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Bos/Hrv/Srp 26 Apr 12

‘Clip’ Shines Grim Light on Belgrade’s Suburban Youth

Young Serbian director Maja Milos is raising eyebrows with her debut film, which uses explicit sexuality to portray the alienated world of adolescents in Belgrade suburbs.

Andrej Klemencic
BIRN Belgrade
A scene from the movie "Clip" | Photo by Youtube printscreen

When Clip managed to sell out at Belgrade’s Sava Centar, which rarely happens with domestic film premiers, director Maja Milos was propelled instantly to the top of Serbia's film world.

After receiving an award at the Rotterdam film festival, she is certain that a bright future awaits her first feature.

This young woman dedicated her previous two short films to exploring female sexuality in contemporary Serbia.

While in Dust, she mixed images from casting sessions of young actresses with a woman relaxing nude at home, her second short „Si tu t’imagine“ was much more violent and made it clear that Milos is on a quest to address the way that Serbia's post-war turbo-folk society swallows the tender side of female sexuality.

While that film addressed the problem of suburban women forced into prostitution, Clip shows a frail suburban teenager forced into sexual games in order to find romance.

 The director does not hide her conviction that sex lies at the centre of her own interests. “I am aroused by explorations of sexuality, predominantly female sexuality,” Milos says.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, Yugoslav film dealt much more with sexuality, which is best seen in works of Dusan Makavejev, Zelimir Zilnik and Zivojin Pavlovic.

“But the wars and transition brought about a new trend whereby people seem to fear sexuality on film because it triggers emotions,” Milos adds, noting that American sex comedies are easier to digest in that sense, simplifying sex by portraying it either in a humorous or vulgar fashion.

In her opinion, sexuality in Serbian film has been reduced to “rape in a haystack“, as society is currently more fascinated by aggression than sex.

Five years ago, Milos saw some clips on the internet of Belgrade adolescents partying, taking drugs and having sex. In a couple of weeks she wrote a scenario for Clip and spent two years looking for suitable actors.

“I wanted to make a love story that takes place in least favourable circumstances,” she emphasizes.

In Clip, we follow Jasna, 14, who lives with her sick father, working mother and younger sister in a sinister-looking Belgrade suburb. At school, she falls for a boy who seems only to have a sexual interest in her. As they struggle through the levels of this impersonal relationship, we see a picture of the despair that is contemporary Serbia.

Asked if she really believes that every school in Serbia looks like an abandoned Eastern-bloc military barrack, and every medical institution looks like Leningrad hospital during the German siege, Milos says she has not exaggerated a bit.

“I did not want to make a ‘postcard’ from Serbia. This is how it really looks. We filmed on real locations. I did not want to go all romantic, nor did I want to dramatize. Most Belgraders can only afford to shop in a Chinese shopping mall and that is our reality,” she insists.

In contrast to the studiedly realistic surroundings, Milos opted not to cast real suburban youngsters.

“After two years of casting, and after more than 2000 teenagers came to auditions, one day I saw Isidora Simijonivic and I knew immediately that she was my lead.

“She and all other actors have no suburban background. They all come from good Belgrade families, but are not unaware of what goes on around them. With the actors, I looked for acting quality, rather than authenticity,” Milos says.

Preparations included adopting turbo-folk music, which features plentifully in the film.

Milos believes that this musical genre, which once was a subculture tied in with war criminals and cheep entertainment, is now the musical mainstream that all youngsters listen to.

“I was anything but a fan of this music but I had to grow to love it, so now you can see me on Belgrade rafts dancing on tables,” she says.

The film does its best to show it has an edge, which Milos achieves mostly by portraying scenes involving explicit sexuality.

“I am unaware whether Serbia legislation protects underage teenagers from onscreen nudity,” Milos answers, when asked why the credits begin with a sentence “No children were involved in scenes depicting explicit sexuality”.

“I merely put that sentence in to protect the actress who was 14 at the time,” she says.

The director is currently looking into other projects that she may start working on in autumn, but she discloses no other details.

As a director who started with artistic nudity and ended up with shots of explicit despair, Milos joins a line of Serbian directors who during the past three years launched works like Serbian Film, Life and Death of a Porn Gang, or Who the Fuck is Milos Brankovic.

All of them depict early-21st-century Serbia as a Sodom and Gomorra, where people are routinely raped, killed or in other ways humiliated.

While all these works try to depict the gruesome nuances as graphically as possible, their weakness is that they deal little with the issues that caused these problems.

But in contrast to the apocalyptic ends to the three films named above, which offer no resolution, the heroine of Clip finds love. This makes her voyage worthwhile and your trip to cinema, where the film is being shown, at least morally, if not cinematically justifiable.

This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.

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