Discreet Charm of Dictatorship

11th Novembar, 23h @ Hall of Cultural Centre of Belgrade Movie Theater

Under the Sun (doc.)

Director: Vitaly Mansky
Country: Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, Lithuania, North Korea
Year: 2015
Runtime: 106’

The North Korean tyranny of Kim Jong Un is currently the only “pure” form of Stalin-type totalitarian dictatorship in the world. But when we finish watching Vitaly Mansky’s film Under the Sun, a brilliant work about the everyday life of a three member family in Pyongyang, we will realise that the North Korean model is actually a unique one. Stalin, Castro, or even bloodthirsty Pol Pot weren’t able to create such a deeply inhumane system. Probably the closest anyone got to doing that was Mao Tse-tung during the time of the Cultural Revolution.
In the architectural backdrop of Pyongyang, with its huge skyscrapers as cold as February air in North Korea, we watch the scenes from the life of a North Korean family of three. Considering what we know of this country and its regime, the plot would probably have been lethally monotonous if it didn’t contain numerous stories, with the story of how the film was made, a story about a story. Even though the idea and the crew are Ukrainian, the film was directed and carefully monitored by the Korean government, and certain scenes, as the accompanying text implies, have been added by Kim Jong Un himself. Count in the evocative scenes that were added in the cutting room – for example, a pointsman standing idly at a large intersection because there simply is no traffic, or footage from the national television channel in which exalted soldiers rush into the sea just to be near their Leader (who is in a boat, of course) for as long as possible – and we end up with a plot that even the wildest and most perverse imagination couldn’t come up with. The only thing is it’s not imagination but an inconceivable reality, evoking, in turn, disbelief, nausea, uneasiness and horror. Had this film not been so convincing and humorous, it would have been impossible to watch. It is an incredible masterpiece releasing old concepts in a new context in every scene, despite disbelief.

Guests of the Late Night Conversations will try to answer the question of how such a regime can exist nowadays. They will talk about the power of propaganda and its forms, and whether such form of dictatorship is likely to occur outside of North Korea.

Guests: Ljiljana Blagojević (architect), Đorđe Pavićević (philosopher), Teofil Pančić (journalist and writer).

Ghosts of Memories

12th Novembar, 23h @ Hall of Cultural Centre of Belgrade Movie Theater

Piedra libre – Women Dance Memories (doc.)

Director: Alejandra Vassallo, Pia Sicardi
Country: Argentina
Year: 2015
Duration: 73’

Even though more than thirty years passed since the military dictatorship in Argentina, the traumatising experience still has a big impact on Argentin history. During the dictatorship there have been many battalions of death, people were arrested without a cause and were tortured immensely. More than 10,000 people have “disappeared,” many of which were against the system and ones who the militia deemed to be against it. “Disappeared” is a euphemism for the people who were subjected to the torture and were murdered by junta and to this day no graves were found nor the places where they were executed. After a long period of time the children and other descendants of the “disappeared” still try to keep the memories of the lost ones alive, and their expressions, without a doubt, resemble political actions. After all, group remembrance equals political remembrance.
The art that fosters the culture of remembrance, because of that, cannot be engaged. Neither can dance. “Women Dance Memories” is a movie about a group of African-style Argentinian dancers who create a dance in the memory of the “disappeared.” During the time of militia’s rule these dancers were children, but were, more or less, included in the horrors of the time. Each one of the dancers, while preparing the performance, remembers their childhoods, the living atmosphere, people who disappeared, their cousins, parents, and the whole nightmare. Dance is, however, the one thing that sets them free. They discover their body as a mode of communication and an instrument that helps them express things and ideas that are bigger than them. It almost seems as if they “think with their bodies.” One of the protagonists, in the reveal of her talent and work states: “Taking your body on the street is a powerful thing.” On the other hand, the exposure of their bodies in the public makes them question not only their own lives, abilities and artistic expressions, but also gives them an insight into the public as a political space.

This movie clearly shows how “close talk”, speech that is focused on itself and its own expression, gets politicised, how it creates a collective sweep that slows down and trips art, politics, memories and realisation of how important this public act is. Only then, again according to one of the dancers “pain translates into creativity.” Essentially, we are witnessing a double, maybe ever triple transformation: thanks to art, this time as a political gesture, personal pain became collective pain, and this collective pain turned into an artistic creation. The outstanding artistic gesture we are able to witness is a set of personal memories and own artistic obsessions- obsession with African dance –-which turn into a sharp political awareness that realizes how hard it is to obtain inner freedom when the outside political freedom is lacking.

Guests: Alehandra Vasaljo (director), Jelena Vasiljević (antropologist), Dijana Mlađenović (producer from Zagreb), Vesna Teršelič (Dokumenta, Zagreb)

The Rolling Balkans

13th Novembar, 23h @ Hall of Cultural Centre of Belgrade Movie Theater

13th November, 23h @ Dvorana Kulturnog centra Beograda

Third Best (doc.)

