As a professional watcher of all things Slovene, engaged in the task of shining a light on this part of the world and keeping an eye on how it’s seen from outside, I approach foreign documentaries about the country with some trepidation. In general these turn out to be travel shows and shallow looks at Slovenia – Ljubljana and Bled, the human fish and kremšnita, hard to pronounce place names and references to “hidden gems” – with last year’s Travel Man being a particularly poor example of a team helicoptering in, making a mess, and hoping no one will notice (as seen here).
Still, content is content, and this website serves a broad audience, with broader tastes than my own. So I loaded up First Ladyland, a documentary directed by David Freid in late 2016. Mr Freid was in Croatia when Trump was elected, and took the chance to come to Slovenia and film various people looking ahead to what might be possible, in terms of greater visibility and tourist appeal, with Sevnica’s own Melanija Knavs in the White House.
Lightly satirical and beautifully shot and put together overall, the film presents a view of Slovenia not shown in the travel shows and tourist promos, but just adjacent to it. The people we meet talk in their professional guises, as a mayor, castle manager, souvenir store operator, tour guide, prankster, balloon artist, Slovenologist, slipper designer, curator and lawyer, intercut with footage from US news shows drawn from the start of Melania’s career as Mrs Trump, scenes of the inauguration and related protests, as well of life in Sevnica, the small town that was previously best known for its castle and annual salami festival (Sevniška salamiada). Take a look below and see what, and who, you recognise.
First Ladyland from MEL Films on Vimeo.