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Postcommunist Film - Russia, Eastern Europe and World Culture: Moving Images of Post-Communism
 9780415671644, 9780203131152, 0203131150

Table of contents :
Front Cover
Postcommunist Film --
Russia, Eastern Europe and World Culture
Copyright Page
Notes on contributors
Introduction: Lars Kristensen
Part l: Cultural strategies, industry and reception
1. National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema: Jasmijn Van Gorp
2. Baltic cinema: Zoe Aiano
3. Belgrade as New York: Vlastimir Sudar
4. 'Haven't you heard of internationalism?': Ros Gray
5. The remains of socialist realism: Lars Kristensen
6. Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf: Bruce Williams
Part ll: People, place and nation. 7. Demolish, preserve or beautify: Ewa Mazierska8. Treading new paths: Sune Bechmann Pedersen
9. The crime that changed Serbia: Nevena Daković
10. Projected nation and projected self: Yun-Hua Chen
11. Truancy, or thought from the provinces: Yün Peng
12. Representations of former USSR and Eastern European identity in Turkish cinema: Serazer Pekerman

Citation preview

Postcommunist Film – Russia, Eastern Europe and World Culture

A postcommunist condition was created through the fall of the Berlin Wall and later the Soviet Empire, and this book looks at how this condition has manifested itself globally in the production of postcommunist film. It deals with different national cinemas and dissimilar cinematic modes, from Russian blockbuster cinema to Chinese independent cinema, from Serbian city films to revolutionary films of Mozambique, all formulated within the postcommunist condition. Attempting to illustrate history’s role in the formation of the postcommunist film, the book aims at moving the notion of postcommunist film away from an exclusively geographical foundation and into the realm of transnational cinema and World cinema. Seeking to describe how postcommunism is a shared experience on a geopolitical level and not limited by the borders of national states, it examines postcommunist cross-culturalism and the rise of a global totalitarianism within film. The chapters explore a wide range of films in relation to the postcommunist era, from small and low-budget filmmaking to mainstream, popular cinema, and explain postcommunist signifiers as manifested in visual culture both inside and outside former, and current, communist countries. The contributors consist of young emerging scholars; predominantly from film and media studies, as well as more well-known names within the field of Eastern European cinema. Lars Kristensen is a Research Assistant at the School of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Central Lancashire, UK.

Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series


Liberal Nationalism in Central Europe Stefan Auer


The Development of Capitalism in Russia Simon Clarke


Civil-Military Relations in Russia and Eastern Europe David J. Betz


Russian Television Today Primetime Drama and Comedy David MacFadyen


The Extreme Nationalist Threat in Russia The Growing Influence of Western Rightist Ideas Thomas Parland

10 The Rebuilding of Greater Russia Putin’s Foreign Policy towards the CIS Countries Bertil Nygren


Economic Development in Tatarstan Global Markets and a Russian Region Leo McCann

11 A Russian Factory Enters the Market Economy Claudio Morrison




Adapting to Russia’s New Labour Market Gender and Employment Strategy Edited by Sarah Ashwin Building Democracy and Civil Society East of the Elbe Essays in Honour of Edmund Mokrzycki Edited by Sven Eliaeson The Telengits of Southern Siberia Landscape, Religion and Knowledge in Motion Agnieszka Halemba

12 Democracy Building and Civil Society in Post-Soviet Armenia Armine Ishkanian 13 NATO-Russia Relations in the Twenty-First Century Aurel Braun 14 Russian Military Reform A Failed Exercise in Defence Decision Making Carolina Vendil Pallin 15 The Multilateral Dimension in Russian Foreign Policy Edited by Elana Wilson Rowe and Stina Torjesen

16 Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia Edited by Marlène Laruelle 17 The Caucasus – An Introduction Frederik Coene 18 Radical Islam in the Former Soviet Union Edited by Galina M. Yemelianova 19 Russia’s European Agenda and the Baltic States Janina Šleivytë 20 Regional Development in Central and Eastern Europe Development Processes and Policy Challenges Edited by Grzegorz Gorzelak, John Bachtler and Maciej Smêtkowski 21 Russia and Europe Reaching Agreements, Digging Trenches Kjell Engelbrekt and Bertil Nygren 22 Russia’s Skinheads Exploring and Rethinking Subcultural Lives Hilary Pilkington, Elena Omel’chenko and Al’bina Garifzianova 23 The Colour Revolutions in the Former Soviet Republics Successes and Failures Edited by Donnacha Ó Beacháin and Abel Polese 24 Russian Mass Media and Changing Values Edited by Arja Rosenholm, Kaarle Nordenstreng and Elena Trubina

25 The Heritage of Soviet Oriental Studies Edited by Michael Kemper and Stephan Conermann 26 Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia Brian P. Bennett 27 Jewish Women Writers in the Soviet Union Rina Lapidus 28 Chinese Migrants in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe Edited by Felix B. Chang and Sunnie T. Rucker-Chang 29 Poland’s EU Accession Sergiusz Trzeciak 30 The Russian Armed Forces in Transition Economic, Geopolitical and Institutional Uncertainties Edited by Roger N. McDermott, Bertil Nygren and Carolina Vendil Pallin 31 The Religious Factor in Russia’s Foreign Policy Alicja Curanoviæ 32 Postcommunist Film – Russia, Eastern Europe and World Culture Moving Images of Postcommunism Edited by Lars Lyngsgaard Fjord Kristensen 33 Russian Multinationals From Regional Supremacy to Global Lead Andrei Panibratov

Postcommunist Film – Russia, Eastern Europe and World Culture Moving images of postcommunism

Edited by Lars Kristensen

This edition published 2012 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business c 2012 for selection and editorial material, Lars Kristensen. Individual chapters,  the contributors. The right of the editor to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kristensen, Lars. Postcommunist film: Russia, Eastern Europe and world culture: moving images of postcommunism/edited by Lars Lyngsgaard Fjord Kristensen. p. cm. – (Routledge contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe series) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Motion pictures–Social aspects–Russia (Federation) 2. Motion pictures–Political aspects–Russia (Federation) 3. Motion pictures–Social aspects–Europe, Eastern. 4. Motion pictures–Political aspects–Europe, Eastern. 5. Post-communism–Social aspects–Russia (Federation) 6. Post-communism–Social aspects–Europe, Eastern. I. Kristensen, Lars Lyngsgaard Fjord. PN1993.5.R9P65 2012 302.23’430947–dc23 2011032405 ISBN13: 978-0-415-67164-4 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-13115-2 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Sunrise Setting Ltd, Torquay, UK


Figures Foreword Acknowledgements Notes on contributors Introduction

ix x xiii xiv 1



Cultural strategies, industry and reception


1 National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema



2 Baltic cinema



3 Belgrade as New York



4 ‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’



5 The remains of socialist realism



6 Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf




People, place and nation


viii Contents 7 Demolish, preserve or beautify



8 Treading new paths



9 The crime that changed Serbia



10 Projected nation and projected self



11 Truancy, or thought from the provinces



12 Representations of former USSR and Eastern European identity in Turkish cinema








3.1 Ratko Draževi´c (first from right) talking to Kirk Douglas (to his left) in Belgrade, 1964 4.1 Mobile cinema unit, from the Kuxakanema newsreel 4.2 Poster for José Cardoso’s O Vento sopre do norte (1987) 4.3 The film crew for Licínio Azevedo’s Adeus RDA (1992) confronts a group of neo-Nazis in recently unified Germany 4.4 Wilson Buyaya as Idrissa in Oktyabr (1993) 6.1 Poster for Kujtim Çashku’s Magic Eye 6.2 Bujar Lako and Arta Dobroshi in Çashku’s Magic Eye 6.3 Yllka Mujo and Mevlan Shanaj in Shanaj’s Black Flowers 7.1 Svetlana Khodchenkova as Vera in Little Moscow (2008) ˙ 7.2 Svetlana Khodchenkova as Vera and Lesław Zurek as Michał in Little Moscow (2008) 7.3 Małgorzata Buczkowska as Aga and Barbara Kurzaj as Danka in Ode to Joy (2005) 8.1 Udo (Wolfgang Stumph) fixing his car from ‘the old days’ 8.2 Rita (Marie Gruber) shopping in the West 8.3 Radek (Radek Pastrˇnák) struggles to court Anna (Anna Geislerová) in Jízda (The Ride) 1994 8.4 Adorable countryside in Jízda (The Ride) 1994

39 65 68 70 71 91 97 100 110 111 114 124 126 128 129

Foreword Global narratives of postcommunism Dina Iordanova

Everything that took place after 1989 in Eastern Europe and beyond can be subsumed under the category of change management. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and their respective conflicts of succession, the reunification of Germany, the economic crises, the significant outmigration, the admission of some nations – old and new – into the European Union, the alienation of others, and so on – all were consequences of one of the most wide-ranging social upheavals of the latter part of the twentieth century. The state socialist order had failed to deliver. A soft revolution, shaped by expectations of reinvigoration and based on hopes for rapid reinvention and prosperity, gave impetus to massive change across territories and continents. During the years of communism, life in Eastern Europe had been marked by the anticipation of change. It was clear to those trapped in the confines of the Eastern Bloc that it was likely they would have to make important choices sometime soon; as time passed, the signals suggesting that the system could not possibly survive without rupture intensified. While a breakthrough was awaited, however, it was difficult to predict precisely when and in what shape it would arrive. In the aftermath, it gradually transpired that within the Eastern Bloc people had behaved differently in their anticipation of communism’s end: some had actively worked to bring it about, some had tried to figure out in which direction things were likely to take off, while others had no more than a vague idea about what their lives were to become. Individuals, organizations and countries managed the change differently. The behavior of nation states often resembled the conduct of individuals: some were better equipped for the change; others were caught by surprise when it came. There is no universally agreed upon, master narrative of the developments that took place in the aftermath of communism. One way of telling the story was to maintain that, once liberated from the iron grip of the Soviets, the countries of Eastern Europe finally took to the path of free capitalism and democracy and managed to progress, soon rejoining the rest of Europe, where they had always belonged, historically and culturally. Another account – one more frequently seen in films – offered more ambivalent interpretations, often keeping the focus on the high human cost of the transition.

