September 2015, arsenal cinema

Black Waves, Red Horizons – New Yugoslav Film


What is known today as the Yugoslav Black Wave ("crni talas") started out in the early 1960s as New Yugoslav Film ("novi yugoslovenski film"). The movement questioned old myths, challenged the political order and called loudly for a better kind of socialism. The discrepancy between daily life and the ideal socialist society led to disappointment about the stagnation in building socialism. However, the criticism of the system was meant in a constructive way. The attack on authority and official ideologies concurred with the demand for an egalitarian society and constant further development of revolutionary ideals. A far cry from partisan film – the partisan struggle against German occupation was one of the founding narratives of socialist Yugoslavia – whose heroes dominated the post-war cinema landscape, the films of the Black Wave were about society's flip side. Analytically acute and frequently featuring anarchic humor, they shed light on poverty, unemployment, homelessness, violence, and knew no taboos. They were often characterized by a bleak, fatalistic perspective and did not fail to provoke an official reaction. The name "Black Wave" was coined in 1969 by a functionary who wrote a disparaging article in the newspaper Borba ("Struggle") about the films and their way of looking critically at Yugoslav society, in contrast to partisan films (which today are known as the "Red Wave"). Želimir Žilnik used the originally defamatory term ironically when he made his short CRNI FILM (Black Film). Although there was no official censorship, many films were shelved and directors were prevented from working. The blossoming of Yugoslav film was made possible by the decentralization and democratization of film production in the early 1960s. Josip Broz Tito broke with Stalinism in 1948 and Yugoslavia followed a special path between plan and market economy, in which democracy, pluralism and an opening to the West were to be linked with the ideals of a just society. Thanks to this climate, by the 1960s there existed a huge societal and political dynamism that led to intellectual freedom and many avant-garde movements in literature and art. Most of the Black Wave directors began their careers as amateurs in film clubs that had been set up after the war in various cities of all the Yugoslav republics as part of an emancipatory cultural policy. The directors of New Yugoslav Film also broke with conventional forms. They shattered genres and subjects, looking for new, individual forms of expression, and moved freely between fiction, documentary and experimental film. In aesthetic terms, the films are very heterogeneous. Whereas directors such as Aleksandar Petrović and Živojin Pavlović preferred more realistic, linear narratives, Želimir Žilnik's films feature a bold mixture of agitprop and documentary-like elements. In their films, Dušan Makavejev and Lazar Stojanović's combined archive footage with their own material in a collage-esque way to create subversive montage. Today, Black Wave film is almost unknown. With the exception of a few renowned protagonists, such as Dušan Makavejev and Želimir Žilnik (who both continued to make films into and beyond the 1970s), most of the directors and their works have been forgotten outside of former Yugoslavia. With our "Black Waves, Red Horizons" retrospective we want to shed light on this important period of Yugoslav cinema and are pleased to welcome two important representatives of New Yugoslav Film - Želimir Žilnik and Karpo Godina - to Arsenal. The films will be put into context by a series of introductions and lectures about the relationship between love, sex and politics, about workers’ organizations and about the representation of women in socialism.

We will open the program with shorts by Krsto Papić and Želimir Žilnik (4.9., Guest: Želimir Žilnik).
(The Hub, Krsto Papić, 1970) A new, modern train station in the province of Croatia, where the only problem seems to be the numerous, unemployed people or as the station master complains: Why do films always have to show the bad side?
(Black Film, Želimir Žilnik, 1971) Žilnik picks up 10 homeless people (who do not officially exist) from the streets of Novi Sad one night and takes them home with him. While they live in the two-room flat that he shares with his wife and small daughter, Žilnik asks passers-by on the street  how to solve the problem. "It is a film about the class structure of Yugoslavian society but also about the abuse of the déclassé for film purposes; it shows how the filmmaker exploits social hardship." (Ž. Ž.)
(The Unemployed, Želimir Žilnik, 1968) Žilnik confronts various unemployed people with a series of questions that are edited together to create a universal portrait of unemployment, where there is no trace of socialist optimism but plenty of disappointment about the economic reforms.
(Uprising in Jazak, Želimir Žilnik, 1973) The elderly inhabitants of a village in Vojvodina look back on the war and the partisan battles. The film also examines how collective memories and myths enter the individual consciousness.
(Let Our Voices Be Heard Too, Krsto Papić, 1971) A loving portrait of a pirate radio station, which is run by the rural population with plenty of passion and talent in the face of opposition from the authorities.

