to massage her shoulders. She asks him for a cigarette and he says she always asks for a cigarette when she doesn't know what to say.
Sapho and Afrodita walk over to the big slag heap and lay on the top of it. They sleep until the next morning shines brightly. Sapho awakens Afrodita to tell her that she hopes that Viktor marries their sister. She also says she will be leaving town soon.
One day the clerk comes over to see Afrodita. He grabs her and starts kissing her. Sapho comes in and slams the door shut, so the couple has to break their embrace. Sapho says to the fellow: "Hello, Acco!" He starts flirting with Sapho and this makes Afrodita angry at him. She pulls away from him. He catches her attention real fast when he says that he is leaving the area soon.
Sapho changes her clothes and comes back to tell Acco that they have to get going because she has to go to her training. They leave. Afrodita climbs on the bed with her sleeping, clothed sister Slavica. She puts her head against Slavica's head and rubs it against Slavika's head. Afrodita recalls the conversation with her oldest sister when she told Afrodita that of course she had sex with Viktor. She is going to be his wife. She also told Afrodita that Sapho will be going away, but she will take Afrodita with her.
Afrodita walks through the hospital. She is going to have a gynecological checkup. Afrodita is distracted by a woman who is moaning in pain. The nurse and doctor just ignore the other patient. The doctor tells Afrodita that she is not pregnant. Waiting for the doctor and nurse to return, Afrodita thinks about how she stopped speaking the day her father died.
Afrodita walks home and finds her two sisters insulting each other -- blaming each other for the family's unhappiness. She turns the water in the faucet on and off timed to the arguing of the two sisters, so the sound of the water will prevent hearing what the two sisters are saying to each other. She stomps her feet hard on the floor.
Sapho and Slavica come into the dinging room to have some coffee with Afrodita. Sapho slaps her visa on top of the table to show it to Afrodita. Slavica tells Afrodita that it's time for her to leave. She leaves. And now Sapho tells Afrodita she is leaving. She says that she will be coming back.
The house is a real mess. There is a knock at the door. Afrodita hears the knock, but she stays hidden. She slowly gets up. She slowly draws back a curtain to see who it is. A man says that there is a letter for her. The postman could not find her. Acco comes in and can't believe the mess he sees. He also says it stinks in here. He opens the curtains to let light into the rooms. Afrodita reads the letter and thinks to herself that Sapho is not coming back.
Afrodita stands by one of the windows. Acco tries to give her two wildflowers in bloom, but she won't take them. He tells her that Sapho abandoned both of them. He takes her arms and puts them around him saying that he was busy and could not come to visit her. They hug a little, but then Afrodita starts pummeling Acco's back. He says he was very busy. Afrodita relents and puts her arms around him again. She kisses him.
Acco decides he wants her to give him a blow job. He pulls down his pants. Afrodita does not seem happy about this. He slowly forces her to open her mouth.
After that's over, Acco tells her she should clean up the house. He then says: "I'm off."
Afrodita visits her father's grave and tells him that she is all alone. She says she has a boyfriend and his name is Acco.
She steals apples from the market place and brings them home with her. A young boy comes in and says he is here to take the new and unopened stove and washing machine. Afrodita lets him take them. The boy tells her that Acco is going to come and see her She washes the windows and sweeps the floors. She sets out a small dinner for the two of them, but Acco doesn't show up. It looks like Afrodita might be pregnant.
Back to the men painted white with only their white boxers on. The woman producing the babies sneaks away from her building. She walks though the marsh to a white boat. She puts the baby in the boat and then gets in herself. She pulls herself and the boat through the channels in the marsh.
Afrodita goes over to see Acco. She knocks on the door but there is no answer. She keeps knocking until Acco shows up at the door. He tells her that this is not a good time. He has not had the time to sell the stove and the washing machine. It's obvious that he doesn't want to let her in. She forces her way past him. Then we see Afrodita leaving the house during a rain storm.
On her way home she stops to pick up a protest sign. She goes back to Acco's house where he is having sex with a girl. Acco says he doesn't owe her anything. And then he asks if she would like to join the two of them in bed? Instead, Afrodita scares the other woman out of the room. She starts beating Acco with her placard and then with her fists.
At the barber shop Afrodita hears that the town factory is being dismantled and will be sold for scrap metal. In her wet dress and wet hair she sits down the by men waiting in the chairs for their haircuts. The men just stare at her.
Back home she has received another letter. She says to her father's grave that she got a visa and is going to Greece to go to Sapho. She pulls an armoire that belonged to her mother out of the house. She gets out a dolly in order to transport the armoire. She pulls the armoire leaning against the back of the dolly and pulls it behind her heading up some steep streets in town. She pulls the armoire up a big hill in the mountains. She takes a suitcase out from inside the armoire. She then pushes the armoire down the hill where it smashes into pieces. She now lays on her back on top of the hill.
Acco now speaks with Afrodita, who actually talks too. She asks him if he is in love with her sister Sapho? He says no. He is in love with Afrodita. Suddenly, Afrodita wakes up, still on the hill where she laid down earlier. She runs down the hill. A fire is burning inside her house. Slavica is back home and trying to shoot up with the methadone. She asks Afrodita for help. Afrodita tries to pull her out of the house, but sister tells her to leave her alone. She lays down beside her sister.
It looks as though the two sisters, Afrodita and Slavika, died in the fire, but there might be an alternative explanation. So one may guess what happened to the sisters in the house. Maybe they got away or were rescued.
Rough times in Veles, Macedonia. A family of threes sisters, a mother and a father starts a long down-hill slide. The mother leaves the family one day. The father takes his own life in a year and a half. This leaves the three sisters alone. The eldest sister becomes a drug addict who now is addicted to methadone. The middle sister is not much support because all she thinks of is getting out of Macedonia like her mother did. The main character in the film is the youngest daughter, Afrodita. When her father died, she stopped speaking completely. The entire family is a real mess. If their family situation was not bad in-and-of-itself, the whole town is in decline. The biggest employer is the local lead factory that gives the town lead dust that is 200 percent over the limit and poisoning the town. Afrodita is very aware of her dying town and wonders when she will die too. Naturally, she is depressed about her entire situation. And then, things really start getting tough for her with the decision of her two elder sisters to leave Veles. Then a man she loves takes advantage of her. The film paints a very dark picture of the situation in Macedonia and within the family with three sisters.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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