Foreword xi The films of postcommunism showcased the stories of morally bewildered and confused protagonists. New classes of disenfranchized Europeans were depicted – from newly minted gangsters, to retired colonels, to trafficked women. Some directors of the new generation – those who grew up during the last years of communism – addressed matters of inferiority and impoverishment. Their films were inhabited by budding migrants mired in the drab environments that communism had constructed and then discarded for future generations to tackle. Others focused on the present by exposing its shallow consumerism: the massively proˇ moted hypermarket, fittingly called Ceský sen/Czech Dream (Vít Klusák, Filip Remunda 2004), turned out to be nothing but a wobbly canvas façade raised in the middle of a field near Prague – a mock allegory referencing the alluring, but glib, political façade of the European Union’s newly-found prosperity. The refashioning of narratives of history, national character, or the collective identities of postcommunism, has not been straightforward. Any unanimity over what was happening rapidly vanished amidst the crumbling communal memory. Postcommunism’s finest films tackled the vigorous reworking of memory that involved selective forgetting and the formation of new favoured plots. These evolved inevitably around the ambivalence of shared memory and the ambiguity of compromise: from Good bye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker 2004), which confirmed the impossibility of maintaining intact previously agreed storylines, to A fost sau n-a fost?/12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu 2006), which confirmed the impossibility of putting forward an agreed reconstruction of the past. Alongside this, the anxieties of postcommunism were soon to be pushed aside by other events that consumed the global political imagination. New narratives and concerns – of radicalization and terrorist threat; of bellicose world order; and of environmental self-destruction and disastrous shortage of resources – came into sharp focus as attention moved away from the postcommunist world and Eastern Europe. Change management in the Eastern Bloc no longer fascinated; public interest shifted before the culture of communism and its makeover had been properly assessed. The first two decades of postcommunism have seen a host of amazing metamorphoses. The changing Eastern European film business, now privatized and modernized, has already gone through almost a full circle of reinvention, with its share of new studios, multiplexes and other global film franchises. It has been successfully rebranded into a cut-price alternative service economy, offering skilled personnel and bargain basement amenities to runaway film businesses. It successfully mimics its Western European counterparts, enjoying its fair share of the manufacture of outsourced content for a multitude of platforms. Film, as both an industry and a narrative art, has mirrored the transitional curve. By looking at film and media representations, and at production and reception, this volume aims to bridge the older and newer narratives and their propositions as they play out in the discourse on postcommunism’s shifting realities. It combines instances of close textual analysis with inquiries into popular discursive tropes and studies that scrutinize the new creative environments.

xii Foreword Its most important feature, however, is its display of a wide-ranging understanding of the universal span of postcommunism as a global concern. The end of the Cold War, as explored in this book, is regarded as the underlying factor shaping cinematic and social narratives lying far beyond those countries belonging to the former Soviet sphere of influence, and spanning as far as Africa and Asia. Particularly noteworthy is the analysis of works coming from China, Vietnam, Turkey and Canada, which, albeit in a different manner, largely grapples with identity problems not dissimilar to those that feature in the leading cinematic texts of new Romanian or new Russian cinema. Once the reverberations of communism are seen as a global concern, it becomes easy to understand why a Chinese director like Jia Zhangke can emerge as an ultimate narrator of the postcommunist condition. As is the case elsewhere, in this instance cinema explores social and individual lives that intertwine in intrinsic and inseparable relationships. Where the socialist realist heroes of earlier years would be shown engaged in the process of collective construction, Jia’s protagonists hold jobs in contexts that, openly or obliquely, involve tearing down that which communism has left behind. Old factories are slotted for demolition; workers function in teams that systematically operate to delete the past. Once again, the working classes are stakeholders in a large-scale collective project. This time, it is an orderly postcommunist de-construction. Once again, the project is change management; and once again, it is arduous and traumatic. A closure must first take place, before there can be a new beginning.


The book springs from two events that took place in 2009. The first event was the Arts & Humanities Research Council sponsored conference, Postcommunist Visual Culture and Cinema, which was held at the University of St Andrews, Fife, UK. The second event was a workshop series at Tirana International Film Festival, Albania, which saw film scholars giving their views on Balkan cinema in a cross-cultural perspective. Many people were involved in executing these events. In St Andrews, UK, Spela Zajec and Daniel Lilly helped with the organisation of the conference; the panels were chaired by the late John Orr, plus John Cunningham and Jeremy Howard; and the keynote speakers were Andrew Baruch Wachtel, Ib Bondebjerg, Fiona Björling, Brian McNair and Ewa Mazierska. I am grateful to Dina Iordanova for her initial help and encouragement in organising the conference in the first place, and for agreeing to write the foreword to this book. In Tirana, Altin Goxhaj, Genc Permeti and Iris Elezi helped make our visit smooth and pleasant. A special thanks also to Ridvan Peskopia and festival director Ilir Butka who made the workshop possible. Many others also provided comments and help in the process of producing this book: Ruby Cheung, Serazer Pekerman, Olle Sjögren, Margareta Rönnberg, Karolina Westling, Eva Naripea, Marian Tutui, Emily J. Lloyd Munro, Matthew Munro Lloyd and Micaela Maftei; and, at Routledge, Emma Davis and Peter Sowden. Finally, a special thanks to Ewa Mazierska for her invaluable advice and suggestions. Chapter 5, my own contribution, appeared in a Swedish anthology Motsträviga synsätt: Om rörliga bilder som bjuder motstånd (Visby: Filmförlaget 2010), edited by Margareta Rönnberg and Karolina Westling. In this book, the chapter appears in its original version.

Notes on contributors

Zoe Aiano is a freelance writer and filmmaker. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2008 with a joint degree in Slavonic Studies and Film and TV, and is currently residing in Italy. Yun-Hua Chen is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews, UK, where her thesis is titled ‘Fragmented spaces in Michael Haneke’s films’. She received her BA from the National University of Taiwan and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, attending a Master’s course at Université de Grenoble. Her research interests lie predominantly with cross-border movement and transnational cinema. She has published reviews and articles in various film journals, such as Senses of Cinema. Nevena Dakovi´c is a Professor of Film Theory and Film Studies at the University of Arts, Belgrade, where she is also the Director of the PhD program in Art and Media Studies (Interdisciplinary Studies/University of Arts). She is the author of three books: Melodrama is Not a Genre (1995), Dictionary of Film Theoreticians (2002), and Balkan as (Film) Genre: Text, Nation, Representation (2008). She is the editor and co-editor of five edited collections and has published widely in national and international journals. Her research focuses on issues of identity in (mainly national and multicultural) cinematic representations. Ros Gray is a Lecturer in Fine Art Practice (Critical Studies) at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her research investigates the film cultures of Tricontinental liberation movements and their global networks, with particular focus on lusophone Africa; anti-colonial and post-colonial theory; contemporary art practice; urban cultures and cross-cultural translations of architectural modernism. She is co-editor of a special issue of Third Text, entitled ‘The Militant Image: A Ciné-Geography’, and is currently preparing the monograph The Vanguard of the World: Cinemas of the African Revolution. Dina Iordanova founded the Film Studies department at the University of St Andrews, UK, and also serves as Provost of St. Leonard’s College, home of the University’s postgraduate population. She has written extensively on

Notes on contributors xv Eastern European, transnational and peripheral cinemas. Engaged with several initiatives in the areas of publishing, film festivals, and global creative industries, Iordanova’s recent published work is dedicated mainly to the global dynamics of film circulation. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and serves as a Trustee of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Lars Kristensen is a Post-Doc Research Assistant at the University of Central Lancashire. He completed his PhD in Film Studies in 2009, at the University of St Andrews, UK, and has taught Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of Glasgow, where he also obtained a research degree on the Russian filmmaker Aleksei Balabanov. He has published mainly on crosscultural issues related to Russian cinema and is currently working towards his monograph entitled Russians Abroad in Postcommunist Cinema. Ewa Mazierska is a Professor of Contemporary Cinema at the University of Central Lancashire. Her publications include numerous articles in Polish and English and several books, such as Masculinities in Polish, Czech and Slovak Cinema (Berghahn 2008), Roman Polanski: The Cinema of a Cultural Traveller (I.B. Tauris 2007), Women in Polish Cinema (with Elz˙ bieta Ostrowska, Berghahn 2006) and Crossing New Europe: The European Road Movie (with Laura Rascaroli, Wallflower Press 2006). She is currently working on a manuscript about work in European cinema. Sune Bechmann Pedersen is a PhD candidate at the University of Lund. He received an MA in history at University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, and specializes in the contemporary history of Central Europe, with a focus on cultural identity and the impact of traumatic experiences on shaping collective memories. He has been a research assistant at the Danish Institute for International Studies, Department for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and is currently a teaching assistant at the University of Copenhagen. Serazer Pekerman received a PhD at the Department of Film Studies at the University of St Andrews, UK in 2011, with a thesis entitled ‘Framed Intimacy: Representation of the Female Body in Transnational Cinemas.’ Having a BA degree in Architecture, she obtained an MA in Film Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University with a dissertation on spatial configurations in the films of Serdar Akar. She has published widely on various cinemas, from Turkish to African cinema. Yün Peng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a PhD in Comparative Literature and has an MA in Women’s Studies from the University of Cincinnati. Vlastimir Sudar is an Associate Lecturer at the University of the Arts London and at Goldsmiths College, where he teaches film history and theory. He obtained his PhD at the University of St Andrews, UK and has written on

xvi Notes on contributors Balkan Cinema in the anthology The Cinema of The Balkans (2006), as well as in various journals and magazines, including KinoKultura and Sight & Sound. He is a photographer with numerous shows behind him, as well as an internationally awarded scriptwriter. Jasmijn Van Gorp is a Post-Doc Research Assistant at the University of Utrecht working on a research project entitled ‘Diasporas, Migration and Media.’ She was a teaching and research assistant at the Communication Department at the University of Antwerp, where she also obtained a PhD in Social Sciences with a dissertation on national identity and Russian film policy in post-Soviet Russia. She has written widely on postcommunist Russian cinema and is a regular reviewer on KinoKultura. Bruce Williams is a full Professor at the William Paterson University of New Jersey and is Director of the Graduate Program of the Department of Languages and Cultures. He has published extensively on issues related to cinema and nationalism, the sociolinguistics of the cinema and Brazilian silent/experimental film. Together with a book manuscript on the films of Guillermo del Toro, Williams is currently at work on issues of censorship in the cinemas of Albania, (West) Germany, and the USA.

Introduction Lars Kristensen

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, and subsequently the Soviet Union, the pendulum of social change swung towards democracy and economic prosperity, heralded by global rights and consumerist societies. Now, looking into the second decade of the 21st century, it is returning to an ill-defined era of probing economic growth and questioning universal equality. Despite neo-Marxists urging us to rethink communism as radical activism,1 the unfashionable and outmoded term postcommunism is advocated here in relation to how we can approach World cinema. Viewing this pendulum movement as an alternation, as taking a different, non-Western route in constructing what world culture is, it is high time that the concept of postcommunist cinema is tested as a worldwide phenomenon. In cinema, more and more attention is directed at a distinct postcommunist revision of what communist history can teach us. This book aims at taking stock of how we can view postcommunist cinema as part of world culture. Film scholars on the cinema of former communist countries tend to exclude or marginalise the transnational and cross-cultural phenomena, and the same applies to ‘transnational cinema’, which is discussed primarily as diasporic, experimental and non-mainstream – but not as postcommunist. This book is meant to examine postcommunist cinema production through the perspective of world culture and consider how the fall of communism has globally affected film industries and the cinematic texts they produce. Illustrating the growing body of cinematic works that are starting to come to light within a clear postcommunist revisionist perspective, I will briefly highlight an example close to my own heart. The short film The Invisible Frame (2009), by Cynthia Beatt, is a retake on Beatt’s earlier film, Cycling the Frame (1988). In the first film, made just before the Berlin Wall fell, a young Tilda Swinton cycles around the outskirts of West Berlin. As she narrates the first ‘communist’ film, Swinton hates the Wall and wants to shoot a hole in it in order to demolish it. It is the constant inability to cross over to the other side that distresses the narrator. Paradoxically, Swinton’s relationship with the Wall frees the character to look inside herself for depth and clarity. By poetically musing in voiceover on her constant encounters with the Wall, she achieves assurance about herself and her journey. In this way, Swinton becomes one with her bicycle and her movement through the divided city. More importantly, though, the Cold War space of Berlin

