Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cinema Komunisto

Yesterday was such a warm day to be sitting in a movie theater that someone complained to the staff about the stillness of the air at the screening of Cinema Komunisto at the SF International Film Festival. Cinema Komunisto is a documentary about Avala Film Studios, a huge studio in Belgrade, ambitiously created from scratch after World War II. It specialized in "partisan films," WWII epics with casts of thousands, glorifying Communist resistance to the Nazis. The documentary is made up of clips from the movies, archival footage & interviews with old men fondly recalling their work in the industry. In the 1960s, the shady Ratko Drazevic was made head of the studio, & he used lucrative Hollywood partnerships to bring valuable foreign currency into the country. It is bizarre to see footage of Richard Burton meeting & then portraying Yugoslav dictator Tito. Even weirder is seeing Orson Welles proclaim Tito "The greatest man in the world." The movie's best find is Leka Konstatinovic, Tito's personal projectionist, who chased down movies & put on private screenings for the dictator on most nights for over 30 years. I wanted to know more about these evenings.

Director Mila Turajlic appeared after the screening for a Q&A. She explained how an initial concept to do a history of the film studio turned into a history of the era itself. All the people she approached to be in the movie initially refused, & it was only through a great deal of persuasion that she got her interviews. She said that Tito is already disappearing from the minds of people in the Serbia, as is, incredibly, the decade of Milošević. The studio itself is being privatized & sold off, & the fate of its archives is uncertain. People at the screening were curious about the standing of dissident director Dušan Makavejev. Ms. Turajlic described his situation as "complicated" & admitted that he was outside the scope of her film.

§ Cinema Komunisto
director, Mila Turajlic

San Francisco International Film Festival 54
Sat, Apr 30 3:15 / Kabuki
Tue, May 3 6:30 / PFA
Wed, May 4 3:15 / Kabuki

No comments: