Success and Suffering, Equally Inspiring for the Filmmaker Goran Stolevski

Filmmaker Goran Stolevski Finds Inspiration in Crisis

For Goran Stolevski, a Macedonian filmmaker who has swiftly risen to acclaim in recent years, personal crises have served as profound catalysts for his art. Despite his recent success, Stolevski emphasizes that his journey has been anything but straightforward.

Stolevski's filmmaking career began in Sydney, Australia, where he migrated as a child with his family as refugees. It was a chance encounter with a filmmaker friend's camera that ignited his passion for the craft. However, the aspiring director struggled to secure funding and support for his projects due to the pervasive prejudice against refugees prevalent in Australian society at the time.

Instead of yielding defeat, Stolevski channeled his experiences with racism and the consequent feelings of exclusion into his storytelling. His first two features, "You Won't Be Alone" (2020) and "Would You Look at Her" (2022), centered around female protagonists embroiled in tales of identity and belonging, thereby echoing his own attempts to assert individuality in a society that sought to marginalize him. Both films garnered critical acclaim and sparked extensive conversations about diversity and inclusion in media.

Despite this success, Stolevski did not always enjoy a smooth trajectory. He has repeatedly faced challenges balancing the demands of his craft with his own mental health struggles. Nevertheless, Stolevski has vehemently asserted that his darkest times have also been his greatest inspirations.

"Suffering becomes a mirror," Stolevski asserts, "especially when you're alone. It's then that you see yourself most clearly. All of your weaknesses, your vanities, your sins, your shame, your desperate need for acceptance — it's all there, amplified."

It is through this prism that Stolevski has processed his hardships, from his mother's struggle with mental illness and his own battles with depression and anxiety to the PTSD endured by his brother, a veteran of the Macedonian army. Stolevski reflects, "When you're able to externalize your suffering through art, it loses its power over you."

This approach has become a hallmark of Stolevski's storytelling, as demonstrated in his latest feature, "Bristol Road," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2023. The film revolves around a man grappling with the recent suicide of his pregnant wife, a event that triggers memories of his own suicide attempt years earlier.

Like his previous works, "Bristol Road" exemplifies Stolevski's propensity to weave together supernatural elements with nuanced character studies amidst narratives steeped in grief and personal transformation. For the filmmaker, the film was a manifestation of his determination to create "something beautiful, perhaps even transcendent, out of catastrophe."

Stolevski's dedication to crafting stories that grapple with heavy psychological and emotional themes has inevitably led to a rigorous examination of his own psyche. For him, the exploration of dark feelings and experiences has become a means of exorcising personal demons and uncovering moments of beauty within the depths of suffering.

"It's freeing, but it's also scary," Stolevski explains. "Excruciating, even. You have to dig deep, and not everyone wants to do that. Sometimes, it's easier to try and forget about the darker parts of your past. But I think that's a terrible thing to do. You have to own your past, warts and all. Only then can you transform it into something else."

Despite the intensity of this process, Stolevski has steadfastly continued to cultivate personal growth and triumphs alongside his cinematic successes. His unwavering commitment to wrestling with heavy subjects has undeniably contributed to the richness, depth, and authenticity of his works.

While Stolevski's recent theatrical releases with Focus Features may lead some to assume that his success has been swift and straightforward, the filmmaker emphasizes that his journey has been anything but easy. Like any enduring piece of art, Stolevski's work reflects the culmination of immense personal struggles, vividly exemplifying how suffering can bear beautiful, creative fruits when harnessed with courage and tenacity.

"I have never known suffering to be inspirational," Stolevski says. "But I won't deny that it has been a great teacher."

Read more