- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
There is much to admire in Serbian movie-making - but the trend towards sexually explicit and violent films is in danger of playing up to negative stereotypes of the region, Greg deCuir says.
“Sexual expressionism, or Pornographic Realism, is a new trend in Serbian cinema in which young directors explore provocative views of sex and mix this with extreme violence,” Greg deCuir says, referring to films like Made in Serbia, The Life and Death of a Porn Gang, A Serbian Film and the award-winning film Clip, which is currently playing in Serbian cinemas.
In his words, these films, which are accused of tabloid-ism, reflect a trend towards extreme violence, which needs to be paid attention to and understood.
“I would not exclude a possibility that this is a marketing strategy aimed at the big festivals. After all, most people in the international community want to see the Balkans as brutal and barbaric,” he maintains.
DeCuir came to Serbia in 2008 when his professor, Misa Nedeljkovic, who taught him Yugoslav film at the University of Oklahoma, suggested that he go to Belgrade and do a PhD on the “Black Wave” in Yugoslav film.
“The Yugoslav Black Wave was one of the most underappreciated, under-examined and amazing phenomena in international film,” he says.
“This is not surprising since the countries of the former Yugoslavia had had long tradition of cinematic excellence. Another reason is that it fought for absolute freedom of culture and expression in an environment that was not absolutely free,” DeCuir recalls.
He believes that contemporary cinematography in Serbia offers a combination of young, talented people and masters like Zelimir Zilnik who are still making films.
“The presence of Serbian and Yugoslav cinema on the international scene was constant and significant throughout the second half of the 20th century,” he notes.
“In the 1960s you had directors like Zilnik, Petrovic and Makavejev and in the 1980s and 1990s there was Kusturica.
“This region is no less important now. The Sarajevo Film Festival is an event of international reputation, as is, on a smaller scale, the Subversive Film Festival in Zagreb. The Yugoslav Kinoteka in Belgrade is one of the oldest and largest film archives in the world.”
But DeCuir believes that the topic of war in contemporary regional cinematography ought to be viewed from a different perspective compared to a few years ago.
“The war was almost two decades ago, which is a lifetime in this hyper-real day and age. A whole new generation was born after the war and is coming of age with no recollection of it,” he says.
In his opinion, the topic of war in regional cinema is bogging the region down in terms of stereotypes.
“The region has the right to have bad memories, but they do not seem to bring anything new to these films,” he says.
“Of course directors can still try and exploit them as was the case with Angelina Jolie and her directorial debut ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’.
A part-time collaborator with the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, DeCuir believes that film students in Serbia lack willingness to make experimental films while focusing on big-budget productions.
“Schools should try and produce more authors rather than more craftsmen. After all, there isn’t a very robust film industry here in terms of employment possibilities. Film students in Serbia lack the same as their colleagues around the world: job opportunities,” deCuir emphasizes.
He believes that the local film industry also needs bigger budgets so that more films are produced.
Despite Serbia’s financial hardship, he believes that Serbs have an extremely high level of film awareness.
“In Belgrade, it is OK to take someone in whom you have romantic interest to the Kinoteka to see a film classic. In America, this would be unfathomable,” he says.
DeCuir currently hosts film evenings at Dom kulture Studentski grad, called Yugoslav Black Wave, based on his book of the same name. Audiences can see the films in the same order as they are presented in the book. Screenings are followed by a discussion.
This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.
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