18 June – 1 July, 2018
As part of Želimir Žilnik exhibition “Shadow Citizens”, more than 20 Žilnik’s films will be available for online viewing. Many of these are rarely screened, and all are being made available online to this extent for the first time. The films trace various periods and different working conditions within Žilnik’s practice. They are organized in five sections, each available for viewing during the exhibition for two weeks.
The descriptions of the films were composed using material provided by Želimir Žilnik, primarily through several long conversations in Novi Sad and Zagreb, which extended over many months. They are stories that follow the curiosity of the curators surrounding Žilnik’s memories of the experiences of making each film, which he patiently and generously shared. As personal traces such as these open up future research and interpretations, the particular method of their collection, if there was one, was described by Želimir with yet another story: “As Mao Zedong said to his successor Hua Guofeng: With you in charge of business, I can relax.”
WHW interview with Želimir Žilnik, april 2018
Dragoljub and Bogdan: Electricity (1982)
A vast power plant is being built on the Drina River, which is famous for its hundreds-years-old tradition of rafting timber downstream to Belgrade. Working on the construction of the power plant’s dam connects the two protagonists of this story: Bogdan, one of the last rafting masters on the Drina, and Dragoljub, one of the oldest explosive experts, who has built dams all over the world, including in Africa, and who wants to get a flat from the company before he retires. Problems occur when Bogdan writes a poem about the decline of working conditions and is prosecuted for criticizing the system.
This is one of the first films in which Žilnik includes as another set of protagonists a young couple from Africa who have come to Yugoslavia to study and work as part of the Non-Aligned Movement supported by the state.
After his participation in Kenedi Goes Back Home, Kenedi Hasani decides to illegally go to EU countries where his father, mother, brothers, and sisters still are. During one of his illegal crossings of the Hungarian-Austrian border in 2003, he is captured by the border police and spends a couple of months in a refugee camp. Then he manages to escape to Austria, and then on to Germany and Holland. Žilnik meets up with him in Vienna in January 2005 at a screening of Kenedi Goes Back Home at the University of Vienna. The documentary recounts Kenedi’s experience of his two-year refugee status and witnesses his return to Serbia. The protagonist decides to build a house in Novi Sad, because the other members of his family are in the “process of readmission” and will be arriving soon. The film was made in three days, with no budget.
Kenedi is Getting Married (2007)
Kenedi is in huge debt after building a house for his family. He finds himself searching for any kind of work to support himself, for as little as €10 per day—an amount that will scarcely help to relieve his debt. Ultimately, Kenedi decides to look for money in the sex industry. Initially offering his services to an older lady, he expands his “business” to offer sex to wealthy men. When he learns of new liberal European laws on gay civil partnership, Kenedi sees prospects in looking for “marriage material” as a way to renew his pursuit of getting legal status in the EU. The opportunity arises during EXIT Music Festival in Novi Sad, where he meets Max, a guy from Munich. But will their promising relationship bring the solution to Kenedi’s problems?
The film was produced by Terra Film in Novi Sad and Jet Company, a local TV station in Kikinda. The making of Kenedi Is Getting Married at the same time acted as a fundraiser for the Hasani family, who needed funds to put up the roof on their house, which was built after their return from Germany from the brick collected from demolished houses.
At the Cinema City Festival in Novi Sad in 2007, the international jury president Fridrik Por Fridriksson proclaimed Kenedi Hassani the best Serbian actor of 2007 and awarded him €5,000. The professional actors in the audience started shouting: “He is an amateur!” and Fredriksson answered: “Yes, I know. But the most talented one.” Kenedi took microphone and made a plea: “Dear colleagues, do not be angry! Throw away more garbage and paper on the streets, so I can collect it, and won’t have to look for a job among film crews.”
The Kenedi Trilogy has been extensively shown on TV, as well as at more than thirty international festivals and exhibitions, including the Roma Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.
