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Balkan Film Days

Sponsored over a weekend last May 30 and 31st by the Federation of Balkan American Associations, these no frill film days were organized primarily for members of ethnic communities from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Herzegovina, and other countries from former Yugoslavia.

Screening took place at the Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College with a program curated by the author who teaches media research at the college. In keeping with the public service objective, admission to all screenings was free.


With the exception of the documentary Patria Mia (Duskla Zagorac, Bosnia, 2007) covering a sizeable Chinese community  which has settled in Bosnia,  all productions shown were feature films produced between 1997 and 2007.  The program offered an excellent overview of films from the Balkan region which had won a large number of awards in international film festivals. They dealt with the Balkan war experience, its traumatic consequences, problems of coping with engrained ethnic conflicts, xenophobia and persisting prejudices. A region that under Turkish rule experienced for a long period  peaceful co-existence of ethnic groups has  a difficult time to overcome the ethnic antagonisms externally induced in the last century and reinforced by Communist rule and its bloody aftermath when Yugoslavia collapsed.


In spite of the great differences between the countries where these productions originated, whoever watched all of the films shown gained a good understanding of the conflicts ravaging the region and how they played out in interpersonal relations. But more importantly, the audience acquired an insight into the vibrant film culture of the Balkan area.


The program featured SAVRENSI KRUG, The Perfect Circle (Ademir Kenovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1997) the story of two orphan brothers escaping the massacre of their village and attempting to survive in the horror of the siege of Sarajevo). NO MAN'S LAND (Danis Tanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2001) provides a light hearted but biting satire of inconsequential bungling UN forces,  bungling  Serb and Bosnian military, and Western television media against the backdrop of  a Serb and a Bosnian soldier caught up in the lines between their forces. GRBAVICA (Jasmila Zbanic, Croatia, 2006) is a sensitively directed film about a Bosnian mother coming to terms with her daughter and past, her rape by Serbs which she had kept hidden from her 12 year old daughter.  Marka Koastic who directed  PAPER PRINCE (Serbia 2007), her first feature, shows how a seven year old girl copes with conflicts and her family with premature wisdom and perception, a film  which is outstanding as a children's and adult film. The Croatian SORRY FOR KUNG FU (Ognjen Svilicic, 2004), though mistitled, shows the desperate and comical efforts of a family in a small Croatian village  to fit an unmarried daughter returning from Germany into local customs, a task made difficult since she gives birth to a child who had an Asian father. MIRAGE  (Svetozar Ristgovski, Macedonia, 2003) is an over-detailed portrait of a sensitive boy Marco growing up in a dysfunctional family with a gambling and alcoholic father, an apparently mute mother,  a vulgar sister,  a school  by a gang of bullies, and a vagrant delinquent introducing him to crime. Against the background of Macedonia's tumultuous transition to a new economy, labor conflicts involving his father, and his sister going out with an afro-American UN soldier Marco's world is collapsing. He is transformed from an aspiring writer into the killer of his teacher; in his words he cannot escape the gutter.


The program showed Balkan film making at its best. Though the audience coming from that region expressed a desire for lighter fare, showing that the past and its traumas have been overcome


Claus Mueller

New York Correspondent



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