2 Introduction is internalised as self-evident and definite. This is all but gone when Beatt and Swinton do their feat again, only 21 years later. In the postcommunist version, Swinton is again in Berlin but this time there is no Wall. The transition from the Wall as a visible marker of the Cold War to only its invisible traces in a postcommunist society puzzles the rider. She states in the beginning of the film, ‘what have I learnt in these 21 years?’, as if the invisible Wall is internally detectable. The ability to look inside for answers, or to internalise the postcommunist space, is replaced by questions and a search for new frames to interpret the world. It is on this occasion that she loses her connection to bicycle and movement. As Swinton narrates, ‘new walls are being built’ and ‘one wall falls down and there are all these little ones that pop up’. These new boundaries, the little walls, are seen as a parasitic feature of the larger postcommunist condition: you cut its head off and it lives on in many smaller forms. With the Berlin Wall gone, all Swinton has to do is to stay on the bicycle, as she once points out in the film, weaving together the gap by zigzagging over the ‘invisible’ Wall, marked on the ground by cobblestones. Because the Wall is invisible, no longer there, it focuses her attention completely and her focus remains outward at the expense of inward considerations. In other words, she cannot ignore the Wall since it is not there. As she is free to progress wherever she likes, without limitations on what she can see and understand, she cannot internalise the postcommunist space. She gets lost several times and her continuous movement is stopped by the little ‘walls’ – private erected fences or simply roadwork. What emerges in the second film, thus, is a nostalgic feeling for the actual Wall as something that gave shape to history. This echoes Jean-Luc Godard in Allemagne 90 neuf zéro/Germany Year 90 nine zero (1991). As Jeffrey Skoller writes, for Godard the Wall indicated the possibility of difference. Things are one way but could be another. But in his image of a world culture of late capitalism, there is no “outerland.” There is nothing onto which the present can reflect.2 In the postcommunist The Invisible Frame, there also is no ‘outerland’ where self can be reflected and space internalised. Instead, there is a search within world culture for new walls – new binaries – that can give context and space to the significance of the ‘invisible’ structures that have resulted from the fall of communism, such as rich/poor, private/public and us/them. While many little ones are identified, a ‘big’ one is located in Israel, as the film is dedicated to the people of Palestine. But this wall is far away from Berlin and only revealed in the end credits of the film. This framework search, we can argue, is part and parcel of the postcommunist relationship, where questions are posed rather than answers provided. As this collection will testify, the reading of postcommunist films often raises such questions about the new framework. Where are we heading and how far can we go? Are there new limitations to our progress? Encountering the phrase, ‘you can’t stop progress. . .’, Paul Virilio has objected, ‘sure, but what progress? The progress in the substance of the motor or the

Introduction 3 performance?’3

progress in the accident in its Relating this to filmmaking, we could ask whether it is the industry (the motor) or the films (the performance) that are progressing and that cannot be stopped. What is progress in a postcommunist cinematic perspective? Have we progressed at all with (post)communism still visible in the cobblestones of Berlin? Because the postcommunist condition that this collection deals with is both abstract (as a new mindset) and concrete (as in the Berlin cobblestones), there is no definite answer to the question of progress. Instead, we seek to locate the postcommunist condition in between notions of abstract and concrete. As seen with The Invisible Frame above, the postcommunist condition is visible and real, and at the same time invisible and imaginary, creating an inbuilt contradiction where progress can be questioned but does not offer answers. A majority of the contributors to this volume locate this contradiction by insisting on a neither/nor sentence construction over definite interpretations. This preference of ambiguity over certainties and clear interpretations should also guide the reader of this book. The volume aims at detecting a postcommunist condition in cinematic production by paying attention to particular features of postcommunism without losing sight of its global configurations. The particularity of postcommunism lies in real visible structures that have been left over from the past – the actual towns or communities in Poland or the actual film archive in Mozambique. However, the postcommunist mindset can also be found in the universal loss of a bipolar world order, a world order that has been replaced by new postcommunist constellations, whether unipolar in (anti-)Americanism and national(ist) revival, or multipolar in post-national cinematic cooperation and diasporic inabilities to form fixed notions of ‘home’ and ‘homeland’. The collection attempts to discuss specific postcommunist genre conversions, but also the use of genre filmmaking in reaching regional and transnational audiences. On the level of global genre exchange, the collection as a whole detects a larger generic homogenisation of cinematic narratives, whether in historical epics, war movies or gangster films, which is a trend already identified in cinemas of postcommunist countries.4 This points towards a growing homogenisation of the moving image, which can be located in the absence of Cold War counter-narratives that aimed at destabilising either capitalist or socialist hegemonies. In the postcommunist period, however, we have seen a geopolitical shift in global power relations, a shift from the Cold War dynamics of ideological conflict to a divide, similar to the older North–South divide, based primarily on economic growth. The rising new centers of economic power in India, China and Brazil have the geographical territories and population sizes to sustain cinematic production without ‘foreign’ assistance or state subventions. But this rarely happens, as both global film companies and state involvement and interest only increase with economic growth and prosperity. In these economies, film production is neither an absolute alternative to dominant ideology nor a complete ideological ‘normative’, but rather projects a totalising world view by attempting to reach global viewers. The postcommunist consumer-driven cinema homogenises the product. In the attempt to gain political, economic or popular recognition of their cinematic exploits, the films are formed

4 Introduction from cross-cultural points of view that aspire for totality but will always lack in absolutism and completeness. Furthermore, in terms of political and military interest, a profound shift has taken place towards the Middle East and Africa, largely replacing the former communist East as places of ideological contest, dictatorship and velvet-style revolutions. From the perspective of cinema culture, South-East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa have sustained and reignited the academic emphasis on the importance of cross-cultural and transnational narratives, a notion this collection will advance in the analysis of moving images of postcommunism. In its cross-cultural communication, which is inherently and invisibly embedded in postcommunist images, the volume points to actual persons, narratives, representations and genres that are able to bridge gaps which have existed since the fall of communism.

Postcommunism and World culture Postcommunism comes in many forms and shapes. Since communism in Europe collapsed over twenty years ago, many different notions and uses of the term postcommunism have emerged, expanding from simple temporal signification to particular geographical preoccupation – from political and economic analysis to the culture of transition.5 A working definition of postcommunism for this book is that the postcommunist condition is cross-cultural and global, but that cinemas and cultures are affected differently. Overall, the premise is that postcommunism is a shared condition that can be detected in World culture, including Western culture. A film like The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen 1998), for example, suggests that postcommunism is not exclusive to the region of former communist countries, but also affects US culture. The way the film deals with Socialist history and the New Left demonstrates that the filmmakers are in fact re-examining the position of the United States in the postcommunist era. It is Stacy Thompson’s argument that the Coen brothers in The Big Lebowski leave positive features of communism to the realm of the imaginary, by making their lead character a representation of a now vulgar postcommunism explicitly linked to the old New Left movement. The constant reference to past and present ideas of communism is one of the underlying logics of the film.6 Such re-examinations strongly point to global trends where history is the crucial crux in narrating postcommunism. This book attempts to open up the discussion of postcommunism by including territories that are not usually associated with the term, such as diasporic and transnational cinemas, postcolonial filmmaking and Western reception of postcommunist films. While Eastern European cinema during the Cold War constituted a dissident cinema for Western audiences, in the postcommunist global era this position has been supplanted by a wealth of filmmaking forms that are not tied to one particular group of countries or a singular style of filmmaking. Rather, the ‘alternative’ cinema, or nonconformist narratives, which once was how Eastern European cinema appeared to the West, is now competing with popular and mainstream cinema in the battle to both attain an

Introduction 5 international audience and retain a domestic one. The disappearance of Eastern European cinema as alternative creates a shift away from classical narrative cinema, which relies on the postcommunist condition as well as a postmodernist one.7 In this line of reasoning, postmodernism, as defined by Jean-François Lyotard’s end of grand narratives, is no longer the ultimate manifestation of late Western capitalism, but in fact rests on the postcommunist condition. Postcommunism is no longer just particular to postcommunist countries. Therefore, the collection seeks to advance the notion of World cinema and transnational cinema as both experimental and popular rather than a substitute for what was formerly Third cinema.8 In a postcommunist perspective, mainstream (First) cinema, art (Second) cinema and Third World cinema have lost their value as concepts meant to geographically group films and filmmakers. An example would be the postcommunist war film, as dealt with in the opening chapter. While a Hollywood production of a Vietnam War film would be considered mainstream, a postcommunist Russian equivalent on the Soviet War in Afghanistan would be classified as an example of World cinema, despite the fact the these two modes of production speak in the same cinematic language. In our view, the latter film is a postcommunist film that emulates mainstream filmmaking in order to reach its targeted audiences. Although postcommunist cinema is also tied to a geographical region, as defined by former communist countries, it is more useful to speak of postcommunist filmmaking as part of World culture rather than specific to a particular region. The concept of postcommunist cinema opens up the scope of studying films as a global phenomenon, affecting mainstream and art cinema, as well as World cinema. In the analysis of this collection, cinema, as part of World culture, is affected by the disappearance of Socialist filmmaking from three major shifts: (1) from a greater movement of films and filmmakers; (2) from an increase in global cooperation of film industries; and (3) from a upsurge in attention given to audiences, festivals and distribution markets. Films have increasingly become cultural commodities targeted through cinematic style and mode of expression toward specific audiences, whether located within specific or across national and cultural borders. Thus, approaching the postcommunist film is not about overlooking or doing away with the nation state in relation to filmmaking. Far from it, because as films become commodities, national visibility and nation branding take centre stage. Films sell, and they sell not only images of national selves, but also increasingly of the nation itself. This is why having an eye for the regional and transnational implications is an important analytical tool in viewing the postcommunist film. Postcommunist cinema is usually analysed within the framework of the single nation or the single auteur filmmaker, but this book takes the context of World culture as the framework for analysing postcommunist films and filmmaking industries. It applies a cross-cultural approach because the condition that we are after is not easily contained within the singular. Rather, postcommunist cinema is better viewed in its plural manifestations, since traces of the Socialist world often point beyond the singular nation or region. Many have dealt with cinematic representation of postcommunism within national, and some within

6 Introduction regional, perspectives,9 but few have considered this industry and its films from a global perspective.

History and postcommunism What, then, is the ‘post’ in postcommunism? It is not unlike other ‘post’ prefixed terms, such as postcolonialism or postmodernism, which also have a binary contradiction ingrained in their make-up. The ‘post’ suggests the movement beyond what is prefixed, but, at the same time, it can only be explained through exactly what the ‘post’ is attached to. Therefore, the postcommunist condition is not concerned with communist ideology per se but can be explained through the communist past. In this view, postcommunism is both similar and different to its older siblings postcolonialism and postmodernism. The postcommunism and postcolonialism share the evaluation of history but lack the active progressiveness. Equally, postcommunism contains the before and after image of postmodernism, the movement away from the prefix subject and the coming into being at a precise moment in time. However, where postmodernism opened up the systems of representation by arguing that anything is allowed, it is as if postcommunism is narrowing down the avenues of expression by its global reach. Therefore, history has to take a prominent role when dealing with postcommunism, which is noticeable in the wealth of research being done across the former communist countries.10 Despite this communality, though, one quickly detects a wide variety in how history is and has been tackled, which is reflected in how differently the transition periods of the individual countries have taken place, and to what degree the new regimes challenge the system that they replaced. For example, in Russia there was little in terms of reconciliation with its colonial and imperial history.11 In fact, as Richard Sakwa has observed, no country from the former Second/communist World saw the equivalent of a reconciliation effort made in post-apartheid South Africa.12 From the wars in Yugoslavia and the smooth transition in the Baltic States to anti-colonial and postsocialist movements in Africa and Asia, history is a contentious issue that divides people’s perceptions, viewpoints and narratives about selves. Space and history, and how the two notions intertwine, are essential concepts in the analysis of postcommunist films. On the one hand physical, through buildings, monuments and city planning, but on the other hand internal and psychological, through time and transforming identities, the postcommunist condition can be described as a Bakhtinian chronotope, the point where time and space collapse. Tilda Swinton’s journey through unified Berlin is again a good example; the layered image of a communist before and a postcommunist after is a concrete change, and the internal question of ‘what I have learnt?’ is the transformed mindset. Although Bakhtin’s chronotope suits the postcommunist condition, in this volume a number of authors point to Gilles Deleuze’s concepts of deterritorialization, any-space-whatever or crystallising image in unlocking postcommunist films. As invented to analyse film, and indeed very appealing to film scholars, these concepts allow us to examine history and space in film.13 But this does not

