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LOOKING EAST: The Cinema of Goran Paskaljevic


Wednesday, January 9-------The cinema of Eastern Europe is one of the world’s most complex and rewarding for filmgoers willing to take the journey into the hearts and minds of its singular film artists. Among the most idiosyncratic of these talents is Goran Paskaljevic, one of Europe’s most respected and critically acclaimed directors. While New York audiences may have caught a few of this iconoclastic director’s choice films at film festivals over the years, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is offering the first major North American survey of the visually arresting and intellectually challenging work of this modern cinema master. Beginning tonight  and running through the month, MoMA will present a total of 13 features and two short films, all in new 35mm prints, at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. The director himself will attend a special screening of his debut film BEACH GUARD IN WINTER (1976) on the series’ opening night.

Paskaljevic, who turns 60 this year, was born in 1947 in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. His father had founded the Belgrade Cinematheque, so the young film enthusiast was educated by the films he saw from film masters from Europe, the US and Asia. When he reached the age of 20, he studied cinema at FAMU (Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts), the celebrated film academy in Prague, during the brief, heady period “summer of liberalization”. He returned to his native Yugoslavia in 1973, following the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, to begin a celebrated career by making short films and documentaries for television.

His debut feature, BEACH GUARD IN WINTER (1976), about a young man’s journey to adulthood, marked by the failed marriage of his parents, won him a Special Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival and international acclaim as a new talent on the Eastern European film scene. His films of the next decade were narrative stories driven by restless, all-too-human characters, who attempt to ward off bad luck and the vagaries of fate. His work has been praised by international critics for its ability to find the extraordinary in the reality of everyday life.

In 1992, his film TANGO ARGENTINO, about a boy whose parents deny him their love and attention, who finds love and understanding by helping lonely, elderly people revives their urge to live, was an international hit, winning Audience Award prizes at a number of major film festivals. In 1998, his film THE POWER KEG, also known as CABARET BALKAN, was a definitive work about the mix of melancholy and hopefulness of the new European order following the collapse of the Russian Iron Curtain. It won several festival awards and was one of his few films to receive theatrical distribution in the US.

Although the politics in his films, and his opposition to Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic, were always hidden between the lines, the director felt that his life and the livelihood of his family were in danger, which prompted him to settle in Paris in 1994. As a filmmaker in exile, Paskaljevic made HOW HARRY BECAME A TREE (2001) in Ireland, a dark fable based on a Japanese short story, starring Cillian Murphy and Colm Meaney (who won an “Irish Oscar” for his performance).

His two most recent features deal with the aftermath of the military conflict in the region: MIDWINTER’S NIGHT DREAM (2004) tells the tale of a Serbian soldier who returns to his apartment after incarceration for desertion, only to find it occupied by a woman and her daughter. The film won several awards at the San Sebastian Film Festival. His latest effort THE OPTIMISTS (2006), a five-episode dark comedy inspired by life in post-Milosevic Serbia, won top awards at some of Europe’s most prestigious festivals, but has been hardly seen in the United States.

New York audiences have a chance to discover the sublime poetry and captivating earthiness of this master filmmaker at a film series that has many delights to uncover. For more information on the series, log on to MoMA's website:

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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