‘My Best Friend’s Baby’ Tells a ‘Love Story About Friendship’

Sophie Vukovic’s narrative feature film project My Best Friend’s Baby, her take on non-traditional love and family, won the top Works in Development award in the Eastern Promises industry section of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this week. Budgeted at €1.65 million, the project is being produced by Eliza Jones and Markus Walta’s grand slam film, whose porn industry drama Pleasure – co-produced with Erik Hemmendorff at Platform Productions – was selected by Sundance and distributed in the US by neon.

Vukovic’s story revolves around Damir, a gay man in Sweden, and his roommate Sara, a lesbian friend from Croatia who is determined to become a single mother. Things quickly get complicated when they embark on a journey to a more traditional Balkan setting for Damir’s cousin’s wedding.

Vukovic says the story isn’t autobiographical but definitely builds on personal experience.

“The idea for the film came from a desire to create images of queer family and intimacy that we haven’t seen before, images that we haven’t inherited from mainstream culture,” she says.

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“My Best Friend’s Baby” director Sophie Vukovic with producer Eliza Jones in Karlovy Vary.
Courtesy of KVIFF

“I knew early on that I wanted to make this film a love story about friendship,” adds Vukovic. “I want to explore this type of love in depth and in as much complexity as other forms of love.”

Damir and Sara “are not just starting a family outside of heterosexual norms. They’re not a romantic couple, so they’re doubly misfits in the traditional way of raising a family.”

Her characters enter “uncharted territory for her and for us as viewers,” says Vukovic.

As a writer, she says, the idea seemed intriguing. “It felt fresh to me. Today we question traditional notions of gender and family, but have no real roadmap as to what new constellations could look like. The film follows the bumpy, winding path of two best friends as they try to figure out how to be parents together while trying not to completely ruin their relationship.”

Born in Croatia and raised in Sweden, Vukovic feels he has a special take on traditions and relationships. “That in-between perspective comes up a lot in my films, and here it’s the collision between the world of Damir and Sara and the more traditional world of Damir’s family.”

Vukovic calls the project “very much a Swedish film in its core story and tone,” says Vukovic and her team plan to cast its main characters in Sweden. “But we want to have both Swedish and Croatian creative crews and talent around us. Filming will be split between Stockholm and a Croatian island, which will of course be challenging – but crucial to the story as it is the journey of the two main characters.”

The film begins in Sweden and then travels to Croatia “at a point where Damir and Sara’s friendship begins to change with their pregnancy”.

She sees the island setting as transformative, says Vukovic, “and the atmosphere of the Adriatic island village almost enchanting. You won’t be going back to Sweden right away. This place has its specific rhythms and melodies. I want to use them to build visuals that convey the characters’ emotional journey in a visceral way.”

Her sonic goal is naturalistic, she says, “with humor in the situations that arise in the daily rhythm of the large family that Damir and Sara become part of during their stay on the island.”

The geographic shift will sometimes turn characters’ plans upside down, Vukovic says. “I like to have a playful tone in storytelling. It’s a film where our notions of family and gender roles can be turned on their head with a light-hearted approach.”

With casting also scheduled for Croatia and the surrounding region, Vukovic plans to “use a mix of professional and non-professional actors. My background is in documentary film and I have worked with non-actors many times. Casting the right people is an important part of creating the right atmosphere in a place and time.”

Vukovic says her goal in producing My Best Friend’s Baby is “not to portray what it’s like to live in parts of Croatia where traditional views are dominant or gaining ground. This is for the very talented generation of Croatian filmmakers to do. My film is about the specific clash of migration experiences and life in the diaspora: the sometimes blatantly contradictory perspectives of generations in the same family.”

The theme offers more than enough richness, she adds. “Even though I believe in the freedom to live how you want, it’s complicated. At least in my family in Croatia, the focus is not on the individual. It’s the collective. Decisions are made together and your actions affect the whole family, not just you.”

What fascinates her, says Vukovic, is “the contrast between these different ways of organizing our social coexistence. I think throwing them in a boxing ring together will do the trick. In the end, Damir and Sara find themselves caught between conflicting perspectives on the definition of family, but they grow from it.”

https://variety.com/2022/film/global/karlovy-vary-my-best-friends-baby-1235312166/ ‘My Best Friend’s Baby’ Tells a ‘Love Story About Friendship’

Charles Jones

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