Introduction 7 grant us the possibility to collapse the approach into a single theoretical framework for analysing postcommunist space. The Deleuzian textual reading often lacks a connection to the film industry and the interrelationship of people that often is the basis of cultural production. The point is that one theoretical framework does not exclude the others. The industry analysis needs the Deleuzian perspective, and vice versa. This is the reason behind the dual take – industry and text – on postcommunist cinema that this volume advocates. Therefore, history is treated differently in the contributions. History might be taken to indicate cinematic or industry histories or it might be derived from physical and deeply personal histories, such as the building of a particular part of a city or a painful return from diaspora. But common for all the writers is the fact that communist history plays a part in identifying the shifts and turns that are emblematic of the postcommunist condition. Furthermore, if understood as a change in the global mindset, the postcommunist condition must place communist history in a comparative frame. What is, for example, the relationship between Western socialist movements of the past and community nostalgia in former communist countries? The fact is that we have cinematic representations of both – but not a comparative frame in which to analyse them. In the concept of postcommunist cinema such cultural flows can be detected. Exactly like people, creative ideas and influences are perceptive to travel. Hence, whether it is in actual narratives or cultural strategies, postcommunist filmmaking is moving people and products along global trajectories. The condition pushes filmmakers and the filmmaking industry to seek new avenues in their capacity as storytellers of moving images. This can be seen in regard to shifts in filmmaking of, for example, the epic film genre. The epic film is no longer confined to national or cultural borders, as the genre is cherished by global audiences.14 If indeed the urge is to narrate the nation anew in an epic format, then what is different is the context for producing these films and the context of watching them. Moreover, these narratives can be seen as having increased importance in the postcommunist condition. To be seen, or to be narrated, on screen in terms of belonging to a national, ethnic or social group might just be the way of confirming and conforming postcommunist identities, which have been driven by locating purity notions of identity due to revolutions, wars and conflicts. The volume casts light on some of the blind spots of our postcommunist condition: human trafficking, regeneration of diasporas, intercultural communication, first-time holidaymakers, revision of communist histories, economic migrants, nostalgia for lost community, and search for/use of/renewal of the Other, all of which are certified as particular to the postcommunist condition. It is through visual imagery in particular that these concerns are given a ‘global voice’, and through the collection in general that the postcommunist condition is addressed. The aim is to examine development of global and transnational production of films through the prism of a postcommunist condition that has certainly affected and permutated their formation and reception. The chapters are gathered to reflect on postcommunist World culture and to broaden the scope of the ‘postcommunist’ by encroaching upon global circulation of moving images and transnational

8 Introduction manifestations of contemporary cultural production. Therefore, the only restriction set for the authors was that the investigations had to contain a cross-cultural dimension, i.e. the films had to be considered more broadly than within a single cultural framework. The cross-cultural dimension enables the analysis to locate larger cultural formations that might be particular to the single nation or industry, but belong in general to trends spotted across cultural borders. In other words, written from outside a given culture or providing a transnational dimension of the object of study, the cross-cultural approach exposes the normative framework by refusing to fix identity and culture. It is this volume’s aim to bypass the re-establishment of easy bipolar narratives (the West vs the Rest) by viewing the postcommunist condition in its plurality and in its multifaceted manifestations.

Structure of the book Intended to open up the study of postcommunist cinema to an international context, the collection addresses perceptions of communist history and World culture by offering selected studies of two distinct but related areas: (1) postcommunist film industries; and (2) textual readings of postcommunist films. The first part focuses on the film industry and its relation to the nation states, regional entities and global formations. In this part, the chapters concentrate predominantly on how the film industry has responded to political and cultural changes, but also how spectatorship has formed filmmaking and how certain people with political and international insight have formed cultural strategies for international exposition of film or preservation of film archives. The two first chapters start with an examination of transnational strategies in postcommunist filmmaking. Jasmijn van Gorp’s chapter investigates the theme of epic filmmaking and how history and the genreborrowing of American Vietnam films are intertwined in a contemporary Russian film, and Zoe Aiano’s chapter, on the Baltic film industry, looks at transnational strategies available to individual filmmakers, producers and politicians for making funding available for the production of films. The issue of cultural strategies is continued in Vlastimir Sudar’s contribution. Sudar casts his searchlight on the post-World War II generation and figures that shaped Yugoslav filmmaking, which bear significance on Serbian cinema in the age of postcommunism. A different account of communist cinematic history is provided by Ros Gray, who establishes a vital connection between African filmmakers working with Eastern comrades and Western intellectuals to consolidate a new image of postcolonial national identity centred on African Marxist-Leninism. My own essay looks at how film production in Vietnam and China has opened up its respective film industries for transnational coproduction, creating a ‘negotiation’ zone where domestic as well as home audiences are increasingly being taken into consideration. Foreign reception of postcommunist films is the topic of Bruce Williams’ chapter, where key persons have been instrumental in altering the trans-cultural reception of Albanian film. The second section deals with the postcommunist film as narrated from and about a particular place or a particular form of representation. History and

Introduction 9 communist legacy are features that also need to be accentuated here, but more important is how the films themselves deal with these issues. Internal perspectives of postcommunism on films are emphasised in the essays by Nevena Dakovic and Ewa Maziersak. The concern of Nevena Dakovic’s chapter is the representation of New Belgrade and how a trope of postcommunist films deals with this region as mainly the backdrop of crime stories. Ewa Mazierska’s essay looks at three recent Polish films which show strong feelings towards the preservation of the remnants of socialism, thereby trying to forge a new sense of solidarity in postcommunist Poland. These two contributions are detailed examinations of the postcommunist cinematic space and the representation of buildings, communities and people. Travelling in postcommunist films is the topic of three other chapters in this section: Sune Beckman Pedersen examines relationships with the communist past in two early postcommunist road movies, exploring notions of social, cultural and national belonging; Yun-Hua Chen’s contribution expands the notion of a postcommunist film by a Deleuzian reading of Atom Egoyan’s Calendar (1993); and Serazer Pekerman analyses the many depictions of ‘Russian’ women in Turkish cinema, where, on the one hand, the postcommunist prostitute stands for the triumph of the Turkish patriarchal system over a former superpower, but, on the other hand, also for the lost socialist paradise that Turkey never achieved. These cross border movements are, in Yun Peng’s essay, transformed into far away countries in the weather reports, which only accentuate the characters’ inability to belong. Longing simply overpowers them. Yun’s close reading of Platform (2000) shows how the postcommunist condition manifests changes in the social landscape and in the longing for faraway places, identifying the fundamental contradiction between the desire to restore historical memory and the fact that the postcommunist history is precisely the history of its own disfigurement. The individual voices of the authors and their interests have been maintained in order to reflect the diverse character of this study. For some of them, postcommunism is their main specialism; others use the concept of postcommunist cinema to widen their knowledge of particular forms of filmmaking or as an example of general transnational manifestations. While the majority are film scholars, a few are from a history or literature background. Some are native speakers of the films studied, others are second or third language speakers, or are using films in translation. Their appearance together in this volume is testimony to postcommunism as a worldwide phenomenon. It should be seen as a joint effort in testing the flexibility and resiliency of postcommunist film. As such, this collection probes the richness and cross-cultural complexity of the postcommunist condition that has appeared since the fall of European communism over twenty years ago. It is hoped that the book will provoke a desire and a wish to carry on with the investigation of postcommunist cinema.

Notes 1 Slavoj Žižek and Costas Douzinas (eds) (2010). 2 Jeffrey Skoller (2005: p. 79).

10 Introduction 3 Paul Virilio (2007: p. 41). 4 Christina Stojanova (2006: pp. 95–117). 5 Leslie Holmes (1997); Sue Bridger and Frances Pine (1998); Richard D. Anderson, Jr, M. Steven Fish, Stephen E. Hanson and Philip G. Roeder (2001); Michael D. Kennedy (2002). 6 Stacy Thompson (2009: pp. 124–148). 7 Post-classical cinema has been suggested by Eleftheria Thanouli, but the films that she examines can also be ascribed to the postcommunist era. See Eleftheria Thanouli (2009: p. 28). 8 A view promoted by Elizabeth Ezra and Terry Rowden (eds) (2006). 9 For a national perspective see Ewa Mazierska (2007). For a regional, see Dina Iordanova (2003); and Petra Hanáková (2010). 10 At the postgraduate conference in St Andrews, UK, a great majority of the research students sending proposals were in fact investigating the role of the past in contemporary visual culture and cinema, from museums and television to cinema and contemporary art. 11 For example, Nancy Condee describes four contradictions in the make-up of post-Soviet Russian cultural identity; all are concerned with issues of empire. See Nancy Condee (2009: pp. 29–30). 12 Richard Sakwa (1999: p. 76) It is, though, questionable whether the ruling South African ANC party has reconciled with the Marxist revolutionary past. One film that attempts to address this issue is Goodbye Bafana (Bille August 2007), where socialist ideology is explicitly discussed in relation to the construction of a new South Africa. 13 Ewa Mazierska (2011, p. 8). 14 Robert Burgoyne (ed.) (2011: p. 3).

Part I

Cultural strategies, industry and reception

1 National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema The case of the Russian blockbuster 9th Company Jasmijn Van Gorp

The relation between national identity and cinema has long been an object of debate in film studies. Central to the debate in the 1980s and 1990s was a disagreement on national identity articulations as conditio sine qua non for national cinemas. As I have argued elsewhere,1 the disagreement over the concept of national cinema could be reduced to different interpretations of the concept of national identity. Whereas early work by Higson (1989) had a rather homogeneous,2 but at the same time constructionist, interpretation of national identity, Hill (1992) and Willemen (1994) preferred a pluralist interpretation.3 Ultimately, with Higson (2000, 2003) even deciding to abandon the concept of the national altogether,4 they agreed that a film does not have to articulate a homogeneous national identity to belong to a national cinema.5 This dictum seems to be even more applicable to the concept of transnational cinema. Transnational cinema surpasses all national borders, involving, amongst others, immigrant filmmaking, complex ownership structures of production studios, and various hybrid crosscultural themes. Films are transnational entities, in terms of production, style, content, distribution, exhibition and reception, making it increasingly difficult to assign them a fixed national identity.6 The concept of national identity, therefore, seems to be bypassed in the area of film studies, in which the concept of transnational cinema has become central. However, in this opening chapter I will demonstrate that a ‘transnationalization’ of a film can go hand in hand with an intensification of national identity articulations, taking the post-Soviet Russian blockbuster film Devyataya Rota/9th Company (Fyodr Bondarchuk 2005) as a case in point. 9th Company tells the story of a Soviet battalion during the Afghan War. The film’s first part is set in 1987, eight years after the Afghan War started. A group of youngsters voluntarily joins the Red Army to fight in Afghanistan: Vorobei (Aleksei Chadov), Liuti (Artur Solyaninov), Chugun (Ivan Kokorin), Stas (Artem Mikhalkov), Riaba (Mikhail Evlanov), Bekbulatov (Goslan Fidrov) and Gioconda (Konstantin Kriukov). After harsh training in Uzbekistan by the tyrant Dygalo (Mikhail Porechenkov), they are sent to Afghanistan to defend hill No 3234. Two of them are cut down in battle. Just before their military service comes to an end, the mujahideen launch an attack

14 Jasmijn Van Gorp on the hill. Only one soldier survives, Liuti. When he is repatriated by Soviet helicopters, he is told that the Red Army already has withdrawn, and that they forgot that there was still a battalion based on the hill. By analysing the filmic text of 9th Company in its context, I will argue that its very transnational aspirations enhance the nationalism of the film. Throughout this chapter, I discursively switch between ‘national identity’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’. In essence, patriotism, nationalism and national identity are characterized by the same dimensions: an ethnocultural and a political dimension.7 In literature, however, nationalism and patriotism have been assigned different meanings and values. Nationalism is mostly reduced to ethnonationalism, having a negative connotation, while patriotism is used in the context of political nationalism, which has a (rather) positive connotation. Patriotism refers to love of one’s country, whereas nationalism takes on a quality of aggression.8 National identity is the only concept that equally refers to both dimensions. Interestingly, in the Russian language, two different words are used to refer to national identity: ‘Russian’ can be translated into ‘russkii’, referring to ethnocultural identity; it can also be translated into ‘rossiiskii’ referring to a political, imperial entity, regardless of ethnicity. Taking these nuances into account, I will shed light on national dynamics in 9th Company, from production, over genre and text, to distribution, exhibition and critical reception. My analysis will show that, although textual characteristics alone reveal a large part of the film’s national identity constructions, it is the film’s context, intertextualism and paratexts (e.g. DVD cover, bonus material), that provide a ‘full-frame’ nationalism.

