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November 7, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 163
Film Censorship

Tito Illegally in Croatia

by Marko Knezevic

Zagreb's Croatian Anti-War Campaign's bulletin "Arkzin" organized a tribunal about the film "Tito Among the Serbs A Second Time", which was supposed to have served politician Mika Tripalo, writer Ivan Lovrencic and others as an introduction to a debate on post-socialism, i.e. transition. But the "Arkzin" editors had to apologize to the people gathered in the city's Cultural and Information Center. Zelmir Zilnik's film had been banned, discreetly over the phone, just like in the good old days.

The Croatian Culture Ministry and Zagreb city authorities intervened even though the screening wasn't commercial, the film portrayed no chauvinism or aggression and Tito wasn't portrayed as being only in Serbia but in other parts of his one-time state.

The "Arkzin" editors said that "the ban fits into the process of throwing out books in Cyrillic script (Serb) out of libraries and book shops, films from video clubs and similar. This is a chauvinist policy which is based on the slogan "Everything Serb is banned"... "and they even banned those pieces of culture which aren't based on chauvinism".

The "Tito" screening was originally scheduled for July 14. "Arkzin" later promised to show the movie as soon as possible, "hopefully early in September". It is now early November and the film still hasn't been shown among the Croats.

In fact, "Tito" has been screened among the Croats for a while now, to small parties, illegally as all other Serbian-produced films. "Arkzin" is planning to show "The Deserter" by Zivojin Pavlovic and "The Serb Epic" a British documentary whose production involved Lazar Stojanovic. "Arkzin" said both films are disputable, but they are certainly an enemy product to most Croats.

Some Croatian critics said that "The Serb Epic" actually glorifies Radovan Karadzic's ethics as well as that of Biljana Plavsic, Russian poet Eduard Limonov (who is seen showering Sarajevo with a machine-gun out of artistic curiosity) and others.

But what about "The Deserter", which is touring Zagreb on a pirate tape? Purely aesthetically, the film is "bad or at least average", Jurica Pavicic said. Namely, it's full of "pretentious symbols", "makes a lot of use of cliches", "favorizes a kind of stylization of a bad dream and suppresses realism because that would demand a stronger stand on political circumstances". "Pavlovic's film has equal amounts of mouldy self-pity for a Serbia plunged into war and contempt for the military nomenclature. Perhaps it's a brave film by a Serb to the Serbian public, but to Croats it's too little," Pavicic said. He added that "the film irritates even a moderate Croat" because, "in the past three years, two cultures, Serb and Croat, lost all ability to communicate". Now, "even the most liberal Serb and the most tolerant Croat can hardly talk to each other without turning the conversation into a misunderstanding. When Pavlovic shows the funeral of a pilot shot down over Osijek, to a Serb that is a victim of the nameless, militarist policy, even Serb politics, but to a Croat that is a point scored by the anti-aircraft defence".

A role in "The Deserter", partly filmed in destroyed and liberated Vukovar, is considered a mortal sin for Rade Serbedzija (a Serb actor from Croatia). And certainly everything ever filmed about Vukovar by Serbs will meet with hostility in Croatia. Especially, for example, when the press release for Bora Draskovic's film "Vukovar, Poste Restante" says that the town "is located on the border between Serbia and Croatia". Does that mean that Vukovar is in the Danube? Producer Danka Mandzuka says it is "a very emotional and humane anti-war film in a desperate scream for peace", but Croatian critics say the film "backs the pro-Serb cause". Namely, the Yugoslav Peoples' Army (JNA) is shown as "a nice army, which does not kill and destroy, but only warns and defends the unarmed people left to the mercy of the wild, secessionist Croatian para-army". Vlado Ercegovic said the hero (a Serb who's in love with a Croat, both from Vukovar), a sniper in the JNA, "only wounds or warns off his acquaintances". At one moment he says he never believed that he would shoot at his home town, and, according to the "Slobodna Dalmacija" (Split daily) film critic, that's the only point in the film where you know who the attacker is. But the next scene shows a Croatian tank destroying houses (in the film, none of the tanks have markings, but the context is clear). "Calling the film pretentious garbage is too weak," Ercegovic said.

But the problem is not only Serb films in Croatia, especially if they're about Vukovar. "Kontesa Dora" by Zvonimir Berkovic has been banned for a long time now. Why, if everyone at the Croatian TV Drama desk agrees that it is an exceptionally good movie? The unfortunate element is Rade Serbedzija. Serbedzija is persona non grata, which is also shown by reactions to his success at the Venice film festival for his role in the Macedonian film "Before the Rain". Much of the press didn't even report on the film. Ivo Stivicic, Drama desk editor, thinks politics have never been so sensitive as with Serbedzija, who, Zlatko Vitez says, "was and still is an important and influential Croatian actor". Vitez (a former actor) is now Croatia's minister of culture.

Another example of "National-Political Correctness" is "Breza". Young Croats from abroad are taught about national literature and films at the summer school of Croatian culture. This year, actor Fabijan Sovagovic was their guest. He played a leading role in "Breza" by director Ante Babaja. "Breza" was made by Babaja in 1967, based upon a lyric story by Slavko Kolar about a young peasant woman. But the film was only seen by a select few at the summer school and not by the public.

Asked whether there was film censorship on TV, Film Program editor-in-chief Tomislav Kurelec said there wasn't and added: "the problem is how to show Croatian films, "Breza" for example, in which Bata Zivojinovic (a Serbian actor turned Socialist politician) plays the lead?"

And what is the well-known Croatian actor Boris Dvornik, Bata's "war friend" (colleague in numerous war films), doing? He and his pop-star son Dino and other son Dean are starring in "Canyon of Dangerous Games", a children's film by Vladimir Tadej filmed recently on location near Omis. It's a story about German tourist children who are enthralled by Winetou and head for the hills of Dalmatia, only to be taken hostage by three Chetniks who have escaped from jail...

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