In Film Culture you’ll find my impressions of where cinema art is at now, as a profession, cultural phenomenon, physical space, and medium. Also, a bit about my past curatorial and promotional work, and podcasts.
There is no one closer to the true enchantment of film than the film projectionist – a craft that is slowly disappearing, as celluloid itself, and should be cherished as cinema treasure. Film, in its essence, is its medium. And the projectionist, therefore, its magician in residence. So consider this an interview with a master.
Oscars 2021 was a public exercise in reclaiming one’s own art from the hijack of a devouring billion-dollar entertainment industry, the scaling down from mass production to manufacture, a deliberate recalibrating and reframing in order to preserve cinema’s place in culture, in society, and in our individual lives.
The human need for a pedestal exists to look up at something that is, ultimately, to be achieved. The social contract breaks when the chosen begin to look down at the rabble. In his roast to end all roasts, the host of the 2020 Globes, Ricky Gervais, made for eight golden minutes of television, reminding us of just that, with pure anarchist glee.
Short and sweet weekend ride through a cinematic landscape that is very slowly moving from niche to broader in the Balkans, yet with quality that never drops a beat. Merlinka is a bold and bright festival of good humour and defiance, with a sophisticated programme, a growing audience, and enough maverick charm to face both friend and foe.
All you need to know about the state of publicity today is that the 2019 Oscars ceremony, the hottest gig there is, did not have a host, most likely because no one wanted the hassle. The global equilibrium of self-promotion vs. self-censorship seems to have reached a screeching deadlock somewhere in the outer layers of our stratosphere, taking all the creative oxygen out of any public concept.
The Academy finally deciphered the writing on the wall, and promptly took their high-heeled shoes off, the entire spectacle meandering into something of an after-party at your agent’s house – half mercenary opportunism, half boozy honesty. What I reckon the aftermath of this will be is that the industry will soak in all the good intentions, appropriate the sentiments, and pretty much continue as usual.
Amidst the pomp, the circumstance, and the tightly wrapped boxes, there are the staff working for the Berlinale Service Centre who are not only incredibly helpful, but also smart, sweet, and informed. Organisationally, it is not only a festival of excuses (as one insightful employee put it), it is a festival of extremes. Gliding between its seamlessly sewn edges, sometimes one gets the forgotten sharp pin.
An ambivalent mixture of sophisticated programming, great variety, lovely surfaces, all the shades of pink amidst a well-oiled division between fans/stars, outsiders/insiders, and talents/audience. It’s not a surprise, only serves as a timely reminder of just how long this has gone unchecked all across the industry. Social exclusion has many faces, the most obvious ones are the ones least discussed.
No Exit presents the state of Serbian (and Yugoslav) society throughout the decade of the nineties and serves as an appropriate metaphor for a nation’s inner battle. It was devised as homage to ordinary people fighting valiantly to preserve the last shreds of decency in a society over-powered by fear. Held hostage by their home grown war-lords they were, ironically, often media stereotyped along with them. These widely acclaimed films, scheduled in chronological order (1995-2000), are not about war, but the effects of war-on the young, the powerless and the civilized. In their distinctly different styles, they depict a universally human vulnerability, the irreversible imprint of choices individuals are forced to make in the face of collective historical circumstance.
Curated by Milana Vujkov
ICA Cinema 1: Fri 4 Nov, 8.45pm
ICA Cinema 2: Mon 7, Fri 11 Nov, 8.30pm
Premeditated Murder (Ubistvo s predumišljajem)
“The most striking of the new Serbian films.” Deborah Young, Variety
“Panorama hit…” Noah Cowan, Filmmaker Magazine, 1996 Berlin International Film Festival
Following two parallel love stories that intertwine the WW2 past and the 90s’ present of urbane Belgrade, this is a powerful and touching portrayal of doomed love amidst national chaos, haunted by shadows of an equally confusing and painful past. A trendy reporter befriends a wounded soldier from the countryside and they embark upon solving a family mystery concealed in the pages of an old diary. Set on the crossroads where the hip & aloof and rural & intense meet, this effortlessly well-told story works both as a thriller and as melodrama. Most of all, it plays as a sharp, honest account of troubled times when choices between good and evil are anything but clear-cut and historical destiny conquers all.
Dir Gorčin Stojanoviċ
Serbia & Montenegro, 1995, 94 mins, subtitles
Producer Ljubiša Samardžić and lead Actress Branka Katić will be hosting a question and answer session after the screening in Cinema 1 on Friday 4th Nov.