NEMIRNI (The Naughty Ones, Vojislav Kokan Rakonjac, 1967, 5.9., Introduction: Vedrana Madžar & 11.9.) opens with a serious car accident on the streets of Belgrade. Investigators discover that four minors stole the car and caused the accident. The young woman who was behind the wheel according to eyewitnesses cannot be found - the search continues. Set in the counter-culture of 1960s Belgrade, NEMIRNI, whose soundtrack was composed by the local band Elipse, is considered to be Yugoslavia's first rock'n'roll film. The director's sudden death at the age of 34 in unexplained circumstances two years after the film came out also contributed to its cult status. As opposed to most auteurs of the Black Wave, who made their films mainly in rural areas, Rakonjac preferred urban settings. His film is characterized by a melancholy atmosphere, which accompanies the alienation and changes in human behavior caused by new circumstances.

PO ISTI POTI SE NE VRAĆAJ (Don't Come Back By the Same Way, Jože Babič, 1965, 6. & 15.9.) Jože Babič's films are not usually placed in the Black Wave category. Yet, he was the only director of the time to portray one of the most controversial themes in socialist Yugoslavia in a critical manner. PO ISTI POTI SE NE VRAĆAJ tells the story of a few untrained construction workers from poor underdeveloped parts of the country, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina or Macedonia, who carry out seasonal work in the highly-developed republic of Slovenia. Far from home, problems arise for the men - with their families, alcohol, the local population's derision and the "real Slovenian workers".
(Special Trains, Krsto Papić, 1972, 6. & 15.9.) follows Yugoslavian "guest-workers" on their train journey to Germany. At Munich's main station, they land up in a basement. When they register, their names are replaced by numbers.

ČOVEK NIJE TICA (Man Is Not a Bird, Dušan Makavejev, 1965, 7. & 13.9.) Makaveyev is not only the most famous but also the most subversive and idiosyncratic director of the Black Wave. His feature-length debut is about the model worker Jan Rudinski, who is sent to the copper mines of the Serbian provincial town of Bor to supervise the construction of new machines and to boost production. Although he is completely focused on his work, the young hairdresser Rajka (Milena Dravić) manages to kindle a relationship with him. There is also Barbulovic, who works in the same factory, but likes a drink and an argument. A hypnotist who comes to town can be read as criticism of people's faith in simple truths and ideologies.

W. R. MISTERIJE ORGANIZMA (W. R. – Mysteries of the Organism, Dušan Makavejev, Yugoslavia/BRD 1971, 8. & 18.9.) Makavejev's masterpiece: A wild, ludicrous, associative montage of documentary material, staged passages and film quotes, in which Makavejev proposes the thesis that a free (communist) society and free love are inseparable. Following two separate narrative threads, he tells the story of the psychoanalyst and sex expert Wilhelm Reich (1897 - 1957) whose concept of "orgastic potency" and "orgone energy" made him a controversial figure among the psychoanalysts of Vienna and in the US where he was later exiled, on the one hand. On the other, he tells the story of Milena, a young Yugoslav woman who tries to put his revolutionary theory of political liberation through sexual liberation into practice with a dogmatic Soviet figure skater called Vladimir Illich. The cultural authorities considered this shattering of political and sexual taboos too dangerous - they banned the film and Makavejev was forced abroad to continue working.
(Vlatko Gilić, 1971, 8. & 18.9.) is about a mudbath near the small Serbian town of Bujanovac that is famous for healing illnesses. People cover themselves from head to toe in mud and then float on the water: Vlatko Gilić created a ghostly, surrealistic scenario, whose everyday quality is concentrated into an allegory of human suffering and quest.

RANI RADOVI (Early Works, Želimir Žilnik, 1969, 9. & 30.9., Introduction: Antonia Majaca) Named after Karl Marx's early works ("additional dialogue: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels"), Žilnik's feature debut, is an examination of the hopes of the 1968 student protests in Belgrade. Three young men and one young woman set off in a clapped-out car to the country where they call upon the population to emancipate themselves and develop political awareness and attempt to put revolutionary theories into practice. Frustrated by the resistance they meet and their lack of success, they turn to self-destruction. The film begins with the word "Comedy" and ends with a quote by the French revolutionary Saint-Just: "Those who carry out only half a revolution do nothing but dig their own grave!" This by turns angry and boisterous film won the Golden Bear at the 1969 Berlinale. 

