The film presents a series of portraits and situations people found themselves in after being made redundant during a time of economic reform, which was a move toward establishing a market economy in Yugoslavia. In the interviews, people speak about their doubts and confusion arising from the fact they had been expecting socialism to give them more social security. They criticize parasitic bureaucracy as well as the neutralization of unions and the revolutionary moment. They opt to leave for Germany and to work there, since around that time, Yugoslavia and Germany signed an agreement allowing a number of Yugoslav guest workers into the German workforce.
The film was produced by Neoplanta Film in Novi Sad. The original version was twenty minutes long and consisted of two parts: Men and Women. The Unemployed – Women was partly shot in the bar of the Hotel Putnik in Novi Sad, and includes interviews with prostitutes and strippers. Before becoming a stripper, one of the protagonists was a trade union functionary in a textile factory. The first part of the film, with men preparing to go to Germany, was approved by the review committee, but the second one with women was censored and never screened. Filmmakers were allowed to be present during the review screenings of their films by the censorship board, and during the meeting Žilnik was told:
“We can see that the workers are unhappy, but we are sending them to Germany, ruled by Willy Brandt’s Social Democratic Party. There they will continue their education and their class consciousness will get stronger. But women, they are steeped in immorality and lechery. They will hardly regain their belief in socialism and communism. Cut the women, or we will not approve the film.”
Žilnik found the original footage in 2010, when the archive of Neoplanta was moved from Novi Sad to Belgrade Cinematheque, but decided to leave the film in its shorter version.
The Unemployed won the Silver Medal at the March Festival in Belgrade (Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival) and the Grand Prix (Der Grosse Preis) for documentary film at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.
Written and directed by: Želimir Žilnik
Camera: Petar Latinović
Edited by: Milica Poličević
Production: Neoplanta Film, Novi Sad