ICA Cinema 1: Sat 5 Nov, 1pm
ICA Cinema 2: Tues 8, Sun 13 Nov, 8.30pm
The Wounds (Rane)
1998, Grand Prize, ‘Bronze Horse’ Stockholm Film Festival
“A jolting bumper-car ride… Serbian Trainspotting.” Derek Elley, Variety
Pretty Village Pretty Flame director’s third feature is a darkly comical and disturbing tale of two underage small-time crooks hitting gangland big-time. Wounds play it fast and furious- sparing no one in its wake. Made some time before the seminal City of God, the film opens up a very contemporary can of worms, these ghetto teens are hungry for more and settling for no less than everything. In Milošević’s Serbia of the late 90s, amidst the moral ruins of a ghettoized society where criminals and war profiteers parade as heroes, the media is preaching soap opera virtues. No moral support pending from confused, disillusioned and impoverished parents- the new breed of child-criminal burns brightly and gets thus, inevitably, crucified.
ICA Cinema 1: Sun 5 Nov, 3.30pm
ICA Cinema 2: Weds 9, Mon 14 Nov; 8.30pm
Sky Hook (Nebeska Udica)
“It’s got game.” Eddie Cockrell, Variety
“A new twist on the basketball buddy film.” Paul Watson, The Los Angeles Times
A poignant array of tales ordinary men’s destinies weave caught in the web of extraordinary circumstance, directed by legendary Serbian thesp Samardžić, Sky Hook plays as a bitter-sweet ode to unyielding human individuality. It’s May 1999, NATO bombing of Yugoslavia has entered its third month of unceasing activity and the inhabitants of a city block on the outskirts of Belgrade are taking it in their stride. The sur-reality of their lives in the past decade has now reached its foreseeable apex and maintaining the pantomime of normal existence becomes somewhat of a holy mission. The NBA loving, basketball fanatics from the hood are rebuilding the bombed-out local basketball court, drinking beer and lamenting about Michael Jordan, while the air-raid sirens continue to wail.
Dir Ljubiša Samardžić
Serbia & Montenegro, 1999, 95 mins, subtitles
We are delighted to announce that Director Ljubiša Samardžić will be hosting a question and answer session after the screening in Cinema 1 on Saturday 5th Nov.
ICA Cinema 1: Mon 7 Nov; 8.30pm
ICA Cinema 2: Weds 9, 16 Nov; 8.30pm
Land of Truth, Love and Freedom (Zemlja Istine, Ljubavi i Slobode)
2000, Reiner Werner Fassbinder Prize, Mannheim Heidelberg International Film Festival
“Wholly independent.” Dennis Harvey, Variety
Guerrilla filmmaking at its finest, LTLF was made on a non-existent budget, no government subsidies, with quite a lot of help from friends. Shockingly blunt, it’s one of a kind, shot in the last year of Milošević’s reign, and taking Belgrade by storm after his October downfall. During 1999 NATO bombings, in the city’s candle-lit psychiatric ward, Boris, a young TV editor of regime propaganda meets his shadow-double, an ex-communist executioner, a fellow patient in throes of mythical & religious penance. Through series of Rorschach tests, ingeniously allegorically, the movie buff Boris constructs stories of everyday killers and ordinary prostitutes, a cinematic crescendo through the last decade of selling souls in the Land of Truth & Love & Freedom.
Dir Milutin Petrović
Serbia & Montenegro, 2000, 75 mins, subtitles
We are delighted to announce that Director Milutin Petrović will be hosting a question and answer session after the screening in Cinema 1 on Monday 7th Nov.
1998 Free Your Mind Award MTV Europe, B92 Radio
1998 Free Media Pioneer Award International Press Institute & Freedom Forum, B92 Radio
1996 Grand Prix (for Radio Campaign Defence of Dignity), Prix Europe, B92 Radio
Instantly popular in 1989, with its mix of alternative music and independent news reporting, Radio B92 was shut down four times during Milošević’s rule. In 1993, with seven other Serbian stations, forms the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), expanding into publishing, internet and television. Janko Baljak’s See You In The Obituaries, 1995, features interviews with Serbia’s most notorious criminals, Ghetto, 1996, by Mladen Matičević and Ivan Markov, journeys through urban underground, Belgrade Follies is Goran Marković’s triumphant view of 1996 massive anti-Milošević demonstrations, Are They Bombing at Yours? B92 crew’s 1999 account of censorship during NATO bombing, by Vlada Mašić, Jovana Krstanović and Radivoje Andrić. Vivid and uncompromising, B92 docs will prove to be a revelation for Western audiences.
Serbia & Montenegro, 1995-1999, Total Run time: 166 mins, subtitles
We are delighted to announce that a B92 representative will be introducing the selection of B92 ANEM documentaries before the screening in Cinema 2 on Saturday 12th Nov.
Supported by: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro, Jatairways, Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro, London, UK