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A SERBIAN FILM

Director’s Statement

The roots of an idea for A SERBIAN FILM are located in a decade-long process of

trying to rethink a way to communicate the political, moral and psychological

downfall of Serbia through its almost non-existent Cinema. The screenwriter

constructed the germ of that idea ten years ago in a storyline that would later

become the basis for the film. Five years ago, we commenced a year of intense

brainstorming process through which we developed a synopsis that dealt with

pornography as the only possible metaphor for the almost indescribable and

exploitive chaos that governs such a large portion of our lives. That synopsis

soon turned into a detailed storyline that was developed into a screenplay

three years ago.

The initial idea was to make a film which would incorporate our desire to make

an honest and unflinching depiction of the political and emotional turmoil that

governed our lives in Serbia during the last two decades of wars and transition,

but also to merge that ambition with the wish to make a philosophical,

confrontational genre film which would transcend those agendas into a piece of

cinema that we had always wanted to make. We didn’t want to make a

hermetic picture that would deal exclusively with our local tragedies, but to tell

a story with global overtones, because Serbia is merely a reflection of the ways

of today’s New World in general, as it tries to imitate it and fails miserably.

Contrary to the peerless politically correct facade of the New World, it’s still a

soulless devouring machine for killing every small freedom – of art and free

speech – we have left, destroying everything different in its path.


After the script was finished, we embarked on a very tough and almost

impossible journey of making the first truly independent film production in

Serbia for the last three decades. The government and official cultural

institutions were, needless to say, unwilling to help finance such an

uncompromising project. A project that, unlike almost every film made here in

the past 20 years, chose not to sugar-coat and pamper mainstream art film

audiences and kneel down before European film funds in charge of embracing

by-the-numbers politically correct films from Eastern European countries.

A small independent production company, CONTRAFILM, was founded for the

sole purpose of making this film, and the tumultuous filmmaking journey was

about to begin. For budgetary reasons, we decided to shoot the film on a RED

ONE digital camera, knowing it is the closest to film stock these days, and we

were very much satisfied with it. Our picture became the first in the region to

be shot on RED. To our surprise, two of the greatest star actors in Serbia

immediately responded to our screenplay and wanted to participate in this

challenging project. The majority of the film crew felt the same, because they

related strongly to the ideas and directness that we were aiming for. They

recognized the honesty in dealing with suppressed emotions and problems we

collectively feel as our own here. The shooting went as it usually does with

almost any conventional low-budget art film, with the great dedication and

meticulousness of the crew making it easier to endure. As long as we were left

to our own devices and resources, the thing rolled on. But then, in post-

production, we encountered some of the problems we were addressing in the


film itself.

For months we struggled to get the film transferred to 35mm print because the

labs suddenly reinvented themselves as censors and found themselves unable

to perform their job when it came to our film. After the already-closed deal and

the finished work on the prints in ARRI Lab Munich, the heads of the lab

suddenly showed up, along with lawyers, managers and police-officers, and

expressed their deepest concern dealing with the content of the film, and told

us that they were unwilling to hand us the film-prints they’ve made. We found

ourselves in an absurd one-of-a-kind situation that we’ve never heard of, trying

to explain to the authorities that it’s only a movie, a work of fiction, consisting

of actors and special effects. It obviously didn’t work and we were thrown out

in the street without our film, which was about to be burned in the middle of a

Free World. Thinking that we’d learned some new things about the way the

modern world works, we tried to avoid a similar problem in the second lab we

tried to print our film, Magyar Filmlab in Budapest, by showing them the film

beforehand. They accepted. On the day that we came to pick up our prints, we

picked up their strange letter instead, which said that our film broke Hungarian

civil and family law and that they wouldn’t be able to hand us our film. So we

ended up hitting the free streets of Europe again. Then we came up with the

strategy of dividing the phases of lab work between a couple of film labs

around Europe hoping to avoid further destruction of our film by making it

impossible for the enemy to destroy everything, but only the last step in the

printing process. Somehow we managed to put our film together and we got

the prints a mere ten days before the already arranged world premiere at the
South By South-West independent film festival in Austin, Texas. That about

sums up the story of making it; now more about what’s behind it.

The major metaphorical take concerning this film was to treat real life as

pornography. In our region for the last few decades we have brought ourselves

to the point where we experience our lives as pure exploitation through which

we are emotionally, psychologically and creatively raped by the

incomprehensible, chaotic, unbelievably stupid and brutal forces of corrupt

authority. Through every kind of job you can get in order to feed your family,

you end up being viciously exploited and humiliated in the worst and lowest

fashion. In this country, beaten and battered beyond belief by both the forces

inside and outside of it, spiritual prostitution became the only real currency. We

make the allegory of it all come alive by treating pornography as something

casual and perfectly normal-our everyday life. The virus of that special kind of

pornography has spread to every pore of our existence – political, cultural and

essential.

