"Žilnik Unleashed" 1&2, Presentation of the work of Želimir Žilnik


Želimir Žilnik (1942), is first noticed by the end of sixties for his visually expressive and critical films, recognized both in his home country Yugoslavia and internationally (documentary "The Unemployed" - grand prix at Oberhausen festival, 1968; feature "Early Works" - grand prix at Berlin Film Festival, 1969). In the early seventies, Žilnik was heavily criticized on ideological grounds, since his films were part of the "black wave" movement. "Early Works" & "Freedom or Cartoons" were censored and banned. The same happened to documentary "June Turmoil" which dealt with student demonstrations. Between 1973 and 1976, Žilnik worked for independent production companies in Germany. Dealing with anarcho-terrorism as a subject of his documentary "Offentliche Hinrichtung " and the feature "Das Paradies", Žilnik again experienced mechanisms of censorship. Back in Yugoslavia, for some time he worked on theater productions, but since 1980 he has been formulating a specific language of docu-dramas, successfully presented on various televisions, local and international festivals ("The Injury and Recovery of Buda Brakus", awarded at Portorose festival, 1981; "Brooklyn-Gusinje", awarded at Prix Europa, Stockholm 1988). Several of his next projects were regarded as highly innovative and provocative: feature "Pretty Women Walking Through the City" (1985) predicts that nationalistic tensions will lead to disintegration of Yugoslavia and cataclysm at the Balkans. Black comedy "The Way Steel was Tempered" (1988), deals with the crash of the East-European model and phenomenon of "wild capitalism". In 1993, Žilnik and colleague producer Sarita Matijević started joint production company ("Teresianum bt" Budapest, Hungary), dealing mostly with projects having anti-war engagement, parts of documentary series "Disassembling of the Myths of the Balkans", several coproductions with European broadcasters, etc.


Želimir Žilnik, Novi Sad

Želimir Žilnik was talking about consequences that were influencing his own movie production, about movie production in one-party, socialistic system and about Yugoslav cinematography during sixties and seventies. Žilnik comments period of early sixties like very interesting ambient which has provide influences of achievements of different cinenatographies; from the East, it was Hungarian and Russian cinematographies, and from the West, Italian and French. It was potential period of opening of the country that was after the World War Two, oriented towards anti-fascists winners and strong folks-liberation movement, that also attracted some one part of intellectual elite in that time. During 1960s, it was sustained specific system of values and institutions in that ideologically rigid society, where intellectuals were in charge of those institutions. Focusing the story, Žilnik was talking about Novi Sad during sixties who had two important meeting points for young people. One of them was 'Tribina mladih' and another was magazine 'Polja'. 'Tribina mladih' was the first open, cultural, youth center in territory of Yugoslavia, where were organized diverse debates, lectures and exhibitions. That was the place where, for the first time, were challenged some questions about ideologically rigid society, which people were living in. The main idea of 'Tribina mladih' was contained in its own title - open 'Tribina', discussion versus academic, ex-cathedra, one channeling principle. Because of its critical discourse, 'Tribina mladih' was derogated many times, but one fact remains that it created unique ambient in Novi Sad these years. It was meeting point for intellectuals from Ljubljana, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Belgrade and Skopje, especially when magazine 'Polja' was in question. Segment of pop culture was not existing; media were poor, newspapers one chanelled, TV program informative. Attempt to build one 'Yugoslav cultural space' that would be thrilled by different ideas, disturbed 'local birocrats' who entailed internationalism of communist ideology from one side, and anti-fascism from the other. Those structures started to close themselves in the frame of 'regional-socialism', that Žilnik perceives as one of causes of future breakup of country. In that period of early sixties, Žilnik has already started with his own film production and he's made his first movies in Novi Sad's 'Kino Klub', as a kind of alternative to official, state production houses. Yugoslav cinematography was very young. Most of movie directors, such as Živojin Pavlović and Dušan Makavejev, have just started with first, amateur movies. Official cinematography presented significant function of cultural politic of the state. In big centers all over the country, there were big film studios (Jadran film, Zagreb; Avala film, Belgrade, etc) which were led by high political structures because of its importance as a propaganda tool. On the other hand, one part of movie industry was open to external influences, that found this space interesting, mostly because of low production prices and cheap labor. That's how movies about Nibelungs, "War and Peace" by Tolstoi, etc. were recorded in studios here. Door of official Yugoslav cinematography were closed for attempts of author movies, so every well known movies from so called 'film noire', were not part of official, state movie production. They were created on the very margin of official cinematography, which was source for production of ideologically adequate war spectacle. Žilnik himself sees productivity of that period, partly as a earnings of repressive state system. In environment of 'overall, socialistic covering of organizing and control', Žilnik has recorded his first movie about young people, called 'Newsreal on Village Youth, in Winter' (1967). During the lecture, he presented parts of movies: 'Little Pioneers', 'The Unemployed', 'Early Works', 'Jun Turmoil', 'Black Film', 'Market People', Pretty Women Walking Through the City', 'Hot Paychecks', 'Brooklyn-Gusinje', 'Tito Second Time Among Serbs', 'Throwing Off The Yalks of Boundage', etc.