Review by Vinoo
Language : Serbian/Croatian
Director : Mila Turajlic
‘This is the story of a country that no longer exists, except in movies’.
With a beginning like that ‘Cinema Komunisto’, a fantastic retelling of the story of a country, Yugoslavia, keeps you glued right through the 101 minutes. This film is a lesson in documentary film-making. Josip Tito aka General Tito started a whole film industry with the sole purpose of writing the history of Yugoslavia, through propaganda films. The Director takes us through whatever remains of the theatres and the studios. The interviews with the chief projectionist of Tito for 32 years, Alexander Leka Konstantinovic, and their biggest star, Velimir Bata Zivojinovic (Yugoslavia’s John Wayne) who has acted in over 300 films and many others like Alfred Hitchcock, Orson welles, Yul Brynner and footage of stars like Sophia Loren make the film memorable and a collector’s item. The seamless editing from footage to interviews to old documents and photographs is so brilliant, one doesn’t notice the duration of the film.
Through the footage of the films Mila Turajlic tells us not just the history of the film industry in Yugoslavia but also gives us a wonderful insight into a country that was.
In 1947, Tito ordered a ‘film city’ to be built in Belgrade, with the sole purpose of producing Yugoslavian film a good majority of which were Partizan propaganda films. Avala became the biggest studio in all of Europe. Tito would go through scripts meticulously and would even scribble notes like ‘This was not how it happened’. He chose Richard Burton to play him in ‘The battle of Sutjeska’ and he was very thrilled when they got his car number plate right, in the film. The studio attracted Hollywood and Tito believed ‘the best way to make them come to Yugoslavia is to make them believe they haven’t left America’. Never were the production houses disappointed with the arrangements and the help on hand at Avala Studios.
The best scene in the film is when Leka is walking through the rubble of what was Tito’s house that was bombed by NATO in 1999, a film can in hand, and says ‘Here is where I would stand and here is where the screen was’, a bit of sadness in his eye as he tells us this. The film has quite a few interesting dialogues ‘Communism is like Jesus Christ…’ and my favourite is when one soldier asks another ‘What time is it?’and pat comes the reply ‘Time for revolution’.
The end credits gives us a list of must watch Yugoslav films including one of the biggest films of all time ‘Battle of Neretva’ for which a bridge had to be blown up and Tanks and Army Jeeps thrown off cliffs. Well… only in Tito’s Yugoslavia could one do something on that scale. ‘The Long Ships’, ‘Genghis Khan’, ‘Marco Polo’, ‘The Iron Cross’, ‘Kelly’s heroes’, ‘Quo vadis’, to name a few, are all films that were shot in Yugoslavia. All films made in Yugoslavia were screened at the Pula Film Festival held annually in a Roman amphitheatre, a short boat ride from Tito’s private island.
Cinema Komunisto. When reality has a different script from the one in your films, who wouldn’t invent a country to fool themselves? A documentary about the Yugoslav movie industry. Here is a clip to the trailer of the film :
This surely has to be the best film I have watched in a long long time. Thanks to the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala. It also had a very interesting package of home videos. They did well to pay a tribute to Chinta Raveendran and Mani Kaul. There was also an interesting package of Women’s Films which included films by Suhasini Mulay, who looks as pretty as she did in ‘Bhuvan Shome’. ‘Life in the Taiga’ by Werner Herzog was mind-blowing to say the least.
I had a good screening of ‘Where the gods give up caste’ which was followed by an ‘Open Forum’ discussion with the audience. It was good to watch the film on big screen with about 200-250 in the audience. Brilliant colours and sound. It was a good experience to be at the film festival I have been going to for seven years in a row, this time as a guest J.
Useless trivia : ‘Cinema Komunisto’ is Mila Turajlic’s debut film. It screened at the Tribeca Film Festival 2011. Tribeca is a festival that was started by Robert De Niro after the attack on the World Trade centre to revive the economy of Lower Manhattan. 1200 films from over 80 countries have been screened at the festival since 2002.
General Tito is supposed to have watched over 8800 films in 32 years. Well… now I can’t really call myself a Cinephile. Thousands more to watch before I can even come close.