Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Cinema Komunisto

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 1st March, 2013

TitoCinema KomunistoOne 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.

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