Highlights from the Academic Ciné-club Belgrade, 1960-1980
Sunday April 27, 2014, 7:30 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Highlights from the Academic Ciné-club Belgrade, 1960-1980
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028
Curator Greg de Cuir, Jr. in person
Academic Ciné-club was founded in 1958 in Belgrade (Serbia, then Yugoslavia) as an alternative to a thriving postwar institutional ciné-amateur culture that was quickly becoming an impenetrable hierarchy. It offered an open space for experimentation and welcomed cineastes of all types. Very quickly a number of exciting young personalities many of who would later be counted among the greatest of filmmakers in the history of Yugoslav cinema flocked to the club and began producing innovative work, including examples of proto-structuralism, poetic documentaries, and lyrical evocations of reality and sur-reality. This program presents some of the groundbreaking films from the history of the club (later re-named Academic Film Center), much of which has not been screened in international settings in a number of decades, providing a glimpse into an invisible history of avant-garde ciné-club culture from a forgotten region. As a lead-in to SEEFest (South-East Europe Film festival), Filmforum hosts a remarkable and rarely seen set of works from the former Yugoslavia, highlights of the cinema organization that fostered experimental and underground film in Belgrade.
For more event information: www.lafilmforum.org, or 323-377-7238
Tickets are free for this show, with a suggested donation to cover expenses: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets or at the door.
Triptych on Matter and Death (Triptih o materiji i smrti)
dir. Živojin Pavlović, Yugoslavia, 1960, digital, 9 min.
The Wall (Zid)
dir. Kokan Rakonjac, Yugoslavia, 1960, digital, 8 min.
Distant Purple Hands (Ruke ljubičastih daljina)
dir. Sava Trifković, Yugoslavia, 1962, digital, 10 min.
dir. Nikola Djurić, Yugoslavia, 1973, digital, 8 min.
From Me to You (Od mene do tebe)
dir. Miodrag Tarana & Mirko Avramović, Yugoslavia, 1972, digital, 3 min.
Television is a Movie Theater I go to Sitting in the Backyard (Televizor je bioskop u koji odlazim sedeći u dvorištu)
dir. Bojan Jovanović, Yugoslavia, 1974, digital, 5 min.
dir. Bojana Vujanović, Yugoslavia, 1972, digital, 2 min.
dir. Radoslav Vladić, Yugoslavia, 1977, digital, 8 min.
Organon they asked me (Organon tražili su od mene)
dir. Zoran Saveski, Yugoslavia, 1980, digital, 9 min.
Smoke and Water (Dim i voda)
dir. Dragoslav Lazić, Yugoslavia, 1962, digital, 9 min.
Straight Line (Pravac)
dir. Tomislav Gotovac, Yugoslavia, 1964, digital, 7 min.
dir. Tomislav Gotovac, Yugoslavia, 1964, digital, 9 min.
Blue Rider (Plavi jahač)
dir. Tomislav Gotovac, Yugoslavia, 1964, digital, 14 min.
Total 101 minutes
On the Academic Ciné-club Belgrade, 1960-1980, by Greg de Cuir, Jr.
There is a long and rich tradition of ciné-club culture in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Academic Ciné-club was founded in Belgrade in 1958 as an antidote to the perceived elitism and growing bureaucratic structure of the older Belgrade Ciné-club. It was designed as a space that was conducive to experimentation and also easier to become involved with.
Živojin Pavlović had already found success as a film critic when he made his film Triptych on Matter and Death at the club in 1960, and he would make his professional feature directing debut only a year later (in an omnibus film directed with fellow ciné-amateurs Kokan Rakonjac and Marko Babac), eventually launching a significant career that lasted for the next few decades. Triptych on Matter and Death is a dreamlike vision of a lone woman in distress, navigating a desolate landscape in which she ultimately meets her demise. This narrative through-line serves as the basis for an unofficial trilogy which opens this program, including the films The Wall (Kokan Rakonjac, 1960) and Distant Purple Hands (Sava Trifković, 1962). Rakonjac would enter the world of feature filmmaking with his colleague Pavlović and enjoyed a respectable if underappreciated professional career in the 1960s. He died unexpectedly and very young in 1969. Trifković would never enter the ranks of professionalism, and indeed his film Distant Purple Hands would be remembered as his lasting and remarkable contribution to amateur film culture.
