Variables is the kind of film that lingers in the mind long after its 24 minutes are up. It’s a beautifully told human story that hits home with everyone, even those lucky enough to have lived very different experiences from that of the protagonist and his family and friends.
We open in war-torn Sarajevo, 1995. Nikola is a teenage math-wiz who spends his days at school, lining up for rationed food and water, dodging snipers and caring for his mother and younger sister. Complications arise when he and his math club are given the opportunity to escape the violence with an invitation to compete at the International Math Olympiad in Canada.
Inspired by the collected experiences of friends as well as her own, writer and director, Sabina Vajraca took fragments from a personal story and created something larger, more universal and resonant with anyone who considers themselves a survivor of that war or any other.
Sabina herself immigrated to the US as a war refugee, no surprise then that she has captured such a sensitive portrayal of what it was like to live in Sarajevo during that time.
There are some incredibly powerful, jarring and heartbreaking moments in this film. What stands out is the way in which these huge and life-changing experiences are portrayed so simply.
There is a very effective juxtaposition of the everyday pain of ordinary people and the wider context of the war going on around them. The protagonist is subjected to a challenging fate, one which he is forced to accept for the good of everyone he loves.
Above all Variables succeeds at showing us the gut wrenching repercussions of war on normal people in a very unfussy, simple way. Sabina Vajraca shows us the truth of war and the truth of people without melodrama, and that makes it all the more resonant with audiences everywhere.
Born in Bosnia, Sabina immigrated to the U.S. as a war refugee and started her directing career in NYC theatre. Her first film, the critically-acclaimed feature documentary BACK TO BOSNIA, premiered at the 2005 AFI Fest, screened at over 30 festivals worldwide, winning Director’s Choice at the 2006 Crossroads Film Festival, and is featured in the top 100 of the greatest films directed by women by BBC. It is available on Amazon Prime.
Most recently she co-directed a USC/Warner Bros. feature drama VOODOO MACBETH, and wrote/directed short drama VARIABLES, which won the DGA SFA Grand Prize and Alfred P. Sloan grant, and was nominated for the Student Oscars, Student BAFTA, and the HUMANITAS Prize.
Watch Variables Short Film Here: