Emir Kusturicas Underground: A Textual Examination (BSY Short Film Guides Book 2)

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On the ground it functions as an independent state which, however, does not control its north-west fringes, the majority Serb regions north of Kosovska Mitrovica. In the ministry of culture was formed and it immediately began to co-finance films. However Kosovo, which was in any case poor, was additionally ravaged by the effects of war and undefined political status, so that the economic foundations for cinema were poor. To a certain degree this was also the case in Kosovo.

The Thirst of Kosovo and Anathema deal with the sufferings of Albanians in the Kosovo war but — in the case of Anathema — also with the difficulties of a single mother in the patriarchal Kosovo society. Border Donkey by the director Ahmetaj is a political comedy that shows the difficulties of the Albanians during the seventies and eighties, in the period when their ethnic body was divided between two totalitarian states Albania and SFRY that eyed one another with mistrust, and where the border region was an area of constant tension for which Albanians on both sides bore the brunt.

Nevertheless, of the five feature films made in Kosovo immediately after its secession, Kukumi had by far the greatest international echo. It is a black comedy by Iso Qosja, a director who also worked in the Yugoslav period and whose film Proka is often singled out as a classic of Kosovo production from the eighties Sopi, This unexpected, somewhat subversive approach to the new statehood awoke interest abroad, so Kukumi became a minor festival hit.

It won the jury award at the Sarajevo Festival, and then also the peace award of the Veneto region, which is awarded as part of the Venice Festival. A further limiting factor for film production in Kosovo is the practically non-existent home market, considering that there are only three or four cinemas in all of Kosovo Sopi, Under such circumstances, live-action feature films in Kosovo are still more often the exception than the rule, but the simpler and cheaper documentary production is developing. Kosovo is also developing the documentary film festival Dokufest in Prizren, which has since its foundation in acquired considerable regional renown.

In the last third of the nineties this office was held by Antun Vrdoljak, film director and former Vice-President of the Republic. All the data in this part of the text were supplied by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.

Domestic film holds the same market position in many — mostly non-European — countries: Turkey, Egypt, Iran, South Korea. However, in the European context the market domination by domestic film during the nineties in Serbia really is an exception.

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However, when the film producers saw the context the film was being shown in, they withdrew it from the festival. These numbers would have been excellent for Croatian and Slovenian cinema, but were far below what had become the standard in Serbia. It is important to note that the films became hits despite a language barrier: both were made in the archaic torlak dialect of southeast Serbia, which the urban viewer finds difficult to understand.

The countries of Eastern Europe that emerged from the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union did not, unlike the countries of Yugoslavia, go through war and interethnic violence in their transition: there was no bloodshed during the process of national emancipation and the transition to democracy in the European part of the Soviet Block, with the exception of street violence in Romania and a short-lived escalation into war in Lithuania.

However, all the other transition-related challenges facing the young democracies emerging from the earlier real-socialism were largely the same as those encountered by the post-Yugoslav societies.

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The package of these social changes, typical of transition, also included changes in cinema. Before the cinemas of Eastern Europe differed in the level and wealth of national tradition.

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In some lands — such as Czechoslovakia — this tradition was rich, in others — such as the countries of Yugoslavia — insignificant. But after film studios were nationalised in the late forties, accompanied by the establishment of complete party control over the film industry Liehm and Liehm, , the countries belonging to the Soviet sphere got film industries that differed in details, but were essentially the same. Film studios were state-owned and production was controlled. Unlike the polycentric Yugoslav model, production was centralised, usually subjected to the committee, the cinema commission or the ministry of culture.

This enabled communist parties to control the content of films both formally and informally through the internal mechanisms of filmmaking enterprises. The number of examinations through which a scenario must pass makes cinema work very difficult for writers … A scenario goes to an editor of the scenario department and the editor-in-chief.

Then the editorial board of the scenario department and afterwards the art council of the studio discuss it. The decision of the art council must be approved by the director of the studio. The studio is not entitled to sign a contract with the author, however, until the Main Administration of Cinematography gives its consent. And so at this point, the scenario is sent there. Again it goes to an editor of the scenario department and to the editor-in-chief, and from then to the assistant chief of the Main Administration. Then straight to the chief himself, whose signature authorises the studio to make its arrangements with the author.

