Nina Ljeti Makes Films and Takes Photos ‘Cuz Punk Still Rules

Nina Ljeti is a name that it might be a good idea to learn to pronounce now. Here is a person who has acted alongside Winona Ryder, Jessica Chastain, Mila Kunis, and James Franco, has written and co-directed a feature film (2015’s Memoria starring James Franco), and is slated to begin shooting a biographical film centered on Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. 

Nina Ljetl also plays in a band, Nani, and takes photographs that remind you her perspective is singular. Maybe she sees and shows the world in such a distinctive manner because she is the daughter of Bosnian immigrants and is viewing the places she visits and lives from an off-center vantage. Or perhaps she was just born this way. Give the evidence some study, and decide for yourself.

The Skeeve: What’s so great about punk?

Nina Ljeti: It’s raw, confessional, and honest. It’s all about DIY, which I love. And there’s a sense of freedom to it. Punk compliments my aesthetic very well—I think that’s why I’ve been loyal to it for so long. 

The Skeeve: Do you find more certainty in memories or in imagination?

Nina Ljeti: Those two are very similar things. I think that by the time our brain stores a memory, very little of it is based off reality. Our imaginations tend to weave narratives and give deeper meaning to the events in our lives. So I find certainty in neither, but I do believe in them nonetheless. 

The Skeeve: Why art?

Nina Ljeti: It’s the only way I can make sense of the things I feel. It certainly doesn’t pay much money. 

The Skeeve: Where are some places reading has taken you that the rest of life has not?

Nina Ljeti: To the castle of a lovelorn vampire. To the home of a sensible young woman in 18th century England. To CBGBs and New York in the ’70s. To any time before people started using cell phones.

The Skeeve: Writer. Filmmaker. Musician: Who’s a current inspiration in each of those categories, and why?

Nina Ljeti: My favorite writer currently is Nick Cave. I love his dedication to the craft, and his poetry. He’s also one of my favorite performers (his vocal chops in the Birthday Party are incredible). 

My favorite filmmakers right now are PTA, Harmony Korine, and Sean Baker. These filmmakers are bold and innovative in their work. That’s very inspiring to me as a young filmmaker. 

My favorite musicians change daily, depending on what I’m working on. I’m really into Britney Spears at the moment. I love her pop star persona, and what she represented (at her height) to millions of young people around the world. She’s an important figure in American pop culture, particularly in the 90s/00s. I’m really interested in that. 

All photos copyright Nina Ljetl.

Allan MacDonell Administrator
Director of Skeeve Allan MacDonell is the author of ‘Prisoner of X’ and ‘Punk Elegies.’
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