Director: Arsen Oremović
Country: Croatia
Year: 2015
Runtime: 70’

In 1998, just few years after gaining independence, the smell of gunpowder from the previous war was still in the air, Croatian national football team won the third place at the world cup in France, which was the success that Yugoslavia couldn’t even dreamt of. The sport euphoria was strongly connected with the patriotism, and the vessels of the young Balkan country, that had won the war, were filled with a strong dash of enthusiasm. Davor Šuker was probably the most popular player in the team. At that time, he was one of the most famous Croatians in the world, a football player whose posters held all boys and girls in their rooms. However, it appeared that football itself, the people who are a part of it and all the happenings concerning football (including a popular football player as Šuker) were contaminated, corrupted and prone to corruption, filled with primitivism and unscrupulousness to that extent, that it seemed that not the society nor the country have the strength to stand up against the expansion of the hazardous cells of the Croatian football. It seemed that the insane logic of football was expanding to the society and the country. That is why Third best begins with football and cuts the cancerous fibre, but together with that surgical intervention it opens a whole new field that seems less interesting when not looking from the other side. What makes a Balkan’s politics expert fascinated, or at least an informed inhabitant of any of the Balkan countries, especially the ones from the former Yugoslavia, is to which extent these countries look alike despite all the differences (and those differences, one should notice, are the narcissism of tiny differences), especially when it comes to the amount and the intensity of stupidity, corruption and the talent to do harm rather to something worth remembering. That is why we will look at the Split’s architectonically-structural project, calling it “Split on the water” for the sake of recognising (although it is relatively far from the water) – a megalomaniac project that was started and naturally abandoned during the construction, with a mix of disgust and humour because isn’t the same happening in Belgrade, or has already happened in Skoplje, making it as the Macedonians notice themselves “The capital of kitsch in Europe”?

But there where there is a high level of violence, in this case institutionalised violence, there is revolt. That revolt is, at least in the shape in which it appears in the film, capillar and scattered for now. A little gymnastics club from Vukovar that works persistently, resisting the ethnic segregation, although it doesn’t get any help from the government despite being led by the multiple national champion at gymnastics. Or a tiny newspaper editorship which has been declared a public enemy because it draws attention to the situation in Croatian football and society.

Guests: Arsen Oremović (director), Viktor Ivančić (journalist and writer), Ksenija Radovanović (The Ministry of Space), Slobodan Georgijev (journalist).

What’s left in Syria?

14th Novembar, 23h @ Hall of Cultural Centre of Belgrade Movie Theater

Haunted (doc.)

Director: Liwaa Yazji
Country: Syria
Year: 2014
Runtime: 112‘

Wars are filled with stories ranging from everyday deaths to miraculous survivals. In between are the stories that are never big, but they are the most numerous. Those are the stories of people who have been caught in the middle of the war by madness, stupidity and essentially weakness of politicians. Those are the stories of those who hate the war, who are not leading it, nor have started it, they are those whose only resistance is to survive. They can’t say a lot, because there is not much to say about that nightmare that has existed from the beginning of humanity. Yet this movie gives a chance to speak to them, to the people who have nothing to say.
In a building in the suburbs of Damascus that with each passing day is turning more into a ruin, there are only three families left. A no more young married couple is trying to leave Damascus, with no success. At the same time, they talk about their everyday life and fears in front of the cameras, with detonations heard in the background. Then there’s the young man packing his belongings in order to leave his apartment. He’s made a decision: he is going to leave in spite of everything, in spite of being attached to Damascus by everything. There’s a young man telling us how it is to live without electrical power, television, Internet. There are Syrian refugees living in inhumane conditions. And all of them are given a chance to speak. But their stories, their voices, their faces, those smiles protecting them from the terrible reality, the effort to stay collected at least for the cameras, create an atmosphere heavy on meaning coming from someplace else than simply their words. While we are listening to those stories that are not telling us anything we didn’t already know– for that matter, didn’t the citizens of Sarajevo feel the same way people trapped in destroyed Syrian cities feel – shots of almost unthinkable destruction pass by. There’s nothing shocking in this movie, there are no killings or killed, everything is eerily usual, everything’s almost normal, so much so that it’s exactly this illusion of normality that’s provoking the deepest uneasiness, the horror coming over us as the movie is pulling us in.

The guests of Late Night Conversations will try to say what is left in Syria and who is left in Syria? How could Syria even happen and does that astated country have any chance in future. Finally, what is left of Syria?

Guests: Liwaa Yazji (director), Irit Neidhart (producer), Boško Jakšić (journalist), Aleksandar Ajzenhamer (political analyst)