In the ex-Yugoslavia, people made low budget movies mostly, but also the partisan movies about the most important battles during the Second World War with, of course, high budget. However, the Yugoslav film had been respected and also been well accepted in the world, and for many years, film production was very important activity. The old Yugoslav movies were literally Yugoslav, because the shooting team was composed of people from all parts of the ex-Yugoslavia; it wasn’t possible to make an ethnically pure film. The best film artists and professionals have worked on every film. With the disintegration of the Yugoslav state the Yugoslav cinematography also disintegrated, which naturally had the hard consequences on the quality of movies. Even though the Yugoslav movies have stopped to exist, the newly created countries and their cinematography can not avoid leaning against the former tradition, because new generations are educated in the spirit of the Yugoslav film. Of course, we can see new trends, new directions, but in every better movie there are noticeable tracks and heritage of the previous Yug-oslav cinema-tography; all successful movies filmed in the newly crea-ted countries are like the old Yugoslav films. Today, after the wars in the nineties, very slowly people are beginning to make movies in which film artists and professionals from different parts of ex-Yugoslavia participate.

The war which had been raging during the nineties in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia became a movie topic in all newly created countries. Tenths of movies were made which are directly or indirectly engaged in war thematic. Slovenia, the north and most developed ex-republic of Yugoslavia, had not been gripped by war like Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, which maybe resulted in a fact that movie Autsajder (The Outsider) is about the roots of the war, while other movies are about consequences of the war. In Croatia  historic movies were made like a metaphor for actual events, but now movies are also   made by the authors of the new generation, like  Svjedok (The Witness) by Vinko Bresan and Fine mrtve djevojke (Nice Dead Girls) by Dalibor Matanic, which square accounts with ideological burdens and reveal a part of the personal responsibility in war conflict. In Bosnian cinematography worth noting are films like Savrsen krug (A Perfect Circle) by Kenovic, through Mustafic, to Gori vatra (Fuse) by Zalica, and of course Nicija zemlja (No one’s Land) by Danis Tanovic, which won Oscar and which also made success thanks to co producers from Slovenia. 

Same of the movies, which exposed the anomaly of the society in Serbia, had been in conflict with the regime of Slobodan Milosevic (ex- president of Serbia, now imprisoned at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague). The authors were critical, and the regime had considered them as anti-Serbian activists. But, that very topic contributed to the reputation of Serbian cinema worldwide. Film Directors Goran Paskaljevic, Goran Markovic and Srdjan Dragojevic made the image of the war more complex. South of ex-Yugoslavia, in Macedonia, which also had came out of the war struggles, but had national conflicts between Albanians and Macedonians, the film Pre kise (Before Rain) by Mancevski pointed at the total absurdity of living together in the Balkans, and the crisis which had caused the disintegration of Yugoslavia.  

For the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian movies, subtitles are not necessary; these peoples understand each other. It means that in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia common cinematography is unavoidable, and that the cinema network is almost reestablished. Because the language is a strong cohesion force, it is possible to see on credits and cast the names from different parts of ex-Yugoslavia. Very slowly, and gradually there appears a common market which opens way for co-production movies.

In the period of Josip Broz Tito, the situation was strange; the regime regularly financed the movies which were anti-regime. Authors criticized the regime, the movies were critical with regard to socialism and Titoism, yet at the same time, they showed certain understanding for the present situation. In the meantime, in the beginning of the nineties, when Slobodan Milosevic took power, a different kind of taste was trendy; the newly-composed culture (a term with a pejorative meaning which describes subculture which replaced culture) and populism dominated. The previous values and everything which had contained some good taste were destroyed. During the Milosevic’s regime, there existed a tacit support for piracy which has not been eliminated in an adequate way to this day. Even though there existed the necessity for the movies, it was getting harder to make movies, because if the film was successful, the state gave it less support. Fortunately, the opinion survived that cinema was important and that it needed support of successful people, managers of successful companies who have had money and that it should survive. A film director would collect money for several years, but in spite of the poverty and hard conditions, every year in Serbia more or less ten movies had been made. At the same time, there are also ten film festivals. Cinematography in Serbia shows vitality in spite, first of all, the invasion of foreign films, in the first place American movies, and piracy. But without the correct approach of the state in this field, cinematography is going to die. Numerous American movies and piracy are the most painful segment of the Serbian cinematography and its cinema market. The state has absolute rights and ways on their disposal, if it really wants, to resolve these problems. However, Serbia has not passed a law on cinematography, but it has a new low and regulations in the field of copy rights, and in the field of protection of the intellectual property.

