Yugoslav-Serbian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik is one of the genuine legends of European cinema. Since his auspicious debut in 1969 with the film Early Works, which was awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, the enfant terrible of Yugoslav New film has created an impressive body of work, remaining committed to his project of platforming the marginalised and interrogating the blind spots of socialist, post-socialist, and neoliberal Europe.
With kind support from CHASE, this contemporary survey – the first even dedicated to Žilnik in the UK – focused on the urgency and vitality of his 21st century work, and celebrated his indispensable contributions to an independent, engaged, radical, humanist cinema.
Taking place across various venues in London, including Goldsmiths, University of London, Birkbeck, University of London, Close-Up cinema and Lux, the series of events included a workshop led by Žilnik himself, a comprehensive film survey of his 21st century work, a curated retrospective of his short films, and a symposium dedicated to Žilnik’s work in order to situate it within a broader social, political and cultural context.
Workshop: Making Films in Times of Political and Financial Crises (held on 13 November 2019 at Goldsmiths, University of London)
The workshop, led by Želimir Žilnik, was aimed at doctoral candidates who work with the moving image and operating on the boundary between theory and practice. It aimed to address ways of navigating around financial and political constraints and it consisted of two parts: the first section included a lecture with short screenings and discussions integrated, while the second part involved a Q & A session, and invited PhDs to contemplate their own research and projects in dialogue with Žilnik.
Particular themes of emphasis included navigating political action and creative work, the ethics of filmmaking, working with fiction/nonfiction, and strategies of fundraising and organising. Watch the excerpt from the workshop below:
Symposium: 21st Century Žilnik (held on 15 November 2019, Birkbeck, University of London)
On the occasion of Žilnik’s first UK survey (presented at Close-Up Film Centre in London), the symposium at Birkbeck was an opportunity to consider the wider historical context that structures Žilnik’s career. It brought together leading theoreticians and practitioners for in-depth discussions and presentations on Socialist Yugoslavia and the history of its film and television production, documentary history and style, contemporary practices with moving images, and more.
10:00-10:15h — Welcome remarks Matthew Barrington (Birkbeck), Greg de Cuir Jr (Independent, Belgrade)
10:15-11:15h — panel- 1Dr Vlastimir Sudar (Kingston University), ‘The history of Yugoslav cinema’; Dr Martin Brady (King’s College London), ‘Contentism v. sensibilism: Politics and the New German Cinema in the early 1970s’
11:30-12:30h — panel 2- Dr Vana Goblot (Goldsmiths), ‘Television in Socialist Yugoslavia’; Dr Greg de Cuir Jr (Independent, Belgrade), ‘There is no such thing as documentary’
14:00-15:00h — panel 3- Prof. Ewa Mazierska (University of Central Lancashire), ‘Eastern European cinema after the fall of the Iron Curtain: Options and dilemmas’; Maria Palacios Cruz (LUX), ‘Two Avant-Gardes and a Third Way’
15:15-17:00h — discussion- Prof. Dejan Djokic (Goldsmiths) + Želimir Žilnik
17:00h — screening- Tito Among the Serbs for the Second Time, 1994, 43 min
Dr Vlastimir Sudar (Kingston University) Vlastimir Sudar is an artist and filmmaker who graduated in Fine Art from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. He has co-authored and co-produced the feature-length fiction film ‘Borders, Raindrops’ (‘Granice kiše’), which premiered in August 2018 at the Sarajevo Film Festival and at the Montreal World Film Festival. Sudar holds a Ph.D. in Film Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. His doctoral research focused on the acclaimed Yugoslav and Serbian film director Aleksandar Petrović, and he is also the author of ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Political Dissident: The Life and Work of Aleksandar Petrović’, published in the UK and US in 2013. Sudar has published a number of essays and film reviews and is a contributor to Sight and Sound magazine.
Dr Vana Goblot (Goldsmiths) Vana Goblot is a lecturer in the Cepartment of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work examines the relationship between media and power, with particular focus on television industry transformations and issues of cultural value. She has previously worked as a journalist and a translator in the former Yugoslavia.
