“Sticker” may have been filmed in Macedonia, but during an American summer marked by protests against police brutality, its story about a father struggling against bureaucracy and corrupt cops gains a global resonance.
But for director Georgi M. Unkovski, it wasn’t current events that inspired his film, a finalist in TheWrap’s 2020 ShortList Film Festival. It was his love of the underdog.
“I’m always fascinated by stories about people simply trying to get by but society set them up to fail,” Unkovski told TheWrap. “I think what people really latch onto with this film is how we as individuals have to struggle against these huge bureaucratic forces.”
“Sticker” follows Dejan, a beleaguered father trying to get to his daughter’s dance recital…only to end up in an escalating crisis thanks to a simple office error. Stumbling through an overcrowded DMV office, he is told that the office has run out of stickers for vehicle registration. Despite being assured by a dismissive clerk that the police know they’re out of stickers, Dejan soon finds himself pulled over by a cop in search of a murderer and plunged into a world of law enforcement that isn’t particularly interested in protecting or serving.
Unkovski says that the story started with the minor irritation of vehicle registration renewal, but says he was surprised by how many viewers who have seen his film were able to personally empathize with that frustration. “I was surprised to find that even people in the U.S. were able to identify with his struggle,” he said. “The first scene is taken as-is from real life. Everybody here [in Macedonia] has their own stories about struggling with bureaucracy.”
Unkovski also recognizes that the global Black Lives Matter protests put Dejan’s abuse at the hands of police in a new context, even if “Sticker” isn’t a film about racist police violence.
“We weren’t even thinking about such issues when we were shooting, but ironically it’s been a fitting year for our film to come out,” he says. “Obviously, once you put a film out it stops just belong to you, but there are stories of injustice everywhere and its easy to connect to them. I think a lot of people feel alone in fights against injustice and I like exploring that in my films.”