In the post-Milosevic period, cinema can be divided into the movies which have the support from the Ministry for Culture, and into the movies which don’t have this support. Secondly, the situation is difficult because the sponsors’ support is often minimal; it is less by half now. Because of this, the contemporary cinema in Serbia is divided into the ‘’state’’ cinematography (a few very expensive projects), and into ‘’non-state’’ cinematography (the remaining films). 

The Cinema Center of Serbia was established pursuant to the new Law on Cinema. The Section for Cinema will be created as a part of the Ministry for Culture. The Center will contribute to improving conditions of work in Serbian cinematography. Because of that, even a domestic movies which don’t have direct piracy competition have tree times less audience today than five or six years ago when there was also piracy. Long existence of the piracy was a dominant reason. One piracy copy is cheaper than a cinema ticket; there is an interest to visit the theater hall, but there is no interest for the movies. Number of theaters (cinema hall) in Serbia fell from 400 in the beginning of the nineties to slightly over one hundred. This bad situation is also influenced by piracy of TV stations, mostly of TV cable stations, which rebroadcast channels or programmes of the same channels, which they are not allowed to do. This policy keeps people at home, and they do not think at all whether the programme is legal or not. Most of theaters have been decayed, they are ruined and it is not possible to see a film in proper conditions. 

In spite of enormous economical decay in Serbia, movies are being shot, and there are some reasons for that, besides the long tradition, of course. Let me remind you that already six months after the first public presentation of the cinematography of the brothers Lumière in the Indian Salon of the Grand Cafe in Paris, on 28th December, 1895, a movie was also shown in Belgrade, on 6th June, 1896. The first feature film Karadjordje ili Zivot i dela besmrtnog vozda Karadjordja, (Karageorge or Life and Work of Immortal Duke of Karageorge) was shot in 1911. The producer was Svetozar Botoric, and the director Ilija Stanojevic – Cica Ilija, a very famous actor of that time; the cameraman was Luouis de Berry. But, before that documentary film had been shot already in the beginning of 1897, Andre Carre, the representer of the brothers Lumière, shot during his second visit to Belgrade, according to old newspaper clips, five films: Kalemegdanska šetnja (A Walk Through Kalemegdan), Tramvajska stanica na Terazijama(Terazije Streetcar Station), Izlazak radnika iz Fabrike duvana (Workers are Leaving the Tobacco Factory), Povratak Kraljev iz Sofije (Return of the King from Sofia), and Sveèanosti 22. februara (The February 22nd Celebrations).

The long cinema tradition influenced people to like and respect domestic movies, which has resulted in the great number of spectators. Domestic movies have a much greater rating than the Hollywood-produced  block busters. The last film from the list of domestic best movies, according to public polls, has been seen by much more spectators than any best Hollywood spectacle. The costume feature film Zona Zamfirova (2003) by Zdravko Sotra was seen by one million spectators (in Serbia live seven and a half million people). Popularity of Serbian movies is based on their topics, because their authors are occupied with difficult and actual political themes. But, last time there were a lot of comedies, which means that the domestic cinematography has been liberated from the posttraumatic war syndrome. Movies from the recent productions, through a different approach to the genre, acclaim to the taste of audience who want a good entertainment, and the authors give them what they want. A rare presentation of the Serbian movies at the most important world festivals is worrying. This is not only because of bad taste and superficial films, but also because the state itself does not have a strategy in this field, and there is a common decline of quality and a process of tabloidation, i.e. low taste which is a disease of the overall Serbian society. It is obvious that on the cinematography scene there are no new directors like Goran Paskaljevic, Goran Markovic, Emir Kusturica, etc.

Nada Savkovic

Born in Novi Sad, capital of the Province Voivodina in Serbia, studied literature at the Faculty of Philosophy. Author of the following books : Nine years with Milosevic, Angels of Novi Sad, Voivodina Cultural Heritage. She was journalist of the daily newspaper ‘Dnevnik’. She is the Founder President of the Cinema Club ‘Amarcod’, Novi Sad. Based in Serbia.