Dr Martin Brady Emeritus Reader in German and Film Studies at King’s College London. He has published on European film, music, literature, disability, architecture, and the visual arts. He translated Victor Klemperer’s LTI (The Language of the Third Reich) and also works as a freelance interpreter and visual artist.
Prof. Ewa Mazierska Professor of Film Studies at University of Central Lancashire. She has published over thirty monographs and edited collections on film and popular music, including Popular Viennese Electronic Music, 1990-2015: A Cultural History (Routledge: 2019), Poland Daily: Economy, Work, Consumption and Social Class in Polish Cinema (Berghahn, 2017), and Popular Music in Eastern Europe: Breaking the Cold War Paradigm (Palgrave, 2016). Mazierska’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages. She is principal editor of the Routledge journal Studies in Eastern European Cinema.
Maria Palacios Cruz (Deputy Director, LUX) London-based film curator María Palacios Cruz is a co-founder of The Visible Press, Deputy Director at LUX, and a programmer for the Punto de Vista and Courtisane festivals. She is responsible for the film curating programme at Elias Querejeta Zine Eskola in San Sebastian and has recently edited an anthology of writings by Lis Rhodes titled Telling Invents Told (2019). She lived in Belgrade from 1994 to 1999 and wrote her Master’s dissertation on the transition from Yugoslav to Serbian Cinema in the 1990s.
Dr Greg de Cuir Jr (Independent, Belgrade) Greg de Cuir Jr is an independent curator, writer, and translator who lives and works in Belgrade (Serbia). He most recently delivered a talk on the politics of curating at Encontro de Cinema Negro in Rio de Janeiro. He will next serve as a jury member at Human Rights Film Festival in Sarajevo.
Dejan Djokic is Professor of Modern History at Goldsmiths, University of London and a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow for 2019-20.
Film Survey: 21st Century Žilnik
(Held at Close-Up Film Centre, London) 12-17 November 2019
12 November, Tuesday, 20.15h; Logbook Serbistan, 2015, 94 min.
13 November, Wednesday, 20.15h; The Old School of Capitalism, 2009, 122 min.
14 November, Thursday, 20.15h; One Woman – One Century, 2011, 110 min.
15 November, Friday, 18.30h; Pirika on Film, 2013, 53 min + Little Pioneers, 1968, 18 min.
16 November, Saturday, 20h; The Most Beautiful Country in the World, 2018, 101 min. *UK premiere + conversation with Želimir Žilnik
21st Century Žilnik was the first UK survey of the work of the pioneering Yugoslav-Serbian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik. With a career that began in the 1960s, Žilnik is one of the genuine legends of European cinema, particularly a radical, engaged, independent, humanist cinema. The legend began in the year 1969, when Žilnik won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for his controversial debut feature film Early Works — while he was still in his 20s. Since then one of the most distinguished filmmakers of Yugoslav New Film has remained committed to his project of platforming the marginalised and interrogating the blind spots of socialist, post-socialist, and neoliberal Europe. Now in his 70s he is operating at impressive heights by any standards, and he is experiencing something of a career renaissance. In 2015 Doclisboa dedicated a major career retrospective to him; in 2017 he was paid homage at Anthology Film Archives and Harvard Film Archive; in 2018 he was profiled at Cinemateca Argentina; in 2019 he was given a wide-ranging survey at Centre Pompidou.
This contemporary overview at Close-Up Film Centre focused on the urgency and vitality of Žilnik’s 21st century work, and included the UK premiere of his most recent film, The Most Beautiful Country in the World. The artist was present on the occasion of this premiere for a discussion with the audience. A special program of his early documentary shorts was also shown at LUX on 17 November organised by Greg de Cuir Jr (Nonaligned Curator, Belgrade), with Dr Vana Goblot (Goldsmiths) and Matthew Barrington (Birkbeck), and with kind support from CHASE.