Patriotic films as Putin’s priority area 9th Company was made in the 2000s, a period in which national identity figured highly on the Russian agenda as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and Putin’s renewed national politics. The independence of the Baltic republics, Moldova and the Slavic republics of Ukraine and Belarus in 1991 and 1992 signaled the end of Russia’s superpower status.9 A diminished Russia emerged, unclear about its own identity and uncertain about its place in the world. Russia was in urgent need of a new nation model. Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation, was confronted with difficulties in building a nation, not in the least because he was faced with an enormous economic crisis. The president’s priority was to transform the communist state-centered economy into a capitalist system based on market principles.10 However, his policy mainly consisted of a flood of legal provisions, which resulted in complete chaos. It was only Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, who successfully placed nation building as the core business of Russian politics.11 Putin’s nationalizing policy was holistic. It was directed not only at the country’s economy, but at all levels of Russian society. Five-year educational masterplans were accompanied by five-year military masterplans to enhance patriotism in the country. Soviet symbols like the red star of the Red Army and the Soviet anthem (though with different lyrics) were re-installed to trigger feelings

National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema 15 of renewed superpower. As a result of 9/11, the Russian Federation found an ally in the USA in their war against Islamic fundamentalist groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Therefore, Putin succeeded in restoring Russia’s superpower status, not least through oil and gas politics and military actions in the Caucasus region. Russia was back in the international forum, and again a formidable nation in an increasingly globalized world. Moreover, Putin, like his early predecessors Lenin and Stalin, recognized the enormous potential of cinema for nation building purposes.12 He supported the August 2000 plan for the ‘Culture of Russia, 2001–2005’, proposed by Mikhail Shvydkoi, then Minister of Culture.13 Putin agreed to provide 20 billion roubles for cultural products that would help to revive Russian patriotism. War films, in their depiction of conflicts and struggles (war heroes, martyrdom, conquests) are good arenas for conveying patriotic messages. Films about the Second World War, then, fit perfectly into Putin’s patriotic plan. The victory over Nazi Germany, although strictly speaking a Soviet one, makes the Second World War a war never to be forgotten by Russia.14 As Steve Norris points out, from 2002 onwards there was an ‘explosion’ of cinematic narratives about the Second World War.15 In 2004 and 2005 alone Russian television broadcast eight television serials set during the war. 9th Company, telling the story of a Soviet battalion during the Afghan War, could also fit into the prioritized category of patriotic films. However, the Afghan War does not rank high on the list of proud events of Russian history, as is demonstrated by the results of a survey among Russian politicians by Bo Petersson.16 The respondents said they were most ashamed of the Stalinist period, followed by ‘nothing’ (i.e. a considerable amount of respondents were not ashamed of any period in Russia’s history), and third place was shared by the first Chechen War (1994–96) and the war in Afghanistan. Russians would rather like to forget the Afghan War, as it was one they lost. In a nutshell, the Afghan War was triggered by the fact that the Soviet Union wanted to overthrow the Amin regime, which had strong ties with the United States, in order to preserve the Soviet influence in Afghanistan. After ten years of occupation the Red Army withdrew. As the national character is preconditioned to military victories rather than defeats,17 it is hard to believe that the Russian government also had in mind films about Afghanistan when commissioning the priority area of historical films. Even more so, the film depicts a shameful event during that very war: it is based on the historical fact that the Red Army forgot to pick up the ninth company while disengaging and, consequently, the death of the soldiers could have been avoided. In the following analysis of the film’s production, text, distribution, exhibition and critical reception, I will show that it is not the depicted war as such that defines the patriotism of a film. It is the way the war is translated to the screen, the way it is framed and put in a transnational context, that is of utmost importance in understanding the significance of a war film for a new-born nation.

A universal blockbuster 9th Company is the debut film of Fyodr Bondarchuk, the son of the famous Soviet filmmaker Sergei Bondarchuk. It was produced by Yelena Yatsura, who

16 Jasmijn Van Gorp also produced, among others, Alexei German Jr’s Poslednii Poezd/The Last Train (2003). 9th Company was meant to be a real blockbuster, following David Bordwell’s definition of a ‘megapicture’ with a big budget, big stars, big effects, big marketing and simultaneous release in different film theatres.18 In terms of production, 9th Company is transnational as it is a Russian-Ukrainian-Finnish co-production. The film was shot in Crimea in Ukraine, and in Uzbekistan. The Russian film studio Slovo and Bondarchuk’s company Art Pictures were the principal producers. In Ukraine, the media company Ukrainskaya mediynaya gruppa and the TV channel 1+1 financed the film. With a budget of US$9 million, it was the most expensive film ever made in Russia, due to its expensive special effects, such as a plane crash, which cost around $450,000. The post-production was put out to the Pinewood Shepperton Studios in London,19 where the sound of the James Bond movies, as well as Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001) were produced. The film, like the first Russian blockbuster Nochnoi Dozor/Night Watch (Timur Bekmambetov 2004), is very similar to Hollywood blockbusters: a fast cutting tempo, slow motion scenes and other high-tech art and sound work all contribute to the high production values of the film. Next to the high-end techniques, another big expense is the star cast. Russian star actors like Alexei Chadov, Alexei Serebrakov, Andrei Krasko, Artem Mikhalkov and Fyodor Bondarchuk play major roles in this blockbuster. The leading role of Vorobei is played by Alexei Chadov, who became famous for his roles in Night Watch and Balabanov’s film Voina/War (2002). The choice of Chadov as leading actor reveals the filmmakers’ intention to make a film that appealed to Western audiences as well. Chadov is probably the only member of the cast that would be known by Western (young) audiences, thanks to his role in Night Watch. A comparison of the national with the international DVD cover of the film shows that the film has both national and international ambitions. On the Russian DVD cover, all the major star actors are displayed. The film’s director, Fyodr Bondarchuk, is standing in the middle. The explicit position of the director and star actors indisputably attracts national audiences to the film. On the international cover, the only international star, Alexei Chadov, is shown, but he is rather unrecognizable. His appearance in the film is nevertheless underlined by the phrase ‘with Alexei Chadov’. Besides the fact that the film is in Russian and has a Russian cast, the film’s diegetic story is very universal or ‘Hollywoodian’. The universalism arises in elements of the mise-en-scène, like the weather conditions of the film. It is raining in the first scene of the film, which is set in Krasnojarsk, Siberia. Rain is not a type of weather generally associated with Russia, let alone Siberia. The film does not flag up ‘Russia’ and ‘Russianness’, but offers a universal picture of Russia. Besides vodka, there is only one explicit reference to Russian identity in the film, albeit an ambiguous one. The only female character in the film looks like a typical Russian matrioshka: a round face, red cheeks and a platok – a headscarf. Her name is Belosnezhska, Snow White. Her name has, primarily, international connotations, but also a national one. Snow White is a character in a Western fairy tale, but also

National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema 17 resembles the name of the Russian fairy tale character Snegurioshka. As the film does not ‘flag up’ Russianness, it could be assigned any national identity, enhancing its international appeal. To put it in a polemic way: it is transnationalism at its best.

Our soldiers, our heroes 9th Company is generally considered the first feature film on Afghanistan, except for Bekmambetov and Kayumov’s Peshavarsky Val’s/The Peshawar Waltz (1994) and Khotinenko’s Musul’manin/The Muslim (1995), which were set against the backdrop of the Afghan War.20 Considered as a shameful period, one can speak of a cinematic silence when it comes to the war in Afghanistan, which has been called the Vietnam of the Soviet Union.21 Therefore, it comes as no surprise that 9th Company is promoted as the Russian version of American Vietnam films: The Russian Apocalypse Now? The Russian Full Metal Jacket? The Russian Cross of Iron? No, it is just 9th Company, the debut film of Fyodor Bondarchuk. The first real Russian war film.22 Vietnam films, especially those of the ‘second wave’, are known for their antipatriotic stance. Those Vietnam films differ considerably from previous American war films in two respects: they refuse to reconstruct a false image of American unity and military competence in Vietnam, and they avoid showing unequivocal acts of courage by individual soldiers.23 Apocalypse Now contains both positive (pro-war) and negative (anti-war) images of fighting. Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), John Irvin’s Hamburger Hill (1987) and Brian DePalma’s Casualities of War (1989) express dismay, if not disgust, at American militarism. The soldiers in these films would not qualify for good conduct medals; rather, they are presented as cowards, murderers and rapists.24 At first sight, with regards to the plot, 9th Company fits the Vietnam genre. For instance, the structure of the film, first boot camp and then battle, is similar to that of Full Metal Jacket. The outrageous drill sergeant Dygalo also comes straight from Kubrick’s film. Platoon is echoed in the scene in which the recruits smoke marijuana at a secret place, and the scene in which one of the soldiers dies in the arms of his comrades. The defence of a hill and the gunfire scenes are borrowed from Hamburger Hill. However, the similarities with Vietnam films are only superficial. On a deeper level, 9th Company conveys a pro-war message. Unlike the characters in Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, the characters in 9th Company are not killing machines. They are human beings, even in the harsh conditions of the war. The heroes in the film have hearts of gold and die for the fatherland. In the film, all Soviet soldiers die, except for one. The message for the Russian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan is clear: martyrdom is their sacred faith. Significant in this respect is that, according to the official website of the Russian Ministry of Culture, the film is labelled a ‘heroic drama’ and not a ‘war film’. In this respect, 9th Company

18 Jasmijn Van Gorp is not the Russian Full Metal Jacket, but the Russian Black Hawk Down. Some shots come straight from Kubrick’s film, as well as the leading character, who is an artist, but also the atmosphere, colour palette and so on. The comparison with Black Hawk Down also goes further than stylistic issues. 9th Company is told from the perspective of the Russians, translating the Cold War narrative of Peter MacDonald’s stylistically similar Rambo III (1988) to a black and white stereotyping of Muslims. The mujahideen are the enemy, but the Afghan army is also depicted as unreliable and cowardly. In addition, the Afghan people are depicted in the same way as the mujahideen. A meaningful scene in this respect is the one in which the soldiers kneel down next to the dead body of Stas while helicopters bomb the village in the background. The body of the little boy who killed Stas is shown in a one second frame, the total opposite of the scene in which the Vietcong sniper is killed in Full Metal Jacket. Also, the accidental killing of the mujahideen fighter Achmed does not cause any remorse. Moreover, as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are also enemies of the United States since 9/11, the negative portrayal of the mujahideen has a transnational appeal too. It becomes obvious that the film, like Black Hawk Down, supports military interventions: the concept of war or the cause of the soldiers’ death is never questioned or shown as questionable.

