The Happiest Man in the World is the newest submission for North Macedonia for International Feature. The film takes place in the beautiful city of Sarajevo. And it all takes place in a day. Teona Strugar Mitevska has created an intimate portrayal of pain, loss, and forgiveness.
The film focuses on two individuals: Asja and Zoran. They’re both attending a speed dating event called Touch of Happiness. And as the slogan says, “Let there be love.” All the attendees, and hopeful romantics, sit down in front of one another in a room. Asja and Zoran have been paired together.
The day begins with a speaker announcing questions that each couple must answer. It’s a simple and efficient way to get to know one another. They’re simple questions like what’s your perfect day? What’s your favourite colour? Are you a morning or a night person? And so on.
As the day progresses though, the questions start to get more difficult. One of the questions asks each participant to tell the other person their life story. Asja reveals that she is a 45 year old legal advisor who never had any kids and is a world traveller. Zoran is 46 years old and works in a bank. But he’s been hiding something from Asja. He reluctantly tells her that he served in the Army of the Republika Srpska for three years, meaning that he was a shooter against Sarajevo and the Bosnian people until the end of the war.
Can someone forgive the person who caused the worst pain in their life?
Every person who experienced this war will never forget what happened. It’s the loss of innocence. It’s the loss of a childhood. They wish they could live without the pain and forget about it, like the younger generation who have a chance to be free. The flashbacks, the nightmares. The inability to eat a piece of bread due to the PTSD. Sarajevo is still mourning the tragic war that happened back in the early 1990s. The large, never ending cemetery right in the middle of the city will always be there as a reminder of what happened in the past. And as such, everybody who experienced this unforgivable act of genocide is dealing with grief and tragedy in their own way. Some may choose to forgive. Others might not yet be ready. For Asja, forgiveness might be the only way to finally find peace. But she will never forget. She is just finally letting go.