A verdict is rendered at 10 levels… Liehm and Liehm, Immediately after World War Two all the countries in the Soviet sphere of influence — also including Yugoslavia in the first, short period — went through a shorter or longer period of compulsory socialist realism Zhdanovism , an aesthetic doctrine that imposed not only desirable subjects, character types and narrative stereotypes, but also laid down strong formal requirements.

This kind of repression over the freedom of formal expression lasted for different periods of time in different communist countries. In Poland it already slackened considerably in the mid-fifties. In the s socialist realism definitely became an object of scorn, even a politically discrediting label.

In Czechoslovakia and Russia the break with socialist realism came with the auteur film of the sixties.

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In Romania a similar re-dogmatising took place in , when a more tolerant atmosphere in cultural policy was reversed under the influence of the so-called July Theses Bradeanu, For Eastern European filmmakers the modernist style and poetics meant much more than formal liberation. There, a move to auteur cinema meant more than liberation from market requirements or studio production standards, as in the West. Much more than in the West, modernism in style was an expression of individuality, of a free spirit, non-conformism, anti-establishment defiance.

These connotations made Eastern European auteur modernism attractive to local audiences, and also to foreign film archives, festivals and distributors. It is therefore not surprising that the full international affirmation of Czechoslovak, Polish, Hungarian and Yugoslav film went hand in hand with the prevalence of auteur film in the late fifties and the sixties.

In Western Europe this model of auteur film had for the most part already been abandoned by the end of the s, but in the East it was artificially kept alive in the context of dictatorship. In the Gorbachev era cultural life was liberalised in all European communist countries except Albania and Romania, resulting in the appearance of a new wave of provocative political auteur films.

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  5. Furthermore, as the Velvet Revolution seethed in Eastern European countries a lively interest awoke in the West for culture and films from the Communist block. In the late eighties a specialised festival for Central and Eastern European films was founded in Trieste, Alpe Adria Cinema, which grew out of the student film-study group La Cappella Underground. Things changed completely very soon after the communist regimes broke down. Eastern European films lost the allure of forbidden fruit. Once more film festivals serve as a good indicator. Not a single Polish or Czech film managed to enter the competition in Cannes after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the first Hungarian film did not make it until In the meantime, socio-economic circumstances did not favour this obsolete cinema culture, either.

    As Dina Iordanova wrote:. The shift to a market economy affected every level of film industry, from its basic infrastructure to its forms of financing and administration.

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    7. The rapid privatisation of many cultural institutions, film studios foremost among these, film production was to undergo a drastic transformation. The funding crisis led to shrinking production, particularly in features and animation. Financing for film production changed profoundly, moving from unit-based studio system to producer-driven undertakings. Iordanova, a: 2.

      A great number of cinema theatres in towns had disappeared during the privatisation process, and multiplexes were not yet even in view. The Eastern European public, hungry for imported Western culture, ignored domestic films and they were pushed onto the margins of the market:. Domestic films, bearing a stamp of a lofty art-house tradition and the historical mission of national artist, came to compete at the box office with popular Hollywood fare in the theatres and on international film market: and were doomed to lose on both fronts.

      All the efforts to secure channels of distribution and screening at festivals faced the new reality in which Eastern European films were no longer attractive. An obvious consequence of this process was a fall in production. This came to expression most in the largest Eastern European cinema — Russian — where feature films had been made in , the number falling to in and only 46 in , and hitting the bottom in — only 26 Graffy, 5.

      This initial production crash did not happen only in the great cinemas, like Russian. It also affected small ones, such as Albanian, which produced 14 feature films in and only three in After a halt in production in the early nineties, after the number settled at two to three a year Sopi, This early, shocking fall in production happened in almost all post-communist countries, but after recovering from the shock their film industries began to split in two clearly distinct groups: in the first were often smaller countries in which feature-film production turned to clear-cut commercialism and a struggle for local viewers, like in Poland, the Czech Republic or Serbia, and later also in Russia.

