Hall of the Cultural Center of Belgrade, November 3-5

Open wounds

Friday, November 3th, 11 pm

Men Don’t Cry (fic)
Alen Drljevic
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Germany, Croatia, 2017, 98’

If a body is injured by a knife, a bullet, a blunt object, or whatever that inflicts wounds, then the body, if it survives, cannot be treated by abstract means: by sorcery, for instance, or by telling pretty stories that are common knowledge. The body must be treated by very concrete means. The wound has first to be cleaned, disinfected, and finally sewed. Sometimes the healing processes are even more bloody and painful than injuries themselves, sometimes they can even kill a wounded man, but it must be attempted. The alternative is death. But what about the soul? What about this abstract human quality which is esteemed so highly, but even to this day have we been able to find sufficiently effective means of treating an injured soul. Psychological methods are some sort of homeopathic procedures: similar phenomena are treated similarly, abstraction is treated by abstraction. And then whatever the outcome may be. And the outcome is mostly bad. Men Don’t Cry by Alen Drljevic offers a more brutal procedure: the soul is treated by concrete means.

In an isolated hotel on a mountain that could be anywhere on the territory of former Yugoslavia, a group of war veterans and citizens who are suffering from severe trauma caused by Yugoslav wars voluntarily undergo a modern psychological procedure which is supposed to make their trauma easier. The group is made up of people who speak the same language – Bosnians, Serbs and Croatians – but who belonged to the different conflicting parties in the war. In addition to recalling the events of the war, they are now in a situation to directly face their archenemies. As they speak of the horrors they have experienced, the tension in their current relationships grows. At one point, having found himself in a dead-end, the generally restrained psychologist starts screaming: “You know nothing but violence!”

But violence is always concrete. Faced with violence, with guilt, with despair, they are confronted with themselves, but – and that is what this is all about – with other people, broken, benumbed souls begin to move. Late Night Conversations examine psychological and political mechanisms that concretely inflict wounds upon souls and the same mechanisms that concretely, just as concretely as a knife cuts into meat, sew wounds on souls.

The State Against Citizens

Saturday, November 4th, 11 pm

Million Dollar Life (doc)
Robert Zuber
Croatia, 2017, 78’

The personal tragedy of the Situm family has turned to be a first-class event of public significance. At first, the girl’s severe illness mobilized the citizens of Croatia in the best possible way, but then, while little Nora Situm was still fighting for her life, the smell of (big) money attracted predators, just as a seal’s blood attracts sharks. Had we today, in 2017, lived in “natural conditions” in which there were no institutions, organized cohabitation, in other words, if neither the state (and the media), nor the notion of justice existed, the actions of predators could not be condemned. In natural conditions each and every one is struggling solely for oneself, so at the very beginning the weak, the powerless and the sick are left to shift for themselves. But for a Member State of the European Union, anything can be said but not that it is ruled by laws of nature. Or, perhaps, this is not true, after all?

The huge sum of money that the citizens of Croatia, in their act of solidarity, had collected to help the girl who suffers from a serious illness, suddenly ended up in the hands of a very dubious organization with very dubious goals and extremely dubious methods of handling that money. Not only did a part of the public turn against the girl’s family, but the state itself did not consider it its duty to intervene, so all family attempts to get the money for the treatment of the girl through institutions, or at least to have the donated money transferred to be used for its original purpose – to help citizens who cannot pay the costs of medical treatment – remained futile.

A film about the struggle of citizens for universal values, a struggle in which the state does nothing, or does not do enough to help its citizens, raises the issues which are numerous not only in incomplete states and those not properly ruled by law (such as post-Yugoslav countries), but also the issues of the state itself. Even when it’s a good monster, the “Leviathan” that helps the poisoned seafarers, the state is still a monster. We have seen the most monstrous forms of the state in Nazism and Communism in the 20th century: these countries also killed their own citizens. But the state also appears to be monstrous when it does nothing for its citizens. Late Night Conversations raise the very question of a state that does not behave as a service of its citizens – which is the quality of a democratic state – but takes the stand either of a tutor (in its strictest sense), or, self-centred and self-sufficient, is indifferent or unwilling to turn to those for whom it exists: its citizens.


Education without compromise

Sunday, November 5th, 11 pm

Berlin Rebel High School (doc)
Alexander Kleider
Germany, 2017, 91‘

Although compromise is one of the key concepts of free, civic life, civic life itself must not, in several areas, go below the limits of compromise. Education is one of them. But exactly in that area which is without compromise, like poisonous fungi, compromises grow that become even greater compromises, and then they begin to devour that which they themselves are based upon, in this case – education.

An enormous number of students in Germany interrupt their education for a variety of reasons, one of the leading ones being their inability to adapt to school rules. They are some kind of “rebels without cause” against the system they do not understand. A school in Berlin, however, offers such students another chance. But if pupils rebelled against the system, if they are now outside the system, then the school cannot belong to the system either, which means that there is no system support, which, most definitely, means that they have to provide money on their own (and secondary schools are not famous for making money). The professors are, presumably, slightly different from ordinary professors, their methods are also slightly different, and that their salaries are also different need not be even mentioned. Since they have no money for “cleaning ladies” who would clean the school, classrooms, corridors and toilets, students and professors clean them themselves. There is no hierarchy in the school, although it has structure. At regular assemblies students have the right to vote. How they will use it and to what purpose is a completely different question.

Late Night Conversations raise the question of whether such schools, whether in the system or outside it, provide adequate education? And what is indeed adequate education? Present-day world is not in favor of profound education, but if this is true, what is the future of education? And what type of education? And despite fancy words and its glorious past, is it worthwhile to invest in education? The answer is, undoubtedly – yes, but if the answer is to that extent unquestionable, how is it possible that the very idea of education is so quickly and so effectively crumbling down?

Editor and host of Late Night Conversations: Ivan Milenkovic