Premiere of the documentary “Belles”

Last night, in the Cinematheque of the Republic of North Macedonia, the premiere of the documentary film “Belles” took place. The film, whose production began almost a year ago, follows and captures the rich everyday life of community living for people who have spent most of their lives in institutions. It follows the daily life of Marica and the residents of the Center for the Care of People with Intellectual Disabilities in Volkovo.

Marica was born in the Special Institution in Demir Kapija, to parents who met and lived there. She lived in Demir Kapija for 28 years, and her mother lives in the institution to this day.

Marica left this institution in 2008, as one of the first residents to be deinstitutionalized. She now lives in Volkovo, together with 43 other people with various disabilities, housed in 5 houses with 9 residential units, which are managed by the Poraka Negotino organization. Through years of community living, she learned to read and write, and now works as a carer for people with intellectual disabilities.

The film is directed by Marija Apchevska, with cinematographers Gjorgi Klincharov and Fajmi Daut, editor Goran Vukic and sound designer Igor Popovski.

In the crowded cinema hall, the premiere was opened by the Minister of Labor and Social Policy Jovanka Trenchevska and H.E. David Geer, EU Ambassador to the RNM.

Jovanka Trencevska, Minister of Labor and Social Policy

“For me, for us, deinstitutionalization never meant just a project and it’s not just a policy, it’s empathy, it’s care, it’s proof that we’re all the same. I believe that the emotion that colors this film will be a confirmation of everything I am saying. The path from day to day is the same for all of us! When we provided the same conditions and opportunities, we proved that the dignity and rights of all our citizens come first,” Trenchevska said.

The minister indicated that she is proud that the reform was documented through the film “Bellasica” and that the moments of development of the largest social reform in the country were documented.

EU Ambassador, David Geer

In his address, Ambassador David Geer pointed out that the documentary “Bellasica” was produced through a project funded by the European Union and supports the modernization and deinstitutionalization of social services.

“For the past three years, the project has been helping relevant institutions address the needs of people with disabilities and raise public awareness of those needs,” said Geer. He added that the team behind this film testifies that the only thing that matters to people with disabilities is that they are treated equally.

Maria Marinakou, Project Team Leader

Team Leader of the project Maria Marinakou who moderated the event, after thanking all involved in the creation of “Belles” said: “A year ago with Marija and the rest of the team, we embarked in a journey which had a vision and principles: respect to the lives of the people who had lived in institutions for a long time and now they live in the community and ethics in the way to approach their lives. Ethics that transcend the divides of “Us and Them” and allows us to reflect on the importance of equal rights for all”

In 2018, the National Strategy for Deinstitutionalization “Timjanik” was adopted in North Macedonia. In 2022, there are no more children in the institutions, and the process of resettlement of the remaining adults is ongoing.

The documentary Belles captures the benefits of deinstitutionalization and reveals the power of community to ensure that everyone has an equal right to the simple things that offer a chance for happiness.

The film was produced within the project “Support for the modernization and deinstitutionalization of social services”, which was realized by Eptisa in cooperation with CARE, with financial support from the European Union, for the benefit of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of the Republic of North Macedonia.