Author: Milan Tica
Today, I had coffee with Jovan Vasiljević, the man behind the Instagram page @cinematologist_ , which is known as one of the most visited pages when it comes to the seventh art. We talked about his page, favorite movies, Serbian cinema, but also about Jovan’s experience with directing, as we are currently working on a screenplay for a short film.
Your Instagram page, @cinematologist_ , which focuses on film, has over 750,000 followers. How do you manage to engage and entertain such a large number of people, especially in not-so-popular domains today, such as art and culture?
First and foremost, I do what is interesting and fun to me. People have recognized that, and over time, a loyal community has developed. I wanted to say a loyal community of like-minded individuals, but that is not always the case – which is a great thing – because it would be extremely monotonous if we all experienced the same movies in the same way. The truth is that interest in art and culture is slowly declining, but the number 750,000 clearly shows that these domains will never be unpopular, and people are eager to always see and read something about them, even on Instagram. As for the technical side, it has never happened that I posted a picture or video that I was not satisfied with in terms of quality. I make sure that my way of writing allows me to always emotionally or intellectually connect with the audience. I also share anecdotes, trivia, behind-the-scenes insights, and personal experiences related to film.
It may sound strange, but I genuinely care about every person who has clicked “follow,” and that’s why I try to involve them in the life of the page by asking them questions, seeking their opinions, and encouraging them to share their experiences on the topic I’m talking about.
I make sure to always stay up to date and provide fresh content: keeping people informed about current trends, cultural events, and significant happenings in the world of film.
Undoubtedly, consistency is one of the most important aspects of any Instagram page, which is why it has only happened 6 times that I haven’t posted anything in a day out of the total of 1577 days that I have been running the page.
I had no idea the responses would be so self-centered, I swear.
What kind of content is most accessible to a wider audience, or what do you usually use to reach Instagram users who may not have a primary interest in film?
One of the reasons why I created a film page is because every time I searched the internet for something to watch, I would only come across IMDb’s Top 250 list. And when I tried to find recommendations on Instagram, many film pages were posting things unrelated to movies, like Leonardo DiCaprio on a yacht, Margot Robbie in a swimsuit, and so on. During that period, before I created the page, I watched many films that are hardly mentioned today, and those became my first posts. Popular content always gets the best response, and although I also talked about well-known movies, which I still do because something popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, I made an effort to talk about lesser-known films as well and just when I started posting short reviews of lesser-known films, I noticed a sudden increase in the number of followers.
A similar thing can be observed in cinemas because people will always go for something more popular and therefore “safer.” Since Instagram introduced the “Reels” feature, I primarily use that tool to reach the widest audience. This way, films that are not mainstream catch their eye and receive a lot of attention. Recently, this was the case when I made a reel about the Georgian film “The Color of Pomegranates” from 1969, directed by Sergei Parajanov, which now has over 3.7 million views.
It is also important to mention that the success of a post largely depends on the editing style because our focus and dopamine receptors are so fried that I am aware I have to grab attention in the first 2 seconds. I can see that those who follow the page also appreciate my reviews, and I attribute that to my brutal honesty. I don’t have a particular format, and I don’t know how to write reviews, so someone who is knowledgeable about it would probably cringe reading my reviews. But honestly, I don’t care because there are too many reviews that are similar to each other, lacking any subjectivity. That’s why I mentioned honesty because I openly express when I love or hate something, which not so rarely causes arguments in the comments in which I never participate because I try to explain why something did or didn’t appeal to me, so if someone doesn’t understand, they can argue until tomorrow—I won’t read it, but someone else will, and that’s how they end up having a heated debate, contributing to a higher reach and engagement of the post (laughter).
Do you remember the first time you went to the cinema or the moment when you realized that the seventh art attracts you more than other things? And what component of film is so captivating that after a while you can’t imagine your life without motion pictures?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a romantic story about going to the cinema for the first time. I feel like the place where I was born is largely responsible for that, as there is no cinema culture in Ruma. I remember going with the school to see ‘Ice Age: The Meltdown’, I think I was 8, but I can’t really remember going to the cinema before that. For me, the cinema was the living room where I watched James Bond with my family, which was shown on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. I would urge everyone to watch it, although I always fall asleep halfway through the movie. However, I fondly remember those days and flipping through the channels every day to see who would play the better movie in the evening.
