The crisis of moral values that is inherent in the transitional societies of the Balkans is once again at the epicenter of their cinematic representations. Drawing on the aesthetics of realism and using cinema as a means of exploring their social reality, Balkan filmmakers examine the corrosion of social values, study the human condition and highlight the dynamics of human relations. The collapse of the nuclear family constitutes the clearest indication of a moral crisis and runs as an undercurrent through many of this year’s narratives. In Shelter, scripted by the Romanian Razvan Radulescu, Bulgarian film director Dragomir Solev conveys the difficulty of two parents in communicating with their 12-year-old son, the inability to achieve a mutual understanding and their inescapable conflict regarding the boy’s choice of friends. In Florin Şerban’s If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, the mother’s return from abroad to take her younger son away to live with her, leads her incarcerated older son – the hero of the film – to desperation and an ill-fated escape from jail. The heroine of Periferic (International Competition), a film by another Romanian, Bogdan George Apetri, is also a prisoner. In the one-day furlough she is given to attend her mother’s funeral, she will settle the score with her past and her family, and then flee abroad. In Zefir (International Competition), Turkey’s Belma Baş merges dreams and reality in order to illustrate the troubled inner world of a girl, through her relationship with nature and her absent mother – who finally abandons her. Serb filmmaker Oleg Novković’s White, White World explores human passions in a modern-day incestuous tragedy. The film is structured like an opera and ends like an ancient Greek play. The characters/chorus sing about their lives, their songs functioning as dialogue and moving the story along. In Mother of Asphalt, Croatia’s Dalibor Manatić follows the heroine, who takes her child and leaves her husband, in a story about contemporary human alienation and the individual’s need for love and familial warmth. Conversely, in the Turkish film Majority, the foundations of the family are firm, but they provide fuel for nationalism, militarism and oppression. Here, Seren Yüce uses the family in his, narratively simple and lucid, cultural criticism of contemporary middle-class Turkish society. An exception to the narratives referred to above is Music in the Blood, a short film by Romania’s Alexandru Mavrodineanu, in which the failed attempt of two parents to free their son of poverty is counterbalanced by the love and tenderness they show him. Human existence as seen through human relations is a second thematic axis in this year’s program. In Envy, an atmospheric drama set in 1930s provincial Turkey, Zeki Demirkubuz focuses on emotional tension and human nature through the relationship of an ugly sister and her brother and his beautiful wife. The audiovisually exquisite Kosmos, by another Turk, Reha Erdem, is an existential commentary on humanity and a reference to Bob Dylan’s song Wicked Messenger. From Romania, director Cristi Puiu also plays the lead in Aurora. Against the backdrop of his country’s modern-day social reality, Puiu’s “clinical” eye examines how an ordinary person can be driven to murder. In Morgen (International Competition), Marian Crisan portrays, with cinematic severity, the relationship between two men who are unable to communicate and the changes that the Kurdish illegal immigrant brings to the hero’s humdrum, provincial life. In Tilva Rosh, yet another Serbian film set in the town of Bor, Nikola Ležaić chronicles, with exhilarating freshness, the ups and downs of a group of teenage friends. Historical memory is at the forefront for two directors this year. In Cirkus Columbia, Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanović returns to Balkan themes, remembering life before the break up of Yugoslavia. Oxygen, a poetical short film with no dialogue by Adina Pintilie, is a fiction-documentary hybrid that centers on the stifling atmosphere of propaganda and oppression which led many Romanians to risk their lives in order to escape the Ceausescu regime. In the rest of the program’s short films, Bulgarian Maya Vitkova’s Stanka Goes Home tells of the loneliness and humiliation of an elderly lady confronted with a broken elevator. Two more Romanian directors, Paul Negoesku with his film Derby and Adrian Sitaru with The Cage, complete this year’s program. Negoesku’s humorous tale revolves around a misunderstanding and an argument between a father and his daughter’s boyfriend, while Sitaru turns his camera on the relationship between city dwellers and their pets.
“Balkan Survey” Programmer