Serbia, 2010, 101 min
More than a history of the Yugoslavian film industry, this account of a once-illustrious Belgrade studio chronicles how a national cinema was used to create and revise the narrative of a country with an ever-murky identity. Complete with heroes and legends, the fiction did not always cleave to reality. When the studio collapsed with the country around it, a new generation was left to struggle with reinterpreting the self-made myths. Spurred by a movie-mad populace that included cinephile-in-chief President Josip Broz Tito, who screened nearly 9,000 feature films during his tenure and was often deeply involved in the productions, Yugoslavia allocated tremendous resources to making films. Scores of triumphant war films that extolled the nation’s founding gave way to large international coproductions featuring stars like Sophia Loren, Anthony Hopkins and Orson Welles, culminating in an Oscar-nominated epic about a seminal battle of World War II. Told through the proud recollections of the industry’s aging craftsmen and newly restored archival clips from dozens of forgotten films, Cinema Komunisto offers a glimpse into the wild frontier days of a studio where the answer to every challenge, no matter how great, was “no problem.” The film’s charming subjects, including Tito’s personal projectionist, reverently remember the era while acknowledging the disconnect between the way things were and the way they were proclaimed to be. Director Mila Turajlic’s fleet-footed debut is a nostalgic tale of a golden age, with cheerful clips and bright music rendered bittersweet in light of the harsh realities that were to come.
GGA Documentary Feature Contender.