Through our folklore, the erotic has always been naturally linked and

intertwined with the violent. Violence comes out of our everyday pornography

as much as it is the other way around. Together, the pornographic and the

violent mix into a cocktail that we drink every morning as cheap breakfast.

Through centuries, women and children here have been treated as a male

property and, as their owners, we are allowed to mistreat them in the most

inhuman ways and it all comes off as perfectly normal. This film serves not as a

documentary depiction of our reality, but as an X-ray, a diagnosis of the


malformed and disease-driven soul of our society. That is the reason for

showing the almost unshowable scenes in the film in such unrestrained and

direct manner. The violation, humiliation and ultimate degradation of our being

must be felt and experienced by every viewer so that it cannot be ignored.

Those scenes figure and communicate as literal drawings of our disfigured and

raped emotions. You may call it torture-porn, but to us, it is our life. The scene

with the newborn is the ultimate depiction of that – a life that has been raped

before it has even begun; our meaningless existence that has been cut down at

its core and used for the lowest commercial purposes; our innocence ultimately

defiled and ruptured by our own crooked leaders and directors of our destiny.

Leaders we’ve chosen who have driven us through countless absurd wars

against our brethren during the recent past, and brought us to the nadir of our

own existence and will continue to do so. The luckiest young ones who survive

birth are brought into well-meaning but imperfect families, like the one we deal

with in the film, that are doomed to end in despair of their own incapability to

face their own reality. There are other families also, like the one that accepts

the distorted national tradition of pimping their young for their own benefit –

depicted in the film as the creepy but cheerful grandmother who offers her

grandchild as a gift to our hero.

The futileness of our attempts to deal with our twisted reality and change our

destiny is portrayed through our hero’s journey to find out what has happened

to him and save his already lost family in the second portion of the film. We

always act and try to solve things when it’s too late.

(SPOILER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING TEXT REVEALS MAJOR PLOT POINTS)


The second act of the film intentionally begins when the film is actually over

and our hero tries to solve the puzzle through flashbacks after everything’s

been done. At the crucial point, his mind has been distorted by a violent drug

that enabled him to act out his inner destructive lust and rage and activate his

repressed animal instincts against the weak at the whim of his leader. We used

this particular narrative device to depict our casual and constant state of mind

as people with regular distorted vision and deep and warm addiction to the

drug which is regularly served by our beloved leaders through motivational

political speeches and dreams of national superiority to ease off the pain of

existence and subjugate us to their will. Accordingly, our hero will be forced to

subjugate his own son during the finale and step into the vicious circle of

corruption as a Serbian tiger who eats his young. In the final scene, the broken

family desperately tries to cope with an unimaginable trauma and decides to

treat itself to what it perceives as a dignified end, through collective suicide.

Through the last images of the film we try to show that even the most radical

form of giving up and checking out with any kind of dignity is impossible in our

society. The next wrecking crew of demented authority is already there to pick

up the last pieces of your shattered pride, to chew it up and spit it out for the

hungry consumers to come. Your tragedy becomes irrelevant and your whole

life-death journey through your own hell becomes a parody in its own right.

As much as we try to deal with our life in this film allegorically, and with the

corrupt political authorities that govern it, we are also dealing with today’s Art

and Cinema and the corrupt artistic authorities that govern them in a similar

manner here. The films that preach and enforce political correctness are the
dominant form of cinematic expression today. Nowadays in Eastern Europe you

cannot get a film financed unless you have a pathetic and heartwarming ‘true

story’ to tell about some poor lost refugee girls with matchsticks, who ended

up as victims of war, famine and/or intolerance. They mostly deal with VICTIMS

as heroes, and they use and manipulate them in order to activate the viewer’s

empathy. They make a false, romanticized story about that victim and sell it as

real life. That is real pornography and manipulation, and also spiritual violence

– the cinematic fascism of political correctness. We can freely tag these

pictures as compassion-porn, made to elicit lowest form of sympathy and

compassion and therefore cheapen national, political and personal tragedies.

As much as the pornography in our film depicts our lives, it also describes

Eastern European cinema today – the pornography of a victim. The villain in

our film is a filmmaker dealing with victims, and making ‘snuff victim’ porn. He

is the symbol of compassion-porn Cinema today, using professional victims as

protagonists, as exaggerated versions of sad Disney-like figures of

victimization present in ‘realistic’ films these days. Maybe the all-too-

immediate, direct and, some might say, obvious way of dealing with all those

problems and taboos of modern society and art is what gives this film its real

ferocity and power to disturb, which is the reason why some fear it and its

ideas may turn one wheel too many in our dormant collective mind.

http://www.aserbianfilm.co.uk/statement.html