I had planned to see Circles (Serbia, directed by Srdan Golubovic) because my visits over the past 2 years to Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo) have increased my interest in Central and Eastern Europe where the people are looking up (vs. in Western Europe where they are looking down). Now it has been submitted for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and so I reprint my interview here which I did during Sundance earlier this year.
Sarajevo itself is especially remarkable as the only place in Europe where there has been a war since I was born. From 1991 to 1999 Serbia was involved in the Yugoslav Wars – the war in Slovenia, the war in Croatia, the war in Bosnia and the war in Kosovo. During this period, Slobodan Milošević was the authoritarian leader of Serbia, which was in turn part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This was was a war between people who spoke a common language but were split along religious lines, the Serbs being Eastern Orthodox and the Bosnians, Kosovians and Croations being Muslim.
The country known as Yugoslavia had been unified from 1918 to 1991– first under a king as The Kingdom of Yugoslavia until 1941 and then as the Social Republic of Yugoslavia. Even as the Social Republic of Yugoslavia, it was a country more liberal then the other communist countries. It was a socialist republic open to west; its people could travel, the people had good jobs, it was more an example of socialism than of communism. Its geographical location was also at a true crossroad between east and west, formerly Ottomon and Muslim and at the same time very Eastern Orthodox and Catholic.
When the USSR collapsed, Sarajevo, situated in the break-off nation Bosnia and Herzogovina was surrounded by Christian Serbs who bombarded the cities of the nation which they saw more as Muslim than as Christian in order to annex the land.
My dear Berlin friend, Geno Lechner from Berlin asked me to see it because she is in it. She plays the German wife of the protagonist. And my good friend Mickey Cottrell, of Inclusive PR is the publicist for Circles from the time it was in Sundance 2013’s World Dramatic Competition and has also asked me to revise and repost what I wrote in Sundance.
So here it is:
Circles ripples out as a stone dropped in a placid lake, concentrically creating moral complexities for a group of people as their story strands emerge from one fateful moment.
Marco, a Serbian soldier on leave from the Serbo-Croatian War in 1993, returns to his Bosnian hometown. When three fellow soldiers accost Haris, a Muslim kiosk vendor, Marco intervenes, and it costs him his life.
Twelve years later, the war is over but the wounds remain open. Marco’s father is rebuilding a church when the son of one of Marco’s killers appears looking for work. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, Marco’s friend Nabobs, a renowned surgeon, debates whether or not to operate on another of Marco’s killers. And in Germany, Haris, now married with a family (Geno Lechner and her two daughters) strives to repay his debt to Marco’s widow who arrives at his door seeking refuge.
John Nein, Sundance Senior Programmer says, “Srdan Golubovic’s third feature employs a multifaceted, yet simple, structure that contemplates revenge, redemption, and reconciliation. Aware of how easily hatred and violence can create life-shattering ripples, he looks at the consequences of moral courage and asks whether a heroic act can generate ripples of another kind.”
It is very important for the film’s director, Srdan Golubovic, that Circles receive wide distribution. It is based upon the true story of Srdjan Aleksic, a Serbian soldier who saved the life of his neighbor. When Golubovic read the story some years ago, he was against the war but on the sidelines watching, occasionally demonstrating against it, but not a part of it. He chose not to remake the story of the man then but to make it contemporary in order to close the book of his own private feelings about the war.
The man is universal in that he is saving a man, not “an enemy”. The escaped man moved into a German world, which at the time looked very much like his own world, sparse, unattractively Soviet in style. However, he found his fortune there and created a life. The actor, Aleksandar Bercek, says that when he met the real Srdjan Aleksic, he said to him, “Now I am walking; it could have been different. I could have been lying down.” You will see in a Google search that the memory of Srdjan is very much alive today. The real man’s grave is visited yearly by the survivor he saved and by all the former Yugoslavians in the area of Serbia, Bosnia, Herzogovina, Croatia and Slovenia. He has received a posthumous medal of honor and has streets named after him in several cities.
This is one of the rare films which unites everybody; it is about forgiveness and reconciliation. And as such it deserves very wide distribution. And as a work of heroic art, it deserves to be seen by many people. We hope you will visit Memento during Berlin and place your orders. For those of you who are not distributors going to market to acquire films, we hope you will have a chance to see this film in your local theaters or homes.
Srdan Golubovic’s earlier film from 2007, The Trap, garnered great acclaim and was Serbia’s submission for an Academy Award nomination.
When director Srdan Golubovic and producer Jelena Mitrovic and I spoke during Sundance, they spoke of what a great surprise Sundance was to them. They found the people very warm. The audiences were totally open, very curious and emotionally connected. It is very rare for Srdan to find an audience that is not afraid to ask questions and eager to talk about the film. And, unlike at most film festivals, at Sundance, they saw the programmers every day and were always able to speak to them. As there were not too many films in competition — 12 in World Cinema section as opposed to 16 last year — the attention they received from the Sundance personnel and volunteers was very special.
Read the praise received by The Hollywood Reporter
Serbian with English subtitles, 2012, 112 minutes, color, Serbia/Germany/France/Croatia/
Cast and Credits
Director: Srdan Golubovic
Screenwriters: Srdjan Koljevic, Melina Pota Koljevic
Producers: Jelena Mitrovic, Alexander Ris, Emilie Georges, Boris T. Matic, Danijel Hocevar
Cinematographer: Alexsander Ilic
Production Designer: Goran Joksimovic
Composer: Mario Schneider
Sound Designer: Julij Zornik
Costume Designer: Ljiljana Petrovic
Principal Cast: Aleksandar Bercek, Leon Lucev, Nebojsa Glogovac, Hristina Popovic, Geno Lechner, Nikola Rakocevic, Vuk Kostic