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Housekeeping for Beginners Director Opens Up About Acclaimed Queer Film


Housekeeping for Beginners Director Opens Up About Acclaimed Queer Film


Goran Stolevski captured attention with Of an Age, a late-’90s drama about a 17-year-old Serbian-born Australian amateur ballroom dancer who experiences an emotional 24-hour romance with his friend’s older brother. Stolevski continues exploring love, connection, and universal truths in his latest film, Housekeeping for Beginners, which offers a vibrant look at a group of queer individuals creating their own “family” in a world that rejects them. There are times when this powerful film makes your heart sing, and it’s not a surprise it won the Queer Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.




It’s a miracle it got made,” Stolevski told MovieWeb of the film, which was shot in Macedonia, the writer/director’s birthplace. “In most countries in the world, if you propose a story that involves children and homosexuals in the story, it’s a tricky proposition. And Macedonia is sort of complicated in the way that the majority of the countries in the world are.”


Stolevski wrote the film several years ago but never pitched it because he didn’t believe it would get financed. After winning at the Venice Film Festival, Focus Features is releasing the film in select theaters. The story gives audiences a protagonist to root for in Dita (Anamaria Marinca), a middle-aged gay woman. A busy social worker, she has filled the villa with a posse of queer people, including her partner Suada (Alina Serban), Suada’s daughters, Mia and Vanesa, and Dita’s pal Toni (Vladimir Tintor) and his younger lover, Ali (Samson Selim).

This film is a must-see for fans of found-family films and those exploring LGBTQ+ characters. Goran Stolevski shares more about the film, his own coming-of-age journey, and more in excerpts from this exclusive MovieWeb interview.

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Goran Stolevski Is More Than an Emerging Filmmaker

Housekeeping for Beginners

Housekeeping For Beginners

Release Date
January 26, 2024

Director
Goran Stolevski

Cast
Samson Selim , Anamaria Marinca , Alina Șerban , Sara Klimoska

Runtime
1hr 47min

Writers
Goran Stolevski

Studio
Adelaide Film Festival, Causeway Films, Common Ground Pictures

Goran Stolevski’s debut feature, You Won’t Be Alone, premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Of an Age, his second outing, opened the 2022 Melbourne International Film Festival. To that end, it’s a good thing that the filmmaker has always been drawn to stories about underdogs trying to free themselves from the restrictions they were born into. Focus Features picked up both films and quickly scooped up Housekeeping for Beginners for exploring similar themes.


“I wrote this a long time ago. I didn’t really pitch it much because I didn’t think it was something that could get made or financed for those reasons,” Stolevski said. “Primarily because… in the economically developed West, things like subtitles are dangerous and a no-go zone. Whereas places where subtitles are less of a problem, the subject matter in the film was more of a problem.” He went on to say that there was a happy confluence of events that helped make the film viable at the time, from financing to cast, crew, and locale, but it all sprang from a social media post many years ago.

How Housekeeping for Beginners Began

There’s a great deal of joy emanating from Housekeeping for Beginners — and laughter, and tears, and hope, and dancing for that matter. The story tracks the experiences of several main characters as they move through significant life transitions and confront the political systems that may thwart their freedoms. Goran Stolevski, who so richly captures the human spirit here, says the genesis of the project originated from a photograph on Facebook.


“It was posted by Tony Ayers,” the filmmaker shared, “who’s a veteran Australian filmmaker, a queer filmmaker himself, and a good friend. [It was] a photo from his youth, of when he first moved to Melbourne. He moved into a share house with his boyfriend and eight gay women… and it was just a day in the life. It wasn’t very specific, it was just genuinely a snapshot from the everyday.” Stolevski elaborated:

It looked like such a fun space to be in. Especially because at that time in my life, I was not in fun spaces. It was my day-to-day life. I was doing lots of day jobs I did not want to be doing. I remember seeing the photo and going, ‘Oh, I want to spend some time there… in this place, and I think a viewer would as well.’

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Stolevski updated the story to the present day, shining light on chosen family and how one unique safe space can allow somebody to live their life to the fullest and, as he notes, “its messiest.” As far as setting the film in his birthplace of Macedonia, he said it mostly had to do with him knowing the country well and how it was complicated to be queer.

Stolevski’s Cinematic Inspirations

Goran Stolevski directing Housekeeping for Beginners
Focus Features

The filmmaker was inspired by movies early on. “If you get me going, I will not shut up for two hours,” he said, explaining how when he moved to Melbourne, Australia, at the age of 12, he didn’t have many friends.

“So, Katharine Hepburn and Ingmar Bergman became my friends, literally from age 12. We lived in state housing for a while… and we got this hot price voucher to go to the cinema. So, I went to the cinema quite often, then started being curious about film history along the way. I started tracking down older films through the local public library and became obsessive.”


The cast of Housekeeping for Beginners
Focus Features

He was watching nearly 400 films a year, in fact. “It wasn’t with a sense of vocation or anything,” he said. “It was just kind of like my happy place pretty much all through high school. And at some point towards the end of high school, I had media studies on the subject where you could make a short film because I had access to just equipment, like a basic mini TV camera and iMovie as an editing system.”

He used that opportunity to do a short film, but by the time he finished it, “my migrant rite of passage of becoming a lawyer, doctor, engineer was just scrapped in that moment. I decided to go into film school and, you know, just a short 20 years later…”


Growing Up Gay and Upcoming Projects

Growing up gay in Australia, Stolevski turned to his own creativity. He admits that he never watched queer stories to help him normalize queerness in his own mind, but found a kind of nerdish delight in some of Todd Haynes’ films (Carol,Far From Heaven, May December). “Then Six Feet Under, as well as the other big queer texts that… normalized [being gay],” he added.

I never looked at queer figures as something that reflects on my life. To be honest, people who are involved in the entertainment business were so far away and so rich and removed from my day-to-day life, it felt really stupid to compare myself.

A little girl in a car in Housekeeping for Beginners
Focus Features


As more audiences experience Housekeeping for Beginners, appreciating its heartfelt depth, Stolevski is turning his attention on upcoming projects. “I’m not really supposed to talk about it in too much detail, but it’s something I wrote — a drama that has no multiverses or skinny, attractive young people hacking each other to bits,” he said. “At the moment, it’s really difficult to make a film that doesn’t have one or both of those ingredients in it. So, the fact that I might be getting this opportunity to make a film about people and feelings, feels like a very special thing, and it’s exactly the film I want to make.”

He’s also working with an actor whose work he jives with on a film he wrote specifically for that person. “That’s a slightly more genre-y concept, but it’s still a very human story that I’m very connected to,” he noted. “I wrote it myself and will hopefully direct. I don’t really have a dream scenario to be after those two films. There’s another couple of projects I’m talking to people about that are in a very early stage. Again, very human stories. In this case, with a particular actress I love.”


Watch this space for updates. Catch Housekeeping for Beginners in select theaters April 5 from Focus Features.

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