‘Traces’ Director Explains How an Ancient Croatian Ritual Inspired a Modern Story | Video

The official Oscar selection from Croatia, “Traces” is an elegant, mood-suffused drama about an anthropologist named Ana (Marija Skaricic) who is grappling with loneliness, loss and an uncertain future.

“The ideas of vanishing and pain and changes in our lives, these are things I think about,” said the film’s director, writer and editor Dubravka Turić during a virtual conversation for TheWrap’s 2023-24 International Film Screening Series. After directing several award-winning short films, Turić is now in the awards conversation with her feature debut.

While foremost a film about this one woman’s journey, “Traces” also offers fascinating glimpses into the an ancient burial ritual that the character is researching. Namely “Mirila,” the word for measuring, a practice in which exposed stones in a burial area would mark the length of a deceased person’s body, and therefore leave a sign — a trace — of the life that had been lived.

“It comes from a part of Croatia, in the mountains,” Turić said. “It is something that even more Croats are not familiar with. When someone would die, they’d carry him all the way down the mountain. Sometimes the trip was eight or ten hours, by foot, so they would put the body on the ground so that the carriers could rest. And the place where they put it was taken as the place where the soul goes out of the body. That was the sacred place.”

Regarding her own creative inspiration, Turić added,”I’ve been a hiker for a lot of years and while I was in the those  mountains, I would see these [burial stones] and you can feel something very ancient and impressive in them. I carried that feeling with me for a long time and I wanted to put it in this story.”

The director also emphasized that while the film is about a woman’s experience, the story was developed with deep universal themes: “It’s a film about a human being,” she said.

And regarding “Traces” selection by Croatia as the Oscar submission, Turić still almost can’t believe it.

“This is the best thing that can happen to a director, right? Not just me but the whole crew and the actors who were beside this film,” she said. “We are very happy and proud to be representing our country. The Academy Awards were something that we all watched since I was four or five years old. It’s somehow unbelievable that’s it’s happening.”

Check out full interview with Turić for more about the making of “Traces” — and also her sweet memory of feeling star-struck while attending a dinner for filmmakers in Sundance.

“I met Robert Redford and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is happening?’ I was talking to him in person for a long time and he’s a really great guy. I was very impressed by him. He’s done great stuff for indie films.”

Watch with full interview with “Traces” director Dubravka Turić here.

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