Frontline watches the rise and fall of Yugoslavian film in Cinema Komunisto

By William Turvill 

The end of the Frontline Club’s screening season was marked, on Sunday 27 November, with the showing of Cinema Komunisto, featuring a subsequent question and answer discussion led by one of the film’s producers, Iva Plemic.

The film, created by a group of young filmmakers from Serbia, documents the creation and collapse of Yugoslavian cinema, which was heavily influenced by the state of Yugoslavia and its former leader Tito. To the delight of Plemic, one audience member asked immediately about the metaphorical association between the rise and fall of Yugoslavian cinema – Avala Studios, Belgrade, in particular – and that of the nation itself.

“Thank you very much for the question,” she responded. “This really was a big part of the film for us, the creators, and I’m very glad you picked up on it. The film industry, as this movie shows, was heavily supported by the country and by Tito. When he died, and as the country demised, so did this once-great industry. Avala Studios was the focus of the film, but there are many more like it across the old Yugoslavia.”

Plemic was later to justify the film’s implication that Yugoslavia, as a nation, thrived under the rule of Tito. Despite not living during the time of Tito, Plemic answered strongly and assertively. She said:  “Yugoslavia, under Tito, was a successful country. Most people in the nation, led by a hedonistic leader who loved life and films, were happy and lived good lives.” An audience member, who lived in Yugoslavia under Tito’s rule, elaborated: “The western perception runs that Tito was just a dictator but we never felt like that. We didn’t see him as a dictator – for whatever reason, most of us loved him.”

The film, by the end, reports that Avala Studios, alongside Yugoslavian cinema, has crumbled. Asked of the current situation, Plemic said:

“At the moment, Avala is in official bankruptcy. The state is attempting to find a buyer, but with no conditions attached – for all they care, it could be turned into a shopping mall. We, the film makers, have set up a petition on our website because we believe it is a part of our history and its cinematic tradition should continue.”

Following an intense round of questions late on Sunday afternoon, Plemic said that she had enjoyed the experience, despite her initial apprehension. “This is my first visit to the Club and I was worried about what to expect,” she told Frontline.

“People who had been before told me I’d be facing a very well-informed audience and to be careful in the Q&A session. This, and the reputation of the club, made me very nervous. I think it went well, though. Having the film shown at such a big venue was very important for us.”