“Traces,” the official Oscar selection from Croatia, is an elegant, atmospheric drama about an anthropologist named Ana (Marija Skaricic) who struggles with loneliness, loss and an uncertain future.
“The ideas of disappearance, pain and changes in our lives are things that 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 film debut.
While “Traces” is primarily a film about this one woman’s journey, it also offers fascinating insights into the ancient burial ritual that the character explores. Namely, “Mirila,” the word for measuring, a practice in which exposed stones in a grave area marked the length of a deceased person’s body, thus leaving a mark – a trace – of the life lived.
“It comes from a part of Croatia, in the mountains,” Turić said. “It is something that even more Croatians are not familiar with. When someone died, they carried them all the way down the mountain. Sometimes the journey on foot took eight or ten hours, so they laid the body on the ground so that the porters could rest. And the place where they put it was considered the place where the soul leaves the body. That was the holy place.”
Regarding her own creative inspiration, Turić added: “I have been a hiker for many years and when I was in these mountains, I saw these.” [burial stones] and you sense something very old and impressive in them. I’ve had this feeling with me for a long time and wanted to incorporate it into this story.”
The director also emphasized that while the film is about a woman’s experiences, the story was developed with deep universal themes: “It’s a film about a human being,” she said.
And given Croatia’s selection for “Traces” as an Oscar submission, Turić still can’t believe it.
“That’s the best thing that can happen to a director, right? Not just me, but the entire crew and actors involved in this film,” she said. “We are very happy and proud to represent our country. The Academy Awards were something we all watched since I was four or five years old. It’s kind of unbelievable that this is happening.”
Watch the full interview with Turić to learn more about the making of Traces — including her fond memory of being starstruck at a filmmakers’ dinner at Sundance.
“I met Robert Redford and thought, ‘Oh my God, is this happening?’ I spoke to him personally for a long time and he is a really great guy. I was very impressed with him. He’s done great things for indie films.”
Watch the full interview with Traces director Dubravka Turić Here.