Skipping forward to the 1970s we encounter the film Vowels (Nikola Djurić, 1973), which is more radical in form and content than the poetic films from the early 1960s. Actually, Djurić's film was inspired by the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. The literary conceits of the film are counterbalanced by its cinephilic conclusion, featuring a feverish montage of film distribution logos and strips of leader. A dedicated cinephilia also characterizes the film From Me to You (Miodrag Tarana & Mirko Avramović, 1972), which plays out as a jubilant dance of cameras and cameramen. This is cinema as celebration, also an evocation of the inherent communicative capacity of the art form. From the utopian joy of cinema we find ourselves thrust into a rude encounter with television in the film Television is a Movie Theater I go to Sitting in the Backyard (Bojan Jovanović, 1974). The newer and dominant medium of mass communication is infested with dubious intentions in this unsettling film. Broadcast images of a trickster swallowing snakes hint at the Edenic quality this film is out to destroy until the television set is itself smashed to pieces in an act of defiant fury.
Journey (Bojana Vujanović, 1972) takes place in the confines of the oldest elevator in the city of Belgrade, thus becoming a rather claustrophobic voyage. The rhythmic, spinning movement of the camera echoes From Me to You, but with a morose tone. There were not many women working at the ciné-clubs in the 1960s and 1970s, and indeed Bojana Vujanović may have been the only one to direct a film at Academic Ciné-club in these early years. In Journey she experiments with mixing color and monochrome film stock, creating a solemn tone poem for her take on the previously-mentioned 'lone woman in distress' genre. The film Home (Radoslav Vladić, 1977) takes place entirely in a closed domestic space, charting the various rooms that the director's family occupies. There is a distinctive cultural value to this film similar to what academics would call 'domestic ethnography' as we witness what life looked like on a very immediate and intimate level in Yugoslavia of the 1970s. Vladić soon moved into professional filmmaking and enjoyed a lengthy career as a cinematographer in both film and television production.
Leaping ahead to 1980 we find the film Organon they asked me (Zoran Saveski), which seems to be another modulation on the 'lone woman in distress' theme, but with a distinctive surreal effect. A lush naturalism suffuses this film, with its forests and bodies of water. Organon they asked me is presented as a strange dream which we float through but cannot quite connect with what it is that is being asked of us. Returning to the early 1960s with the film Smoke and Water (Dragoslav Lazić, 1962), we enter the realm of poetic documentary. The subjects are trains and trainyards, which were key iconic symbols in the Yugoslav Black Wave films of the decade that followed. Lazić would also turn pro, directing mostly for television with the intermittent feature film to his credit.
This program closes with another trilogy, by the accomplished multimedia artist Tomislav Gotovac. His three films Straight Line, Circle, and Blue Rider have been classified by a number of critics as proto-structural, minimalist masterpieces. However, it is also important to appreciate the documentary value of Gotovac's avant-garde cinema. Straight Line is executed on the front car of a moving street train, and the length of the film allows us to witness a vision of Revolution Boulevard, one of the iconic streets in Belgrade, as it was in the 1960s. Circle is performed with a rotating handheld camera on the roof of a building, and we are afforded a privileged view of the Belgrade city skyline at the peak of its modern development. Blue Rider makes a zig-zag motion, as Gotovac and his cameraman burst into a busy restaurant and record the reactions of every person that they encounter, from diners to staff. What starts as a random and chaotic experiment eventually evolves into a document of the diverse faces of Belgrade, the capital of Socialist Yugoslavia. Some perform tricks for the camera, some ignore it, some hide from it. Regardless of the quality of the encounter, the humanity of the director is exposed and the film can only be read as a love letter to a people, a city, a country, also a film culture that no longer exists.
Greg de Cuir, Jr is the the selector/programmer for Alternative Film/Video Belgrade. He also works as the managing editor of NECSUS (Amsterdam University Press/NECS) and is a member of FIPRESCI. Follow on Twitter @de_Cinema
This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city's longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2014 is our 39th year.
Coming Soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:
May 4 Henry Hills
May 18 Some cool films programmed by Julie Murray
May 22 Ericka Beckman, at MOCA
May 25 - Ericka Beckman, at the Egyptian
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Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian (View)
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
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