By Heidi Simmons
“This movie came from an idea I had when I was a student in film school,” said Sinisa Dragin, writer, director and editor of the short film “Sorry.” “I was working on a project that was postponed and thought, almost like a joke, I should go ahead and make the movie.”
Dragin is Serbian and lives in Romania. He has a duel citizenship. Dragin and his wife, Codruta Popescu, an eye doctor, traveled 13 hours to be in Palm Springs.
Sitting in the PSISFF Filmmakers Lounge at the Renaissance Hotel, Dragin was editing his movie on his Mac laptop, making last minute adjustments to the 12-minute film.
“It’s a long and painful process cutting favorite shots so only the essential story elements remain,” said Dragin. “The short film is a different way of thinking. To get it right is not so smooth and easy.”
This is Dragin’s second time to participate in a Palm Springs film festival. His feature film “Everyday God Kisses Us on the Mouth” was shown during the January 2002 PSIFF. The film went on to win many festival awards including the “Tiger Award” at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.
Dragin has made four feature narrative films and one feature documentary. “Sorry” is his first short film.
“In Romania, filmmaking is a hobby,” Dragin said. “There is no funding for films.” So, Dragin keeps his day job. He works for television, filming and editing news and feature stories. He has his own cameras, editing and film equipment.
Dragin has been to hundreds of festivals around the world with his films, but Palm Springs is special to him.
“I love to come to Palm Springs,” said Dragin. “This is a favorite place for me because there is a Serbian community here and we enjoy getting together.” When Dragin came to the 2002 festival, local Serbians made an effort to see his movie and reached out to meet him.
“The origin of my name is very obviously Serbian,” said Dragin. “They [CV Serbians] read through the festival program and saw my name and my film and came to the screening.” Dragin has maintained his friendships with the locals and the community once again came out to support their friend and to see the World Premiere screening of “Sorry” during the “Awkward…!” program at the Camelot Theater.
“Sorry” was filmed in two days and Dragin paid for it himself. He hired two young actors who traveled hours to Romania to film in the city of Bucharest. Over the weekend, they shot the whole movie that included underwater, city and train scenes.
Dragin appreciated the challenge of making a short film. “Writing is okay, directing is a lot of work, but I find editing is most relaxing, at least for me,” Dragin said. Dragin shot the film with a Panasonic GH4 camera and Cooke Speed Panchro lenses. “My favorite lens set ever.”
When Dragin had assembled his first version of “Sorry,” he looked online for the best short film festivals and saw that Palm Springs was in the top 10. He sent it to a friend with festival connections who told him to submit “Sorry” to PSISFF right away.
Beautifully photographed, emotionally touching and told with nearly no dialogue, Dragin describes his film “Sorry” as a love story that happens between train stations. Refusing to say anything about the story, Dragin said: “I want the audience to discover what the movie is about.”
Without spoiling anything, “Sorry” tells the story of a teenage boy who is lost in his own universe but briefly connects to the world when he meets a beautiful teenage girl on a short train ride.
The big reveal at the end was such a surprise, the audience made an audible gasp and sigh at the screening.
Part of what makes the PSISFF such a pleasure, joy and unique experience is to encounter these memorable and poignant films and the fascinating people who make them. Hopefully “Sorry” and other great short films from the festival will find a way to reach a wider audience.
ShortFest programed over 300 films with thousands more in the film market, and most will never go beyond the festival setting. How fortunate the CV is to have the PSISFF.