TRI (Three, Aleksandar Petrović, 1965, 10. & 18.9.) The protagonist Miloš Bojanić is confronted with death from three different perspectives during the war, between 1941 and 1944. In the film's first chapter, he witnesses how an innocent man is murdered after an angry crowd gets agitated. In the second, he is shown as a partisan escaping from the Germans. The barren wasteland through which he is hunted reflects his loneliness and despair when he watches as a comrade is murdered in a bestial manner. The third chapter takes place at the end of the war: He is a disillusioned commander who has to agree to the execution of a young female collaborator. With haunting, minimalistic imagery, Petrović questions the myth of the partisan struggle. TRI was very successful in and outside of Yugoslavia and earned the director, one of the most important and productive of the Black Wave, his breakthrough.

ULOGA MOJE PORODICE U SVETSKOJ REVOLICIJI (The Role of My Family in the Revolution, Bato Čengić, 1971, 10. & 17.9.) Named after the eponymous 1969 novel by Bora Ćosić (who wrote the screenplay with Bato Čengić), the film is a satirical observation of a bourgeois family, which is very enthusiastic about communism, and its experiences when the communists march into Belgrade. While the daughter falls in love with a serious young partisan, the son eagerly joins the party to fight for world revolution. Even though the blessings of communism meet all expectations to begin with (Swiss chocolate!) disappointment soon follows. In a collage of snapshots and in the guise of a show featuring musical numbers, this "Marxist revolutionary comedy that pays homage to Karl and Groucho Marx" (Melbourne International Film Festival) is full of anarchical wit.

KAD BUDEM MRTAV I BEO (When I Am Dead and Pale, Živojin Pavlović, 1967, 11. & 29.9., Lecture: Gal Kirn) A prototypical anti-hero of the Black Wave, Jimmy Barka is a casual laborer, who makes his way aimlessly through the country, holding his head above water with petty crime, without any fixed relationships, only looking out for his own advantages. He boastfully tries his hand at singing but this career is doomed to fail like everything else. He is not integrated in Yugoslav society and meets a paltry, cruel end. Using a raw, naturalistic style and an episodic structure, Pavlović throws an ironic glance at a precarious stratum of society for which Socialist promises are nothing but hollow propaganda.
(At Lunch, Vefik Hadžismajlović, 1972, 11.9.) Families say grace for the relatives who have gone "abroad to earn a crust of bread." (Vefik Hadžismajlović)

Shorts program by Karpo Godina (12.9., Guest: Karpo Godina & 23.9.) Karpo Godina (*1943) is a cameraman, director, editor and screenwriter. He not only caused a furore with his own experimental shorts but also did the camera work for many of his colleagues' films (e.g. RANI RADOVI, ULOGA MOJE PORODICE U SVETSKOJ REVOLICIJI). His trademark became the static camera, whose distance to what was being filmed made even clearer his subversive irony.
(Picnic on Sunday, 1968) is about a relaxed Sunday in the country, full of comical characters and events.
(The Gratinated Brains Of Pupilija Ferkeverk, 1970)  is as absurd as the title and takes place in a surrealist setting: Five young men stand in water in different formations, there is a woman on a swing, tablets call on people to consume LSD. The film was shot with the Slovenian performance group "Pupilija Ferkeverk". It was banned after being proclaimed "decadent."
(Healthy People for Fun, 1971) depicts people in front of their houses in Vojdovina, which is populated by different nationalities. The color of the houses indicates where the inhabitants come from. Folksongs tell of love between different peoples.
(The Art Of Love Or a Film With 14441 Frames, 1972) contrasts a Yugoslavian army unit on training maneuvers in a certain region with a group of local young female factory workers. The only contact between the two groups is thanks to Karpo Godina's montage. The film was a originally a commission by the Yugoslavian army but did not depict the military fighting spirit as desired. It was immediately confiscated and scrapped, however Karpo Godina was able to rescue one copy from destruction.
(I Miss Sonia Henie, 1972) A group of international directors (Miloš Forman, Tinto Brass, Paul Morrisey, Buck Henry, Frederick Wiseman, Dušan Makavejev, Puriša Djordević and Bogdan Tirnacić) shot a film together in Belgrade. Each had three minutes and a fixed camera. They had to use the same perspective of a room and meet the condition that the sentence "I miss Sonja Henie" (the Norwegian figure skater and actress) appear. Karpo Godina turned the eight episodes into a film.

DELIJE (The Tough Ones, Miodrag Mića Popović, 1968, 14. & 20.9.) After the Second World War two brothers, both partisans, return to their burnt and devastated village - part of a generation who were lost and emotionally damaged after the war without any prospects for the future and incapable of adapting to peacetime. Without hope, marginalized and rebellious, they are typical Black Wave protagonists. Although the occupants have been overcome, the two veteran brothers who have nothing but an automatic weapon left over from their liberation struggle, turn to warfare.
(In the Slipstream of Time, Vlatko Filipović, 1966, 14. & 20.9.) A documentary about a small mountain village, in which the inhabitants have hardly any connection with the outside world. They live without electricity, without roads, have their own ways of working, 30 kilometers from Sarajevo, 1440 meters above sea level.

