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DAILY BRIEFS: One Filmmaker’s View from Yugoslavia

DAILY BRIEFS: One Filmmaker's View from Yugoslavia

by Eugene Hernandez

>> Stranded Serbian Filmmaker Offers Email Perspective from Inside Belgrade

While many filmmakers travel from around the world to accompany their film
screenings at New York’s prestigious New Directors/New Film Series
presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern
, as late as yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) it appeared as though
Yugoslavian filmmaker Srdjan Dragojevic would be unable to attend tomorrow
night’s debut of his new film. As indicated in indieWIRE earlier this
week, the filmmaker was expected in Manhattan this week for screenings of
The Wounds,” but the trip was placed in jeopardy once borders closed after
the NATO bombing began. Once communication with Dragojevic was lost,
organizers and reps assumed that Dragojevic would be a no-show — but as
indieWIRE reached its deadline for this article late yesterday, word came
that the filmmaker had made it out of Serbia and would indeed make it to his

Based in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Dragojevic was trading email late
last week with friends, festival organizers, and film reps until the
electricity was cut — two of those email messages were sent to indieWIRE
early this week and offered a peak at how one person and his family are
dealing with the difficult situation. One message even addressed the
filmmaker’s own hope that he would make it to NYC for the premiere.

“I survived, for now,” Dragojevic wrote in a post describing what he called
the first afternoon, “Most of the people are in the shelters but me and few
of my friends were making barbecue on my terrace (I have huge terrace with
whole city view). Sausages were excellent.” In the next paragraph, the
filmmaker reflected on the following morning, “My first war night is over..
We survived. Most of the people spent the night in the shelter. We slept at
home like babies.”

Branded an “anti-war” movie by the international media, festival materials
call “The Wounds” a “stunning film,” The movie tracks two Bosnian teen
criminals — friends who ultimately become mortal enemies. “Based on
actual events,” the festival guide reads, “This is a fast-paced portrait of
a wounded country and its people not to be missed.”

An article published in the International Herald Tribune indicated that
while the movie out-grossed “Titanic” in its opening week in Yugoslavia,
the government subsequently cracked down on the film’s advertising. “They
didn’t ban the film, but they interfered with the promotion,” Dragojevic
told the publication last fall, adding, “I’m scared, not for my life but
for my career, which is the same. I’m a little depressed, and thinking of
emigrating. I finished a period in my life.” Commenting on Dragojevic and
“The Wounds” in the same article, Yugoslavian filmmaker Goran Paskaljevic
(“The Powder Keg“) called the movie, “a very political film, nearly a
pamphlet — he’s been accused of betraying the Serbians.”

“I am going now with my kids to see (the) big shelter in the neighborhood,”
Dragojevic indicated as his email message detailed the next day of
bombings, “Closed for a decades, open now — lots of people are hiding
there, and I promised my kids that I will take them to play there in long
corridors. I feel like a ‘post-catastrophe-Mad-Max daddy.”

A friend of Dragojevic’s indicated via email that the filmmaker has signed
a three-picture pact with Miramax and was set to leave for Manhattan on
Thursday the 25th to begin a New York City apartment search and attend his
New Directors screenings.

“The day was beautiful,” Dragojevic began in another section of his post,
adding, “We were riding bicycles all afternoon. I tried to explain to my
kids what happens when you try not to provoke xenophobia or hate towards
American people: ‘Well’, I said, ‘the American government and NATO are such
big organizations and the bigger the organization is, the smaller its brain
– it’s like a Godzilla.’ Maybe my explanation isn’t so bad.”

“During this decade I lived through lots of shit,” he offered in the note
to his friend, “The embargo, poverty, the blockade, the criminalisation of
the whole society, queueing for milk and bread, billion point
inflation….the only thing I didn’t have is – WAR. Without one war maybe I
would be incomplete….”

Signing off a note to a publicist working to promote his film here in NYC,
Dragojevic wrote optimistically, “Who knows, dear, maybe I will come. Don’t
be so pessimistic. Maybe not for the first screening – on April 1st, but
for the second one – there is still good chance for it.” Ending the final
dispatch, he concluded, “Make love, not war. Rock on!”

indieWIRE reached a festival organizer and one of the film’s
representatives late yesterday and confirmed that Dragojevic made his way
to Budapest yesterday and was en route to London where he would then get a
flight to New York, arriving in the city this afternoon.

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