Celebrating the army 9th Company also brings a message with regard to the ongoing Chechen War. While Afghanistan was/is an Islamic state, Chechen secessionists want to convert the Chechnyan republic to an Islamic state as well. The film draws a parallel between the enemies in the film (the mujahideen) and the enemies of the Russian Federation (Chechen terrorists). This is also underlined by the robes of the mujahideen: black clothes and faces covered with scarves. This resembles the robes of the Chechen terrorists in the Dubrovka theatre siege of October 2003. The parallel with Chechnya is also drawn by the president himself. On the old Russian national holiday, 7 November 2005,25 the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, invited the cast and crew to a personal screening of the film at his residence. After the screening Putin declared that the film ‘has hit his soul’.26 He praised ‘the depiction of the war’ and ‘the people who are confronted with extreme situations and still behaved with dignity’, clearly supporting the Russian soldiers in Chechnya. Moreover, Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), the official newspaper of the Ministry of Defence, published a cover article about the film, writing that ‘the main thing is that viewers have gone to watch the film, moreover among them a lot of young boys, those who in case of disaster will have to stand to the death like 9th company in Afghanistan or 6th company in Chechnya’.27 The glorification of the war in Afghanistan is also enhanced by other references to the victory of the Soviet Union in 1945. For instance, all major characters are played by actors having built their reputation and popularity on Second World War films and serials, such as Meskhiev’s Svoy/Our Own (2004), Lebedev’s Zvezda/Star (2002) and Dostal’s Strafbat/Penal Battalion (2004). Thanks

National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema 19 to their previous roles, enhanced by the wearing of the same Red Army uniforms, those actors export feelings of pride towards the victory over Nazi Germany to the film about a battalion in Afghanistan. The very prominent place of Bondarchuk’s character and name on the cover also suggests memories of his father’s films, sustaining a glorious interpretation of 9th Company. Undeniably, the name of the film’s director creates a number of associations, amongst others, of his father’s highly acclaimed epic war films Voyna i Mir/War and Peace (1965–67) and Waterloo (1970), about the Patriotic War against Napoleon. The film appeals to the historical memories of the Second World War in an explicit way as well. For instance, when drill sergeant Dygalo is withdrawn from the mission to Afghanistan, he is weeping in the middle of a field of red flowers. Those flowers, originally used as a symbol of Flanders Fields, were used in the Soviet Union as a symbol to remember all victims of the Great Patriotic War. By means of the red flowers, the film’s militarism is also aimed at the historical memory of Western audiences. The film offers nostalgia for the Soviet era. Soviet symbols (e.g. the red flag and the hammer and sickle) appear repeatedly in the film. Since the star and the red flag are also symbols of the contemporary Russian army, the film tries to convey a message about the present time: the army in the film can be considered as symbolizing the army of the Russian Federation. Like the Red Army, the main goal of the post-Soviet army is to defend a superpower. The ideological message cannot be misunderstood by the ‘aura’ of the bonus material on the DVD.28 The DVD contains a thirty minute documentary film, 20 Years Later, featuring veterans of the Afghan War. With tears in their eyes and a Russian flag on their desk, they tell their heroic stories. A veteran closes the documentary film by stating: If the film will be shown in an appropriate way, it will become the highlight of patriotism in the country. In Russia we are looking for the right ideas, among others the national idea, which can support the education of our youth. Films like 9th Company will help us in fulfilling this task. Therefore, the film can be seen as a celebration of the military and the army in contemporary Russia. Not only do the intertextual references to Vietnam and Chechnya heighten and highlight the film’s patriotic message, the references to the Second World War serve the same purpose, as does the bonus material on the DVD, Putin’s public response and other contextual events. Although 9th Company is very universal in content and form, it clearly conveys a patriotic message, also demonstrated by the very last words of the film: ‘Mi pobeli’ – ‘We have won’.

Great Rus: including Belorussia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan (and . . . Chechnya) The patriotic message, however, is not only aimed at Russians living in Russia. Different from common conceptions of transnationalism, 9th Company’s

20 Jasmijn Van Gorp transnationalism reveals itself in a kind of supra-regionalism or Putin’s imperial politics: incorporating Russia’s homeland, i.e. Ukraine, Belarus and a part of Kazakhstan. Vera Tolz elaborates on this Great Rus nation model as a country of Eastern Slavs: Russia (including Chechnya), incorporating Belarus, Ukraine and a part of Kazakhstan.29 Ethnocultural similarities and a common past are viewed as the main markers of this kind of national identity. For the majority of Russians, special ties with Ukraine and Belarus are indisputable. After the demise of the USSR, the separation of the three eastern Slavonic peoples by state borders was hard for Russians to accept. Russia’s supra-regionalist interpretation of national identity becomes clear in the film’s characters. Considering Russia’s interior politics and the secessionist movement in the republic of Chechnya, it comes as no surprise that a Chechnyan character is shown in 9th Company. In the first half of the film in the boot camp, the Siberian recruits are accompanied by a man from Grozny, Bekbulatov. Bekbulatov is classified in another company in the second part of the film. Then, just before the final battle, he joins the ninth company. He enters the camp and shouts: ‘Bratsi’ [Brothers]. The others hug him and answer his call by shouting ‘Brat!’ to him.30 The comradeship reaches a culmination in the last scene of the boot camp episode. In this scene the recruits have sex with Snegurioshka on the evening before they leave for Afghanistan. They are lying on the ground, halfnaked, smoking cannabis and drinking vodka. Liuti demonstrates how to enjoy cannabis by exhaling smoke into Vorobei’s mouth. Vorobei giggles and starts hugging Bekbulatov, while saying: ‘Guys, you don’t know how much I love you’. The message is clear: Chechnya and Russians are part of the same family, citizens of the Russian Federation. However, the Chechnyan character is threatened in a different way from the ethnic Russian characters. His nickname, for instance, is Pinochet, the name of a dictator. The other recruits have more innocent nicknames, such as Gioconda (Mona Lisa) or Liuti (‘the fierce one’). It is interesting how his otherness is stressed when Bekbulatov explains why he is sent back to the ninth company: ‘I knocked a bastard’s tooth out. He was saying that I slurp as a pig. Pigs are dirty animals. In our culture we kill for that kind of words.’ The dialogue stresses his difference and his ‘extreme’ belief. No references are made to the Orthodox Christian belief of the other characters. The Russian ethnic national character is not an issue in the film, a choice that stimulates the film’s international appeal. In the film trailer, put as bonus material on the DVD, the otherness of Bekbulatov is also stressed. All other characters describe their hobbies, and expectations of the war, but he says: ‘At home, in Grozny, we make blueberry jam in spring. And apricots grow in the summer’. Pinochet is not the only non-ethnic Russian in the film. The ninth company also includes Ukrainians and an Uzbek. The Uzbek character, Kurbashi, is a doctor. The character is the right-hand man of the sergeant, who calls him churka, or gook, reminding us of the slang used in many Vietnam films. The sergeant himself is a Russian Ukrainian whose nickname is Chochol. Chochol is played by the director himself, Fyodor Bondarchuk. In general, the film propagates a horizontal comradeship between Russians and the (Russian) citizens of the

National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema 21 former Soviet republics. The imperial brotherhood of the people of the Russian Federation contrasts with the animosity against the Taliban and the Afghan people. The film transcends national characteristics within the Russian state on one level, but underlines it on another. This continuous dialogue between ethnic Russian [russki] and imperial Russian [rossiiskii] is an inherent part of Russian culture and contemporary Russian cinema in particular.31 In the case of 9th Company, this nationalism and patriotism coincide with transnationalism.

A domestic and international victory 9th Company clearly had both national and transnational appeal. The film was a big domestic success, as well as a moderate success in the West. It was released in 2005, the year that the sixty-year jubilee of the Second World War victory was commemorated in Russia with great pomp and circumstance. The film was simultaneously released on the 29th of September in 2005 in the major cities of Great Rus: in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. It was widely promoted in the ‘Great Russian’ countries, supporting the imperial message of the film’s texts and paratexts. Advertising banners were displayed in all major cities in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Russian television channel STS dedicated a special TV program to it, hosted by Fyodr Bondarchuk. In the first month, more than 6.5 million Russians went to see the film, grossing US$25 million at the box office. In addition, 1.5 million licensed DVDs were sold in the first month, a new sales record. In the Russian media, the reviews were diverse: one critic was convinced that 9th Company is an overtly patriotic film, the other stated the total opposite. Some state-owned newspapers and the state journal Kinoprotsess, printing interviews with the filmmakers, were positive about the film. ‘9th Company is Russia’s first real war film. Not anti-war, not militarist, but a genuine war film’, states Elena Kurbanova in the newspaper Moskovskaya Pravda.32 In the end of her critique, Dilyara Tasbulatova, of the political-economic magazine Itogi, tackles the film’s pro-war message: ‘Unfortunately, 9th Company is not free from any ideological meaning. Quite on the contrary.’33 The non-popular press, such as the journal Iskusstvo Kino and the (only) liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, were very negative about the film’s overt patriotism. Novaya Gazeta published an interview with the director of the Russian Ethnographic Museum, Vladimir Gruzman, in which he was very concerned about the film’s message: ‘9th Company? An absolute misanthropic film, there is no spark of humanism in it’.34 Despite the negative critiques of the film’s patriotism, the film won almost all major awards in Russia: the Nika (the Russian Academy Award) at the Moscow International Film Festival, the Golden Eagle award at Kinotavr, and many others. Russia sent the film to Hollywood in the hopes of impressing the jury of the Academy Awards, which stresses the national importance of the film for Russia. However, the film was not nominated. In the West, the film was released both in theatres and on DVD in some European countries, and on DVD in the USA. The theatrical release was a moderate success: 112,615 tickets were sold in six countries in Europe, 53,514 of which

22 Jasmijn Van Gorp were in Poland.35 In general, the critical reception by the Russian popular press was echoed in the international press. The international reviews of the film were positive when it came to the special effects and its value as an entertainment product, paraphrased with the teaser ‘some of the best on screen battles you’ll see this year’ on the international DVD cover. Film critics (e.g. in Variety and The New York Times) referred to the film’s patriotism only briefly in their reviews. They also mentioned the uneasy feeling the film triggered because of the parallels with the contemporary situation in Chechnya, as does Time Out Magazine: ‘The unquestioning lionizing of Russian heroism is far from comfortable viewing, especially given the Putin regime’s darkening human rights record.’36 Interestingly, the critics did not draw much attention to the contemporary situation in Afghanistan that escalated after the 9/11 attacks. Russian cinema was condemned for its patriotism, but this patriotism was never self-reflexively interpreted. Based on the critical reception in the West, patriotism is a Russian domestic affair, not a transnational one.

Conclusion: national identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema 9th Company facilitates a productive analysis of transnational/national dynamics in which ethnicity and culture, rather than territorial boundaries, play a dominant role. The film is a real blockbuster, with high production values and a universal quality, with almost no references to Russia or Russianness. Although the film shares many intertextual references with famous anti-war Vietnam films, it propagates a just war in Afghanistan. 9th Company makes heroes out of soldiers, and is explicitly framed as patriotic in the bonus material on the DVD. The film fits perfectly into the upgrading of the army under Putin, and his supra-regional nation-building project. At the same time, it is also globally significant in a post9/11 era, where the USA found a new ally in the Russian Federation. Therefore, the film reinstalls Russia’s superpower status, this time with an imperialist narrative in collaboration with the USA and its Hollywood films. A dynamic mix of supra-regional national identities and transnationalism gives rise to a film that proved to be a powerful patriotic instrument. Therefore, transnationalism does not always clash with national interests; it may be used to reinforce them. The film’s apparent universalism strengthens its nationalism, contradicting the common belief underpinning the recent upsurge of transnational film studies that it is increasingly difficult to assign a fixed national identity to films. This analysis has shown that the dialectics between the national and the transnational must be continuously examined in order to discover the limits of both concepts.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5

Jasmijn Van Gorp (2010: 53–67). Andrew Higson (1989: 36–46). John Hill (1992: 10–21) and Paul Willemen (1994: 206–19). Andrew Higson (2000: 63–74; and 2003). John Hill (2002: 165–73).