JUTRO (Morning, Puriša Đordjević, 1967, 16. & 23.9.) On the first morning after the end of the Second World War, the members of the partisan unit of the city of Čačak start settling scores with their political enemies and "local traitors". This long-awaited morning of freedom does not bring peace at all. The former girlfriend of a commander is to be executed because she is said to have betrayed her comrades under torture. She is not intimidated by the threat of death, but is plagued with shame and the fear of dying in the same place on the river where Yugoslav partisans were murdered by the German occupants during the war. The film is one of the most important works of the Black Wave, with its modernist, fragmentary narrative style, its metaphorical dialogues and expressive music, although Puriša Đorđević, who made 60 films during his career, has been unfairly marginalized by film history. Immediately after the its release, there were loud accusations that the film depicted people and events from the revolution wrongly and was an insult to partisans.

(Plastic Jesus, Lazar Stojanović, 1971, 17. & 21.9.) Stojanović's graduation work from the Belgrade Film Academy is a free collage made from archive material with a loose plot about a young director named Tom who comes to Belgrade to make a film. Stojanović's co-student, the artist Tom Gotovac, played the main role, basing it vaguely on his own experiences. He has no money, somehow makes his way through life, staying with various lovers and eventually being shot by one of them. Sequences from archive material (recordings of different speeches by Tito, the fascist regime of Croatia and Serbia, parallel montage of German occupation troops and partisan groups) seem to comment what is happening ironically and ensured that the film was a scandal: Lazar Stojanović was accused of spreading "enemy propaganda" and spent three years in jail, while his professor Aleksandar Petrović was banned from teaching. It was the Black Wave's punchline. The film first screened in 1990.

KROS KONTRI (Cross Country, Puriša Đorđević, 1969, 19.9., Lecture: Nebojša Jovanović & 22.9.) After his "war tetralogy" about the Second World War and the people's liberation struggle, to which JUTRO belongs, Puriša Đorđević turned to more contemporary themes, particularly daily life in socialist Yugoslavia. CROSS COUNTRY satirically follows the love and sporting life of a pastor's daughter, Jovana (Milena Dravić). She starts cross country training after seeing it on television and falls in love with a young farmer, as well as with other men. The film and its criticism of gender norms and relationships has rarely been placed in the context of the Black Wave because the representation of gender and sexuality is not yet recognized as one of its key characteristics.
OD 3 DO 22
(From 3 To 22h, Krešo Golik, 1966, 19. & 22.9.) A young woman works from three in the morning to 10 at night in the factory. Before and after, she cooks, washes and looks after her child.

SLIKE IZ ŽIVOTA UDARNIKA (Life Of a Shock Force Worker, Bato Čengić, 1972, 22. & 28.9.) Like the concept of the "udarnik" that was introduced to Russia in the Stalin era, there were also "shock force workers" in Yugoslavia. They worked an average of over 12 hours a day - often in dangerous circumstances. They increased production, served as an example for other workers and were highly praised by the state. SLIKE IZŽIVOTA UDARNIKA tells the story of Adem, a hardworking Bosnian coal-miner who has received numerous accolades and medals, gaining nationwide popularity and recognition for being such an exemplary socialist worker. Although Bato Čengić depicts him with great sympathy as a worker who sacrifices himself for the collective good, he generally throws a satirical look on this state-sanctioned practice and the Yugoslavian progress that is proclaimed everywhere. Karpo Godina, who was at the pinnacle of his creativity here, is unmistakably responsible for the imagery with its tableaux vivants.
(Merry Working Class, Bojana Makavejev, 1969, 22. & 28.9.) Bojana Makavejev  was the female director in the male-dominated Black Wave scene. In this film, she accompanies female workers to the factory and portrays how they spend their free time, painting, reading, talking. (al/vm)

The program was curated by Annette Lingg and Vedrana Madžar, with support from the Capital Cultural Fund.

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – Two become one

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La danse
Frederick Wiseman France/USA 2009
DCP OV/GeS 158 min

arsenal cinema: Pedro Costa's Fontainhas Films

08:00 pm Cinema 1


Ossos Bones
Pedro Costa Portugal/France/Denmark 1997
35 mm OV/EnS 94 min

Followed by a discussion with Pedro Costa