• Datum 16-01-2014
  • Auteur
  • Deel dit artikel

Illustratie Typex

On January 21st, a day before IFFR kicks off, Serbia starts its accession negotiations with the EU. This will take time, but one of the most stubborn borders within the continent will eventually disappear and ‘Serbia will return to Europe’, as politicians like to say.
But a much more important thing for Serbian society happened earlier in the year, and it is directly connected to a local film. A Sundance and Berlinale prize-winner, Circles by Srdan Golubovic is based on a real-life event from the Bosnian war. In 1993, Serbian soldier Srdjan Aleksic stood up to protect a Muslim friend from harassment by Serbian soldiers, and they beat him to death. Aleksic is the only real hero from Serbia’s recent wars, but his story was not widely known. His heroic act happened in war, but it was essentially a human decision, which muddles the simple good guys/bad guys narrative that was the basis of state-designed media policy, in which Serbs simply don’t kill Serbs because of a Muslim.
But as Circles gained audience momentum, Aleksic’s story came back to the spotlight and 20 years after the event, a street in Belgrade was named after him. This is also reflected in Serbia’s increasingly compliant official attitude regarding Kosovo and the EU. Nationalism is still rampant in society, but at least the authorities are sending a different message now.
Serbia makes 15 feature films a year, but not all of them make it to the theatres, or they don’t stay there very long. Once the strongest and largest film market in the Balkans, the territory enters 2014 with about 70 regularly functioning screens for its 7 million inhabitants. This is mainly the result of a funding policy which was focused on production, with little regard for distribution and exhibition. But in 2013 the Film Centre Serbia has finally introduced support for distributors and independent cinemas, so hopefully films like Circles will be able to reach a bigger audience.
There is one local film will certainly reach all the potential audiences in 2014: Montevideo 2, a sequel to the blockbuster Montevideo about the national football team of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which lost the finals of the first World Cup in 1930 to host country Uruguay. This big-budget production (for local standards) has all the political and financial backing it needs, and the fact that the 1930 Yugoslav team was comprised only of Serbian players has been strongly highlighted both in the films and its advertising campaign.
It will be much harder for upcoming films from young independent filmmakers, probably even for Mina Djukic’s Sundance-premiering The Disobedient, and definitely for Milan Todorovic’s second horror film Dark Sea. But these films will eventually reach people one way or another, and the progressive way of thinking they represent will have some effect on society, just like Maja Milos’s Clip did. This effect will not be as quantifiable as that of Circles, a phenomenon in its own right, but the awareness that there are talented young people who are presenting their values through film gives hope that maybe what happened to Srdjan Aleksic will not have to happen again.

Vladan Petkovic is a film critic, festival programmer, writer and translator based in Belgrade, and a regular contributor to Screen