National identity in post-9/11 transnational cinema 23 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35 36

Elizabeth Ezra and Terry Rowden (eds) (2006: 1). Ernest Gellner (1983:1). Louis Leo Snyder (1976: 56). Vera Tolz (1998: 993–1022). Gordon B. Smith (ed.) (1999: 3–16). Richard Sakwa (2008). Jasmijn Van Gorp (2011: 243–58). Anna Lawton (2006). Birgit Beumers (1999: 81). Steve Norris (2007: 163–89). Bo Petersson (2001). Ernest Giglio (2000). David Bordwell (2006). Ekaterina Tarkhanova (2005: 79–85). David Gillespie (2002: 140–1). Douglas A. Borer (1999). Translated from Russian by the author; promotional website, Giglio, op. cit., p. 175. Ibid. Until 2005, the communist date, 7 November, was the national holiday in Russia. Hence it is the orthodox 4 November. Olga Tropkina (2005). Cited in Sophia Kishkovsky (2005). I borrowed the concept of ‘aura’ in this context of bonus material from Jonathan Gray (2010). Tolz, op. cit. Note the difference with the popular film Brat/Brother (1997) of Alexei Balabanov. In this film, the leading ethnic Russian character Danila says the following to two Chechen (not paying) tram riders, who call him ‘brother’: ‘You are no brothers of me, you blackassed scum!’ For an excellent analysis on the imperial trace to Russian cinema, see Nancy Condee (2009). Elena Kurbanova (2005). Dilyara Tasbulatova (2005). Ekaterina Ignatova (2006: 20). By way of comparison: the most successful recent Russian film in the West, Night Watch, attracted 1.829.201 people in 20 countries in Europe. Source: European Audiovisual Observatory (2009). Trevor Johnston (2007).

2 Baltic cinema Between national and transnational strategies Zoe Aiano

The aftermath of the collapse of the Iron Curtain is still felt in many filmproducing industries throughout the former Eastern Bloc, leaving them torn between an obsolete Socialist past and aspirations of a globalized, capitalist future. Film industries were doubly affected as not only did industrial infrastructures disintegrate, but filmmakers were suddenly forced to examine their role as producers of cultural commodities in an unprecedented and highly problematic way. The small Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are an illuminating example of this. In the upheaval of 1991, ‘there were more essential spheres of life that the government had to support’,1 and without state funding or state-allocated access to essential equipment, the new independent sector soon realized the financial impracticalities of producing films with an extremely localized distribution. The importance of a localized cinema is fairly self-evident, especially in small, recently independent, emerging countries, but it has been nicely summed up in a KEA European Affairs Evaluation Report on MEDIA Desk Lithuania: The position not to produce an audiovisual image of one’s society [. . .] means not being seen by other countries, and worse, not promoting its own citizens’ culture. This, then, also implies not documenting national culture for future generations, but accepting instead the notion that an essential part of culture is originated and manufactured elsewhere.2 This chapter aims to explore the issues involved in maintaining a balance between self-representation on a national level and financial viability on an institutional/international level, and the potential ways this can be achieved and their applicability to other cultures in a similar predicament. It is not, however, intended as a definitive summary of all the Baltic films produced during the past two decades, not least because this would have been extremely difficulty given the scarcity of writing on the topic in English and the difficulty of obtaining films to view outside the Baltic States themselves. Under communism, film was centrally controlled and financed, and whilst this was inherently restricting thematically and expressively, it at least provided stable funding and screening opportunities. Using the example of Estonia, the situation has been summarized thus: ‘In a country with a population of 1.4 million, you

Baltic cinema 25 simply cannot expect box office takings to cover the production costs of a feature film’.3 The same is true culturally – in a world where Hollywood is accepted as a global norm and benchmark, a recently new state belonging to an esoteric language group has little chance of appealing to international audiences. Further complicating this, the most successful Baltic films within their native countries have been the most locally specific and therefore least multi-culturally marketable, whereas those most popular with World cinema-goers – often film festival audiences – have been rejected by the domestic public. This tension extends into other areas such as funding and exhibition, which are being subsumed by foreign investors, whose interest does not always coincide with that of those fighting for a recognizable national cinema. Ultimately, this discourse needs to lead the Baltic states to negotiate a position for themselves both practically and ideologically within a complex framework of cross-cultural identities – national, Baltic, Eastern European, postcommunist, EU and European. There are several possible strategies to achieve this, such as building a structure using EU funding, facilitating foreign productions and co-productions or forging a stronger alliance within the Baltic region.

Is co-production a way (out)? The 1990s were effectively a decade of crisis, the ultimate low-point being 1996, when ‘not a single fiction film was produced in any of the Baltic States’.4 Not only were films not being made, but audience figures were declining in huge numbers. According to 1998 statistics, ‘in 1980 the average Latvian went to the cinema once a month; now [. . .] he or she goes to the cinema only once every three years’.5 In Lithuania, ‘the number of those going to the cinema in 1996 equaled one per cent of the 1985 total’.6 In an attempt to decelerate this decline, each country established its own governmental body concerned with film and film funding.7 In Latvia, the government organization that oversees financial support is the National Film Centre, which is dedicated to ‘preserving the national audio-visual heritage, promoting Latvian films abroad, co-operating with the relevant international and national organizations and organizing training for Latvian film professionals’.8 The Estonian equivalent is the Estonian Film Foundation, which states on its website that it was established in 1997 and is a subsidiary of the Estonian Ministry of Culture.9 Similarly, in Lithuania the Lithuanian Film Centre is jointly funded by the Ministry of Culture and The Foundation of Culture and Sports.10 Though this is clearly an improvement from the previous total lack of state support, the amount of money these organizations yearly provide ranges between 2 million euros (Lithuania) and 6 million euros (Estonia) – not even enough to cover one single feature length production per country. Moreover, in the current economic crisis, arts funding is being dramatically cut, and the Latvian film industry in particular is facing severe cuts. In 2009, according to Daira Abolina, Latvian state funding was cut by 44 per cent11 whilst there have also been proposals to incorporate the National Film Centre into the Ministry of Culture, thus depriving it of its independence and provoking unanimous protest from Latvia’s filmmakers.

26 Zoe Aiano With such limited potential markets, private investment is hard to come by, be it foreign or domestic. Grants from European bodies such as MEDIA or Eurimage are perhaps the most stable and fruitful source of funding, especially for artistic films, though of course there are several complications and drawbacks. For example, to apply for funding from a major international film supporting mechanism such as Eurimage, a portion of the overall budget (usually half) has to be provided by the film’s national institutions, to ensure the ‘national competency’ of the country applying for funding.12 This effectively puts a limit on the number of films a country can afford to produce, even with outside assistance. To be eligible for support from the Media Plus programme, the director has to be able to prove ‘that his or her previous films have been successfully distributed abroad or in [their home nation]’.13 This too can prove a difficult obstacle to overcome for directors from small countries with limited exhibition facilities. Another major problem is that cultural differences impact on the work relationships leading to miscommunication and misunderstandings between Eastern European directors and Western producers. The Latvian director Laila Pakalnina suffered from this when she unknowingly signed away the distribution rights to one of her films being made with German money.14 Furthermore, the contribution of such cultural bursaries towards the stabilization of a national industry is debatable. While on the one hand the criteria are intended to improve skills and employment in the home country, they create a dependency on foreign investment and do not necessarily make the recipient any more autonomous, nor do they guarantee distribution or profitability. A clearer example of this is international co-productions, which, in theory, bridge cultural gaps whilst pooling resources and expanding potential audiences. Countries which have partnered with Baltic filmmakers have generally consisted of Western European countries, such as Sweden, (e.g. Latvia’s Svar med foto/Reply with Photo, Una Celma 1999), Germany, (e.g. Estonia’s Korini/Fed Up, Peeter Simm 2005) or France, (e.g. Lithuania’s Kiemas/Courtyard, Valdas Navasaitis 1999). Recently, Jadesoturi/The Jade Warrior (Antti-Jussi Annila 2006) was a co-operation by Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands and China, demonstrating an increasingly cross-cultural outlook. Yet again, however, there is a strong risk of cultural imperialism, with stronger – often formerly colonialist – cultures coming to the fore. In the case of The Jade Warrior, the action takes place in both Finland and China, in a mixture of Finnish and Chinese, and it is hard to detect any discernible trace of Estonian input. Even when one culture is not dominant, there is a risk of creating ‘ “Europuddings”, with different accents and different sensibilities muddling the product. Reaching for “a world market”, directors often lose their national bearings, succumbing to a kind of cognitive dissonance’.15 Wendy Everett has even gone so far as to describe co-productions as ‘the worst of all possible solutions, “compromized vehicles” ’.16 It seems that compromise is not always the best solution in terms of content, and at times it does not justify the relatively small financial gain. It should be mentioned, however, that some critics consider this view to be based more on snobbery than any genuine textual criticism, such as Dimitris Eleftheriotis, who has described this prejudice as ‘a dislike which is very rarely based on close consideration of the films themselves’.17

Baltic cinema 27

Where to screen films? The dependency on foreign bodies extends into other aspects of film, perhaps most notably in terms of cinemas. Since the 1990s, cinemas in the Baltic states faced mass closure on a hugely drastic scale. Estonia was the worst hit country, with 611 cinemas in 1991 decreasing to only 12 in 2003,18 and currently fluctuating between 10 and 12, according to figures from the Estonian Film Foundation;19 Tallinn is now reported to have the same number of cinemas as it did in 1908 (though admittedly this figure does not account for multi-screen cineplexes).20 Interrelated to this is the contrasting rise of ticket prices, a continuing problem, with the current average approaching Western European levels (3 euros in Lithuania, 3.54 euros in Latvia, and 4.3 euros in Estonia).21 One attempt to deal with this situation was the introduction of multiplex cinemas. The first of these was built in Tallinn in 2001,22 with four more being built in Lithuania as well as one in Riga. Though this has encouraged cinema attendance, it has also led to further complications. For example, the multiplexes have concentrated audiences within the suburbs, ensuring almost no cinemas exist in rural areas, and even taking custom from inner city theatres. This tendency has also strengthened the monopoly of the Finnish company Finnkino, which owns all but the two newest Lithuanian multiplexes.23 This is not only an economic monopoly but also a cultural one, as Finnkino almost exclusively exhibits Hollywood films, making it even harder for domestically produced works to succeed. In 2006, the only Baltic country to feature national productions in a list of the 10 most successful films was Estonia, with Leiutajateküla Lotte/Lotte from Gadgetville (Heiki Ernits, Janno Poldma 2006) in fifth place and Ruudi (Katrin Laur, 2006) in ninth; of the remaining components of the list, only one film from the list of all three nations was made outside of America, namely the Russian Dnevnoy dozor/Day Watch (Timur Bekmambetov 2006), which was the fifth most popular film in Latvia.24 On the other hand, in 2008 Estonia had two home-made films in their box office top tens, showing that there is potentially room for more than one local feature to succeed if given the opportunity.25 Clearly, a thriving film industry helps produce jobs and contributes to a national economy, but are there any more abstract benefits to pursuing such a seemingly lost cause? In their book Sociology Through the Projector, Bulent Diken and Carsten Bagge Laustsen assert that ‘in a sense, cinema functions as a kind of social unconscious; it interprets, invents, displaces and distorts the object of sociological inquiry. What films offer is not just a reflection on society, they are part and parcel of the society they portray’.26 For a small and newly reinvented country, this need for self-representation is intensified, and indeed cinema can be used as an effective tool in the process of self-definition,27 something that can easily be demonstrated by an analysis of common post-Soviet themes. One ubiquitous concern which stands out in the filmic output of all three Baltic nations is that of history. History, most notably twentieth century history, has proved a popular topic not only with directors but also with audiences, which thus perpetuates the cycle by appealing to those in charge of funding. As Roumiana Deltcheva has summarized, ‘history

28 Zoe Aiano is inseparable from memory; memory is inseparable from identity’.28 One of the most remarkable examples of this is Latvia’s Rigas Sargi/Defenders of Riga (Aigars Grauba 2007), a high action, romanticised account of a key battle in its 1919 war of independence, where Latvia emerged victorious against both the Germans and the Soviets. The film’s promotional site declares it to be Latvia’s most successful film of all time, as it even overtook Titanic (James Cameron 1997) in popularity, with over 139,442 viewers,29 a substantial portion of Latvia’s population of 2,270,894.30 Likewise, Estonia’s most profitable film is Names in Marble/Nimed Marmortahvlil (Elmo Nüganen 2002), which earned 558,000 euros and attracted 167,400 viewers.31 Again, the topic was triumph – in this case of a small group of schoolboys – during the 1918 war of independence.

