‘Be enablers, not disablers’ – these words capture the heart and message behind Breaking Ballroom, a short documentary film produced and directed by film student Dragana Njegic. The film has been selected as a finalist in the Courage Film Festival taking place in Berlin from 4-6th April 2019. The Festival highlights filmmakers who use their work to make a stand and to fight for what they believe is right. Here Dragana shares her journey in bringing Breaking Ballroom to life.
Finding Happiness in Change
When I was 5, my parents and I fled to Norway as refugees of the Yugoslavian civil war. Among all the countless life changes, I remember constantly needing a translator in the classroom and while playing with kids in recess until I learned Norwegian. It was a very tough time for my family, but my parents never made me feel like we were missing anything.
We were always happy – and when we were happy, we would always dance. As a teenager I took dance lessons when I didn’t feel included in school and as a way to make new friends. Dance gave me a sense of myself and of belonging.
Making an Impact
As I was researching a topic for my Master’s dissertation, I was told to check out Step Change Studios by a classmate. I was instantly gripped by the positivity, the can-do attitude and determination to make a change in mainstream arts. For me, Step Change Studios represents everything that is good with this world and I wanted more than anything to promote their worldview, spirit and inspire the viewer to dance.
After spending the summer with Step Change Studios’ Founder Rashmi Becker and being introduced to amazing dancers and participants of their programmes, I came to the conclusion that irrespective of age, ability, and means, including dance in your life can and will make a positive impact – every time.
The Power of Storytelling
I went into this project head first, with no experience of working with disabled people but with a focus on producing a film that explores diversity in dance. The more we filmed and I got to know the people behind Step Change Studios, the clearer my ambitions for the film became. It was important to me to ensure everyone in the film was represented as authentically as possible. I wanted the audience to experience the same insight I had gained from making this film.
I never expected to learn so much from Rashmi and her dancers about courage, hard work, professionalism, positivity, scheduling, taking opportunities wherever they appear and all along having a fabulous time. It helped me define what kind of director I want to be and what stories I want to tell in the future.
Every time I see a film, I’m mesmerised by how the camera moves, how the people convey emotions and experience, and how the story influences my perspective. This is my favourite thing about film: that it can start a conversation, and that conversation can sometimes lead to action. I hope my film will contribute towards encouraging greater diversity both behind and in front of the camera.