The Old School of Capitalism (2009), 122 min
The Old School of Capitalism is rooted in the first wave of worker revolts to hit Serbia since the advent of capitalism. Desperate workers bulldoze through factory gates and are devastated to discover that the site has been looted by the bosses. Eccentrically escalating confrontations—including a melee with workers wearing American football pads and helmets, with the boss and his security force in bulletproof vests—prove fruitless. Committed young anarchists offer solidarity, take the bosses hostage. A Russian tycoon, a Wall Street trader, and US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Belgrade unexpectedly complicate events, which culminate in a shocking end. As it progresses, the film produces an increasingly complex and yet unfailingly lively account of present-day—in fact, up-to-the-minute—struggles under the misery-inducing effects of both local and global capitalism.
The film was developed out of research into the factories of Sinvoz, BEK, and Jugoremedija in the city of Zrenjanin. These factories were devastated in the process of “reprivatization,” causing production to be stopped and leaving thousands of workers unemployed. Žilnik followed the workers’ protests and their occupation of the factories. The captured footage resulted in a documentary, which was given to the workers to spread their message. The production company Playground produkcija also joined the effort, and later produced a series of TV documentaries called What Remains After Bankruptcy. The series was screened on local TV and very much contributed to the visibility of and media attention to these struggles. After the documentary series was completed, the workers suggested to Žilnik that he should continue to work with the topic, and that the capitalist bastards should be shown and analyzed. Žilnik agreed and invited the workers themselves to play all the roles.
Among the People: Life & Acting (2018), 83 min
The newly commissioned video for the occasion of the exhibition Shadow Citizens assemblage features memories and commentaries of non-professional actors combined with excerpts from films in which they participated as “protagonists,” mixed with footage made of crews working on the sets of Žilnik’s films.
It acts as a reminder for Žilnik of the talents and real-life experiences of his participants, which inspired the filmmaker to articulate their narrative threads and also define his fictional characters. At the same time, the video documents how the film participants experienced new encounters and solidarity in the “film collective.”
Piroška Čapko | participated as child actor in two of Žilnik’s films made in the late 1960s (Little Pioneers and Early Works) and fifty years later, starred in Pirika on Film
Gabriella Benak | musician and singer; participated in Pirika on Film
Svetislav Jovanov | dramaturg and commissioning editor in the drama department of TV Novi Sad from the mid-1970s to mid-'80s
Dragoljub Mićunović | Serbian politician and philosopher and one of the founders of the modern Democratic Party (DS) in 1989, and its first president (1990–94); as a member of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, he was speaker of the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro between 2000 and 2004; participated in June Turmoil as one of the main speakers at the student protests
Németh Árpád | director of photography for Seven Hungarian Ballads
Végel László | writer and commissioning editor in the drama department of TV Novi Sad from the mid-1970s to mid-'80s
Nenad Racković | writer, actor, and visual artist; starred in Marble Ass
Likana Brujić | transgender sex worker; participated in Marble Ass
Boris Čegar | philosophy professor; as a student, attended Žilnik’s masterclass in filmmaking, and later participated in Wanderlust
Stipan Milodanović | filmmaker; as a student, attended Žilnik’s masterclass in filmmaking, and later assisted him in several projects as a location manager and fixer
Hatija Hasani | mother of Kenedi Hasani; participated in Kenedi Is Getting Married
Banu Cennetoğlu | visual artist based in Istanbul; assisted Žilnik as a fixer and translator during the filming of Kenedi Is Getting Married in Turkey
Zoran Paroški | worker and amateur actor in community theater in Turija; participated in The Old School of Capitalism
Slobodan Nenadov | worker and amateur actor in community theater in Turija; participated in The Old School of Capitalism
Živojin Popgligorin | lawyer and amateur actor in community theater in Turija; participated in The Old School of Capitalism
Ivica Schmidt | director of Radio Srbobran; assisted in location and set management for The Old School of Capitalism
Ratibor Trivunac | antiquarian bookseller, publisher, and Belgrade anarchist; participated in The Old School of Capitalism
Miloš Milić | English language instructor and general secretary of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative in Serbia; participated in The Old School of Capitalism
Andrija Čolaković | student and active member of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative in Serbia; participated in The Old School of Capitalism
Miodrag Milošević | director of photography for fourteen of Žilnik’s films
Brian Schwarz | translator and English language instructor; participated in Logbook Serbistan
Guy Maestracci | cartoonist, illustrator, and painter; participated in Logbook Serbistan