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Serbia Film Festival
by Michael Collins

Serbia until recently was the US’s enemy of the month. A much-stigmatised nation for its politics, its reputation as a filmmaking nation is up there with the finest that Europe has to offer. The Serbia Film Festival provides an insight on how the Serbian film industry has been faring since the NATO attack. It also shows just how dedicated and passionate they are to their craft.

Land Of Truth Love And Freedom

What strikes you most about this film is the visual flair of the photography. Despite its low budget feel (shot on small digital cameras and basic plain setting), the film still has an imaginative visual style and thoughtful editing to keep things looking interesting.

The Land of Truth Love and Freedom shows on a personal level how individuals are dealing with the aftermath of the NATO attacks. A former soldier, now in a psychiatric institution recalls to a psychologist stories inspired by inkblot images that are shown to him.

Typically for a Serbian film, it mixes humour with horror as the viewer witnesses brutality and hilarity in pretty much equal proportion. This film shows how people’s values are effected by the disintegration of a nation and the inter-ethnic conflict aftermath – values that are tested and broken.

Skyhook

The Third Man had the unique opportunity of filming Prague in the ruins that were left after World War II. With buildings still lying in rubble it provided an extraordinary backdrop to that classic film. Skyhook takes that same opportunity, as a group of friends rebuild a basketball court despite the NATO attacks still striking nightly. While doing this, these people contemplate their relationships and their future.

The extraordinary rubble cityscape of Belgrade provides the backdrop to this excellent, rousing, film.

Basketball is massive in Serbia and so showing Serbians setting up a court in an attempt to gain a semblance of normalcy in their lives can be seen as Serbia reclaiming their identity, their lives, and everything that makes them what they are.

Thoughtfully crafted with rich natural performances. Skyhook is a special film.


The White Suit

Enough of all that NATO bombing stuff, let’s get to the sort of films that established Serbia’s reputation as a premium film making country. With The White Suit we get just that.

A man receives a telegram saying to come home due to his mother’s death. His train journey home is full of the bizarre, the comic, the romantic and the strange.

Written, directed and starring Lozar Ristovski
(who was also in the legendary Underground), The White Suit is rich in colour and movement. The film seemed to have a larger budget than most of the other films of the festival, and these funds were spent on elaborate sets and design.

This film had the audience in stitches as they laughed their way through right from the very beginning of the film. The success of this film is obviously down to Ristovski and a fine job he does indeed.

Premeditated Murder

The double love story of Premeditated Murder explores the blossoming of one relationship and the solving of a mystery of another that occurred forty years earlier. The relationships are linked by the woman in the forty year old relationship being the grandmother of the woman in the present day story.

Premeditated Murder is a thoughtfully structured, well told story, with the leads in both time periods giving excellent, restrained performances.

The writing is the best thing about this film. It’s an interesting story with the mystery of the relationship of forty years ago well structured with the present day couple gradually finding out what happened to them

Other features at the festival included: Rage – an interesting take of the kidnapping genre where a 17 year old boy kidnaps his boss, Wheels – the darkly funny story of a man who visits a rather strange hotel, and the ethics workout of three friends in Between Heaven And Earth.

As part of the festival there were two forums to talk about the Serbian film industry. The talks were from Miroijub Vuckovic from the Institute of Film in Belgrade (who was also the official curator of the festival) and Professor Ivan Klomenc, Pro-Dean of The Academy of Performing Arts in Novi Sad.

In Klomenc’s presentation he gave us a good old-fashioned endorsement of the love of filmmaking. In these days of Hollywood money making production lines, it was heartening to see this artist feeling so passionate about his craft and he left no doubt that he was in the film business for the love of film, not the love of business.

He also gave some anecdotes of his experiences as an actor. And what an experience it’s been. The story about having artificial eyes the size of half a table tennis ball left me squirming and in tears.

The other aspect of the festival was a session of shorts and documentaries. There was The Parade – a day in the life of a Communist propaganda parade, Hand and Threads – the rhythmic and musical world of rug making, Love – about a simple love between two people in the middle of Communist project building, The Death of Paor Djurica – the dramatic and tense telling of a man trying to escape execution by running through cornfields, and My Country – the bizarre goings on at a railway crossing. It was a mixed bunch with only really My Country and The Death of Paor Djurica matching the standard that Serbian feature film has set itself.

And a high standard it is. This festival provided a high-quality taste of what this tragic-ridden yet proud country has produced in the last few years. From watching the festival you are overwhelmed with the talent on show as well as the resolve of these people to pursue their craft despite almost insurmountable hurdles.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=437
originally posted: 10/15/01 13:40:08
last updated: 10/18/01 14:10:59
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