      The old modernist authors were completely unprepared for this new context. Many classics of modernism suddenly faced the unpleasant fact it was just as difficult, or perhaps even more difficult, for them to obtain a green light for a project in the market-oriented cinema production, as it had been in the corridors of the Soviet regime-governed apparatus.

      Some of them were definitely disarmed by this new context: the best examples are two cult-status directors from the Soviet eighties, Elem Klimov and Aleksei German, who practically disappeared as filmmakers.

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      Under the new circumstances, the Eastern European film industry understandably also embraced new subjects. The most important novelty was many films about subjects that had been prohibited in the previous period. Most typical of these taboo subjects were compulsory nationalisation, secret services and undercover agents, gulags, contract murders and the troubles of dissidents and freethinking artists.

      In all of Eastern Europe film screens suddenly showcased aggressive, leather-coated undercover agents, and prisons, institutions, army barracks and camps became privileged film locations. By offering a highly naturalistic, almost grotesque image of the past, and an accompanying absolute negation of the entire era, the directors are also dealing with their own guilty conscience of conformism.

      Delcheva, Since the characters they showed were often simplified, black-and-white and rigid, they could not have any success in the art niche, and Eastern European audiences shrank from them for at least two reasons. The first was that they had themselves spent most of their lives in the former regime, usually entering into various kinds of pragmatic compromises, so they felt films about uncompromising, anti-regime martyrs as a kind of attack on their own lives. The books and films belonging to this trend do not re-evaluate communism, there is no revision of revision.

      Post-Yugoslav Film: Style and Ideology

      The communist period is shown from the viewpoint of ordinary people, the focus is on everyday life under totalitarianism and shows pragmatic strategies for survival and everyday functioning. Most Eastern Europeans, who had lived lives of this kind, found it much easier to identify with this view of the past than with stories about outstanding dissident martyrs.

      Since he can no longer keep from his mother that the DDR has disappeared, the hero organises the kind of unification of Germany that his communist mother would find acceptable. In this parallel history, which he puts together for her by editing television inserts, the German Democratic Republic is not a passive, sinking object of annexation that has been permitted to join the dominant, victorious West.

      After the fall of communism, people in the former communist countries found themselves in the midst of a process over which their own societies had no control, but were passive objects. In the new Europe, the East became a passive receptor of technology, pop culture and lifestyle, the Eastern economy is owned by and under the control of the West, and political systems are harnessed in a process of mimicking the West, which assesses the success of the mimicry in accession negotiations and, later on, membership in the EU and NATO.

      On the contrary, this culture, by capitalising on the frustration of the East, carved itself a specific market niche within the capitalist market culture, becoming its functional and successful part. One possible reason is surfeit, because this had been the overriding cultural trend for six or seven years. Another reason, more probable, is the gradual generation change among filmgoers: the twenty-year olds who filled cinemas in the new decade could no longer have any personal memory of the preceding age.

      The post reappraisal of history did not cover only the period of communism but equally, if not even more, involved earlier historical periods. It is not difficult to explain why this is so: fourteen new national states were created in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Wall, or even eighteen if we add Kosovo and the Transcaucasian Republics. Even established national states such as Poland, Hungary and Romania felt this need, in the first place because in the communist period the official historical narrative had been subjected to the ideological dictate of Marxism and brotherhood with the USSR.

      In this context, historical films played the same role as memorial statues, banknotes, street names and the like: they served to produce an illusion of continuity which was to a great measure a construction. Moreover, this role of the history genre is not new in Eastern European culture. In many Eastern European literatures — including Croatian — this genre was the backbone of the story-telling tradition, and it included many different and old sub-genres.

      History epics continued to be filmed in post-communist times, now no longer as state projects in the name of the national ideology but as business projects which exploited the obvious attraction of history for the Eastern European audience. This gave rise to two paradoxes.

      The first is that such films, although they exploited national sentiments, were usually made in international coproduction arrangements.