I give my whole self to the film I watch, and the very opportunity to be able to experience another world for two hours is something for which I will forever be grateful. At some point in high school, I noticed that when a few days go by without watching a movie, I get very gloomy and melancholic, and I’m still like that to this day, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change.
You have also tried your hand at directing and have two short films. How would you describe that experience? How difficult is it for someone who hasn’t studied film to work on a project that requires not only creativity but also knowledge of the technical aspects, camera operation, and so on?
The experience of shooting my first film – “All of a Sudden” – I would describe as hellish, while the experience of shooting “Good Evening” wasn’t as terrifying. I held a camera in my hands for the first time on the first day of shooting “All of a Sudden,” that’s how smart I was. The leading actor told me two days before the start of filming that he couldn’t play the role after all, so in the end, the role was played by my girlfriend’s younger cousin from Bijeljina, which immediately created a problem regarding continuity in shooting. Because of that, we shot for a few days, then had a break due to his departure home, and filming continued after a week. I am grateful to my friends who spared their free time to help me, but there were not the same number of us on the “set” every day, which was also a problem. Another friend was supposed to do the editing, but due to some of his issues at university, I had to learn to edit on my own, at least the basics, for which I am also grateful because if I hadn’t learned editing back then, who knows how I would be creating content for Instagram now. We filmed half of the movie outdoors at night, and I had no idea what equipment I needed, so I rented some things that, in the end, I didn’t really need, which was an additional expense. I had no knowledge of operating a camera, yet I was the director of photography and so on, and in the end, I wasn’t satisfied with the result.
A month after I finished shooting and editing “All of a Sudden”, I had an idea for a new short film, and then I called Filip Kuzmanović, who played the lead role in “Good Evening,” and told him that I had an idea, but it would be just him and me shooting in my parents’ apartment with their help and the assistance of my girlfriend, Isidora Kapidžić, who was a co-producer on both projects. The shooting lasted only two and a half days, no one bothered me, every problem was quickly solved, and nothing unexpected happened, so in the end, I can say that I’m quite satisfied with the result. The film was screened at several film festivals in Serbia and two international ones, and I received positive reviews when I posted it on my page. Since I didn’t study film, it was difficult, but I learned the best lesson that both educated and self-taught directors constantly mention, which is that you can study film for a hundred years, but nothing compares to the experience when you pick up a camera and actually create something. The best way of learning for me was watching movies, but also consuming a lot of content on YouTube, where people from the film world generously share their knowledge. Filmmaking is a creative field that is constantly evolving, and there is no established path to success. Film school provides structured education, but it’s not a prerequisite for making films. Passion, dedication, and the desire to learn guide me, so the fact that I didn’t graduate from an academy or take a course didn’t discourage me, but rather motivated me further because it allows me to develop my skills in the way I want to.
Let’s say you’re going to Mars (so it’s not always a deserted island, and you can somewhat escape from it) and you’re allowed to take only ten films. Which titles could make your stay in such a distant and lonely place easier? (You can comment on your choices.)
I have seen a million films, but when it comes to making a list of favorite movies or something similar, I always get stuck, so I can’t promise to give you 10 films, but I’ll do my best.
Amadeus (1984) – I’ll just say that this is my all-time favorite film.
The Barber of Siberia (1998) – I’ve loved this film since I was in elementary school. It’s the first time I can remember that after watching a film I couldn’t eat or do anything for the rest of the day. It had a huge impact on me, and I watch it at least once a year.
Man Bites Dog (1992) – Definitely one of the craziest films I’ve ever seen, and I find Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde) such an interesting character that if there was a 10-season series with 100 episodes each, I’d have no problem following him wherever he goes.
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) – One of the best and most unconventional biopics ever. It’s interesting how Wim Wenders, a German, made one of the best American films (Paris, Texas), and here, Paul Schrader, an American, made one of the best Japanese films. In my opinion, this film is flawless.
