One of the lesser-known facts about Yugoslavia’s Communist leader, Josip Broz Tito, was his passion for movies. Almost every night he had a private screening — often with his formidable wife at his side — and he had a full-time projectionist who had to keep up the supply of suitable films. Yugoslavia itself was a major producer of films, many of them war epics highlighting the heroic struggle of the Yugoslav partisans against the Germans. Tito was happy to approve the allocation of sufficient funds for these and even chose the actor to play him in one memorable film — Richard Burton. Foreign directors and companies took advantage of Yugoslavia’s facilities so that many international features were shot there, including War and Peace. Clips from scores of these foreign and homegrown movies, along with remarkable footage of Tito and his entourage, as well as interviews with his projectionist, actors and directors, form the backbone of a remarkable documentary, Cinema Komunisto, now available on DVD. Directed by Mila Turajlic, it was screened at the EBRD headquarters this week to an appreciative audience including many expats from the constituent republics of the former Yugoslavia. It is essentially a eulogy to film-making but also awakens a nostalgia for a nation that violently fell apart after Tito’s death and the collapse of Communism. Tito was of course a dictator, a President for Life, but less awful than Stalin or Ceausescu. And compared with citizens of other Communist states, Yugoslavs had greater freedom of movement and exposure to the outside world. So Turajlic’s film is a valuable tribute to the positive side to former Yugoslavia, as well as highlighting Tito’s vanity and some of the absurdities. It also makes thoughtful broader points about the role of film in society and in a nation’s image of itself.
Posts Tagged ‘Yugoslavia’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 1st March, 2013
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 12th January, 2013
When the former Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s, the immediate concern of the new states created was to secure their boundaries and to establish the apparatus of a national government. But most also dreamed of the day when they could complete the transition from Communist province to full member state of the European Union. Slovenia — which has always thought of itself as being in central Europe rather than the western Balkans – was the first to achieve that goal, in 2004; Croatia will follow suit this year. But the next is likely to be tiny Montenegro, which only declared independence (from a rump Yugoslavia made up mainly of Serbia) in 2006. Last night, the tiny republic’s chief negotiator for Montenegro’s accession to the EU, Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic, joined London Tory MEP Charles Tannock — who is the relevant rapporteur in the European Parliament — at Europe House to give a presentation on Montenegro’s progress. The government has managed to put together an impressive array of committees and structures in Podgorica to manage the adjustment of Montenegro’s laws and practices to fit in with the EU’s massive acquis communautaire. Interestingly, a sizeable majority of the key people in that process are women. Moreover, local NGOs have been integrated into the deliberations, which is a first. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that Montenegro will complete the accession process before the end of the decade. This is partly because the EU is going through a difficult time at present but also because there is general recognition that Romania and Bulgaria were unwisely fast-tracked into membership in 2007 before they had sorted out some serious deficiencies. As Charles Tannock warned, Montenegro also needs to tackle some issues around corruption and organised crime. But it should become the 29th EU member state one day — or the 30th, if Iceland gets its act together and races past on the inside track.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic, Bulgaria, Charles Tannock, Croatiam, EU enlargement, Europe House, European Parliament, Montenegro, Podgorica, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Yugoslavia | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 3rd October, 2012
The graphic designer Miljenko Licul first made his name working for commercial and public companies in Tito’s Yugoslavia, but it was Slovenia’s declaration of independence 21 years ago that really provided him with a niche. Born in Pula, Croatia, Licul had by then been living for some time in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana and he successfully tendered for a succession of freelance contracts awarded in open competition to design what have become the visual symbols of the new state and therefore its visual idrntity. Much of his work is currently on show in the atrium gallery at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) near Liverpool Street, pride of place being given to his design for the Slovenian currency, the tolar, some of which I still have, even though they were taken out of circulation when Slovenia joined the eurozone. They were remarkably elegant banknotes (as well as meeting the stringent requirements of difficulty to forge) and notably portrayed writers, artists and musicians, not political figures. This small central European state (which dislikes being incorrectly referred to as part of the Balkans) puts great store in style and beauty, a context which gave Licul the freedom to be creative even when designing such banal items as health insurance cards. His widow, Barbara Jaki, Director of the National Gallery of Slovenia, gave a well-deserved tribute to her late husband’s work at the launch of the EBRD exhibition this evening. Few individual graphic artists can have left such a distinctive legacy; not only distinctive of his style, but also distinctive of Slovenia.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 29th May, 2011
The arrest of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic is a significant step towards the normalisation of Serbia’s relations with the rest of Europe and the country’s eventual accession to membership of the European Union. Belgrade had come under considerable criticism from some quarters for allegedly not doing enough to track down the man accused of responsibility for war crimes, notably the killing of an estimated 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995. Following the discovery of Mladic — looking considerably aged and weakened — in a village in northern Serbia (some of whose residents must have known he was there) opens the way to his being tried in The Hague. Mladic’s son insists his father was not guilty of ordering the Srebrenica massacre. It will be for the Court to decide. Certainly, there are some Serbian nationalists who still believe Mladi to be a hero, not a war criminal, as witnessed by the crowd which demonstrated outside the parliament building in Belgrade this evening. Meanwhile, to the relief of Serbia’s President, Boris Tadic, the end to the 16-year manhunt removes an obstacle in the way of Serbia’s EU membership. European integration has been a top priority for the Serbian government since it was elected in 2008. The following year, the European Commission in Brussels proposed visa liberalisation for Serbs. Just how many years it will take for Serbia to be allowed into the EU, however, is another matter, not just because of the rate of progress in accession negotiations but also because of the outstanding issue of Serbia’s non-recognition of the independence of the breakaway, predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo. There is also a certain enlargement fatigue among some of the EU’s current member states. Moreover, some other countries in the Western Balkans — notably Croatia — feel that they deserve to be let in first. One way or another, though, it does seem that most constituent parts of former Yugoslavia will follow Slovenia’s lead and inegrate into the Union, which is a development that should be welcomed.