The Tree of Life (2011) – I would watch this film every time I missed life on Earth and all its beauty, and I believe it would be able to console me. Terrence Malick is an extraordinary artist, and “The Tree of Life” combines intimate family drama with breathtaking visual displays, showcasing the birth of the universe, the evolution of life, and the beauty of nature. It offers a contemplative and visually stunning exploration of existence, and I will never tire of rewatching it. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?… When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7)
Andrei Rublev (1966) – Tarkovsky is one of my favorites, if not the favorite filmmaker, so he is obligatory to mention whenever I talk about films. His filmography is such that no matter which film you say is your favorite, I would understand. Striking cinematography, rich symbolism, philosophical depth, and a thorough exploration of the human condition are just some of the many components that make “Andrei Rublev” a masterpiece. Tarkovsky’s meticulous attention to detail and his use of long, poetic shots turn watching this film into a meditative and impressive experience. The film delves deep into the complexity of creativity, the role of art in society, and the challenges artists face in expressing their vision. I can’t wait to experience it on the big screen!
Sátántangó (1994) – For a year now, I’ve been trying to organize myself to watch this 7-hour and 20-minute film in one day, but since that seems unattainable for now, there’s no better opportunity than to take it to Mars and watch it in peace.
The Martian (2015) – I haven’t watched this movie either, but I read in the synopsis that it’s about an astronaut who documents his experiences and survival on Mars through video logs, so I guess I would benefit from the film if things get tough.
If you had to choose, would you rather watch 200 films per year but not be allowed to exchange impressions with others or receive any form of feedback (criticism, interviews with directors, etc.), or would you prefer to watch five titles per year and be allowed all that you are forbidden in the first option?
I would choose the first option. Before, and at the beginning of the page, I didn’t exchange impressions with anyone, even though I watched a lot of movies, and it didn’t bother me. With each new title, I felt more fulfilled, and I didn’t need someone to exchange impressions with. Over time, I noticed that movies are that “someone” who is always there, someone I laugh and cry with, someone who inspires me and poses many questions that I still seek answers to. By watching a wide range of movies, I developed an appreciation for the art behind filmmaking and gained insight into the technical aspects of the medium. Analyzing movies has the power to sharpen critical thinking skills. I learned to evaluate themes, symbolism, social commentary, and many other elements that make up a film. Something I always look forward to and never ceases to fascinate me is cultural exposure because movies from different countries and cultures offer glimpses into different perspectives, traditions, and ways of life. Such films have the ability to broaden understanding of the world and foster cultural appreciation. It may sound cliché, but I really couldn’t imagine my life without the seventh art.
On your page, you occasionally recommend Serbian films, but we haven’t had the opportunity to hear your opinion on Serbian cinema in general, its contribution to European cinema, and the periods of Yugoslavian and contemporary cinema.
I’m ashamed to admit that it was only last year that I started taking an interest in domestic films, specifically Yugoslavian cinema. However, upon reflection, it’s probably a good thing that I’ve only started doing so now, because the domestic films I’ve watched in the past year, had I seen them 6-7 years ago, I’m convinced they wouldn’t have entertained me. Without a strong storyline, most of them wouldn’t have stood out to me. But now, some of these films have become some of my all-time favorites, and I’m indescribably proud of them. Let me mention just a few: When I Am Dead and Gone (1967), Three (1965), When Father Was Away on Business (1985), I Even Met Happy Gypsies (1967), W.R: Mysteries of the Organism (1971), It Rains in My Village (1968). I’m always fascinated by the way Yugoslavian films present different cultural identities and thus contribute to nurturing a sense of national identity and mutual understanding among different populations. With films like these, the viewer, no matter where they’re from, gets an excellent introduction to the country the film comes from, through various stories from different regions and communities. I’m also thrilled by many filmmakers who have used film as a powerful medium to reflect the social and political realities of their time. These are films that explore topics such as communism, war, nationalism, and the challenges of the post-World War II period. I must not forget to mention some of the excellent filmmakers who have gained international recognition, such as Emir Kusturica (one of only nine people with two Palme d’Or awards), Dušan Makavejev, Želimir Žilnik (with whom I had the opportunity to chat last November at the Milan Documentary Film Festival after the screening of his multi-award-winning film “Marble Ass”), Aleksandar Petrović, Goran Paskaljević. It always delights me to see foreign Instagram pages talking about their films.
Today, the films that receive attention are mostly of a commercial nature, made for mass audiences, and the themes mostly revolve around wars, crime, and the 1990s. Independent films, which often struggle to secure financing, often go unnoticed despite winning awards at international festivals.
Our cinema certainly makes a significant contribution to the world of film, but unfortunately, we’re living in the past glory.
And finally, which Instagram pages would you recommend to our readers?