The stories that prevail The underlying psychology behind the success of the films discussed above is self-evident; as Roumiana Deltcheva states, ‘the return to the glorious past, whether real or imagined, becomes an expression of the ideologeme, “We, too, have contributed something valuable to the world.” ’32 Furthermore, she notes that ‘screening the past in the post-1989 context acquires the characteristics of the ultimate emancipatory gesture, which reinforces a collective belonging to a particular chronotope’.33 These tales of the victorious underdog are a reversal of the Communist-era historic film as described by Dina Iordanova: The stories told here are not so much those of people heroically influencing the course of history but of those who cannot do much more but stand by and witness events; they are stories of the vulnerable and the powerless, the small and the weak.34 These reconsiderations of history not only foreground the victories of the David’s, but also seek to undermine the culture of the Goliath’s, and more often than not this means Russia. The Latvian documentary I sovietiki istoria/The Soviet Story (Edvins Snore 2008), for example, created an international scandal with its damning portrayal of Soviet history, accusing them of Nazi collaboration and other atrocities. On the one hand praised by The Economist as ‘the most powerful antidote yet to the sanitization of the past’,35 the film has also sparked protests outside the Latvian embassy in Russia and been accused of bias and propaganda, but irrespective of its historical accuracy, The Soviet Story’s popularity both in Latvia and abroad is a clear sign that it holds a fascination for audiences. For the postcommunist film, history is a contested site, where ideas and ideologies can be tried and tested, but can also be controversial and provoke a response in viewers. The latter is sometimes used actively as an explicit promotional tool for films, and as Mari Laaniste points out in her article on the cinematic representations of Estonians in the 1990s, ‘the conservative master-plan of creating a positive image of Estonia on film stems from the opinion that both domestic and foreign audiences could be impressed with epic historical dramas that combine a history lesson with hefty

Baltic cinema 29 romance’.36

doses of action, thrills and This highlights a further complication to representation of the past as a shared identity. However, this fascination with the recent past is not so simplistic as to simply reaffirm a non-Soviet identity; there is a strong presence of nostalgia in many films dealing with the Communist era, especially among younger filmmakers, something that many of the chapters in this book touch upon; for example, Ewa Mazierska’s chapter on Polish cinema. Lithuanian director Giedr˙e Beinori¯ut˙e was only 32 when he made Balkonas/The Balcony (Giedr˙e Beinori¯ut˙e 2008), a simple tale of a Socialist-era child from a broken family who befriends the child next door during a series of rendezvous on the eponymous balcony. The film looks back on Communism as an era of simple and ingenuous pleasures, for which Beinori¯ut˙e is decidedly unapologetic, stating ‘values like honesty, modesty. They got lost in the breakup’.37 Interestingly, The Balcony echoes Šar¯unas Bartas’s Koridorius/The Corridor (1995), which also uses architecture, namely the eponymous corridor, to symbolize the connection between past and present. As Irina Novikova comments ‘[Bartas’ The Corridor] is the space of migration, of movement, of mythic return. It is at once the space of diaspora, the space of guilt, the space of fear (of economic vulnerability), loss and desire (for home), and the space of unheimlich ‘in-between-ness’.38 However, Beinori¯ut˙e, working a decade later, appears to have simplified this by revering the past and condemning the present unconditionally. Many of the recent historical films can clearly be understood in terms of Fredric Jameson definition of the nostalgia film as one whereby ‘the image – the surface sheen of a period fashion reality – is consumed, having been transformed into a visual commodity’.39 There is a clear contrast between the idyllic old town centres, cobbled streets and city walls that are commoditized for glorious war films, the stark post-Soviet architecture of Estonia used in Sugisball/Autumn Ball (Veiko Õunpuu 2007) to depict the isolation and coldness between its characters, as they flounder anonymously through the multi-narrative.40 Yet the two categories are linked by their use of physical space to illustrate a ‘temporal space’ to discuss the relationship between the past and its consequences for the present, using the commodity of nostalgia to contribute to the question of a developing national identity. Related to this, it has been suggested that filmmakers resort to nostalgia as a means of dealing with the disappointment of modern, capitalist society – an approach that ‘transcends the sordidness of a contemporary reality and foregrounds the moral superiority of a bygone era’.41 Anikó Imre builds on this notion, arguing that: In the postcommunist region [. . .] nostalgia has a more specific function: it has become a crucial vehicle of releasing long-suppressed emotions and fantasies and processing communist memories, which mingle and interact with the more global, consumerist fantasies introduced by global media culture.42 Furthermore, as previously touched upon, a cinema which aspires to reflect a national identity can be one of the most effective methods of protecting a society

30 Zoe Aiano from being overwhelmed by a stronger, domineering culture. In the case of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the biggest threat comes from neighbours with imperialistic histories, such as Russia and Finland, and America, who threatens to dominate every small, developing nation indiscriminately.43 This functionality of this defensive mechanism is demonstrable by the fact that the most significantly successful Baltic films have been extremely culturally specific. Unfortunately, this creates a paradoxical situation whereby any film that national audiences identify with will inevitably lose all context in an international market, and consequently all appeal to potential viewers, especially those that require prior historical knowledge. This is particularly true of ‘obscure’ nations, and those with languages that do not cross any borders. It can be argued that there is a trend whereby for a ‘foreign’ (non-Hollywood) film to achieve substantial box offices figures throughout Europe or America, it must represent its culture and traditions according to audience expectations. Examples of such films would be Manon des Sources/Manon of the Spring (Claude Berri 1986), with its picture-postcard portrayal of rural France, or the films of Kurosawa, which epitomize Japanese culture for Western viewers, but were rejected by domestic audiences as being overly Westernized. When commenting on the success of films such as Le fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulin/Amelie (JeanPierre Jeunet 2001) or Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore 1988), Thomas Elsaesser has remarked that ‘the films’ attention to recognizable geographical places and stereotypical historical periods thus begin to echo Hollywood’s ability to produce “open” texts that speak to a diversity of publics, while broadly adhering to the format of classical narrative’.44 It is virtually impossible for relatively unknown states to meet these criteria, though perhaps the closest instance is that of the ‘controversial’ The Soviet Story or the ‘non-controversial’ epic story of Jade Warrior, which traveled extensively on the film festival circuit and attracted significant attention outside the countries that produced them. It is quite plausible that some of this interest was due to the appealing idea of an Eastern Bloc underdog striking back against an oppressive and unpopular empire. Similarly, Graeme Turner has observed that films intended for multinational consumption ‘are assessed [. . .] for their appropriateness as tourist advertisements, or for their “typicality” as depictions of national life’.45 The powerful ‘tourist gaze’, found throughout this volume, has influenced cinema production throughout history, but for small nations, like the Baltic countries, filmmaking will always be an exercise in imagining selves from the outside. Irrespective of the issues of recognizable cultural traits, this stipulation is especially problematic insofar as it prohibits any social criticism, which is vital for any nation but particularly for recently independent nations.

Popular home grown films What options remain, then, which offer a compromise between national concerns and international profitability? One approach that has so far attained excellent if not astounding results is that of co-operating with each other. Co-productions

Baltic cinema 31 amongst the Baltic states run less risk of alienating cinemagoers whilst still considerably increasing distribution possibilities. A good example is Peeter Sim’s Head Kaed/Good Hands (2002), which won three Lielais Kristaps awards, the Manfred Salzberg award at the Berlin Film Festival, and several others.46 Of its US$500,000 budget, 95 per cent was funded jointly by Latvia and Estonia, and a special screen was even constructed to span the shared border so that the film could premiere in both countries at once.47 In 2005, the three countries founded a co-operative platform known as ‘Baltic Films’, which was formed, according to the website of the Estonian Ministry of Culture, ‘in order to exercise common marketing activities representing the film and video production at the international festivals, markets and other promotional events’.48 They have also helped to found the Baltic Film and Media School, based in Tallinn, with an official language of English to attract international students, as well as the Baltic Sea Documentary Festival, which in turn provides a platform for a forum to exchange ideas. Through such measures as these the intention is to reach and co-operate with a broader spectrum of artistic and financial sources, strengthened by the combined forces and resources on the one hand, and help to create an interest in Baltic works amongst viewers who may not otherwise seek out or have access to Baltic films on the other. One area in which the Baltic Film co-operation could prove crucial is that of the festival circuit. Festivals are now the most important marketing and distribution method for European film, particularly art-house film. As Elsaesser claims, ‘films are now made for festivals, in the way that Hollywood during the studio era made its films for the exclusivity release dates of first run picture palaces’.49 He also cites one of the principle functions of the festival circuit as ‘to categorize, classify, sort and sift the world’s annual film-production’.50 In order to be marketable, a film by a little-known or unknown director must tick a certain number of boxes before anyone would consider investing in its distribution, and one of the roles the Baltic Film platform could undertake would be to steer productions towards these criteria. Often a national cinema emerges from obscurity on the basis on a ‘new wave’, though this does not necessarily mean that the films being produced are drastically different from those being made previously or, more pertinently, those from a neighbouring country. Lithuanian documentary maker Arunas Matelis, speaking at the 2006 round-table discussion ‘Lithuanian Film Perspectives’, observed: We’ve noticed that during the festival you can find from 4 to 20 times more Internet information on festival’s participant than usually. In general, dissemination of such information would cost huge amount of money for Lithuanian state. And in festivals it is done for free.51 This reiterates both the singular importance of the festival circuit for the promotion of a national cinema, and the possibilities festivals present. However, it must be said that there are severe drawbacks and disadvantages by depending on festivals for diffusion of a film. Firstly, festival audiences are notoriously esoteric and

32 Zoe Aiano cannot be reliably used as a benchmark for wider market potential. Moreover, just as films created to appeal to funding bodies risk prioritizing the preferences of the funding board over those of potential audiences, films produced specifically for festival distribution may fail to resonate with domestic viewers, though obviously there are many examples of nation-specific films that find success in international festivals and national box offices.

Toward conclusions Another method of strengthening an industrial cinematic infrastructure is one that Lithuania in particular is benefiting from, namely attracting foreign production to Baltic facilities. Thanks to its versatile landscapes and comparatively low costs, Lithuania has established itself as a hub of international film and TV production, a significant recent example being Defiance (Edward Zwick 2008), starring Daniel Craig. This helps to keep Lithuania at the forefront of filmmaking in terms of equipment and skilled crew, and at the same time creates an income that can then be channeled back into local production. The disadvantages to this approach, however, are the constant threat of being undercut by a cross-cultural world economy, and the potential for foreign production to take precedence over local production. It seems that the key issue to be resolved for small nation cinemas such as those of the Baltic states is the tension between national representation and international profitability, but both of these approaches risk compromising the quality and creativity of the films themselves. These are two perspectives on the same question: Representations of the nation are themselves particularly important since they both produce and reproduce the dominant points of view.52 Do cinema and television help foster identities and feelings of belonging, or are they merely parasitic on existing values and attitudes?53 This is a complex issue, and some critics have argued for a less nation-centric approach to film as a whole. Thomas Elsaesser, for example, argues for a postnational cinema, which transcends both nation and Europe. He reasons thus: the state of double occupancy applies to every part of Europe, and to all of us: our identities are multiply defined, multiply experienced, and can be multiply assigned to us, at every point in our lives, and this increasingly so – hopefully to the point where the very notion of national identity will fade from our vocabulary and be replaced by other kinds of belonging, relating and being.54 The rhetoric and application of national cinema theory is full of pitfalls. As Eleftheriotis points out in regard to the trend of polarizing European and American film, ‘Firstly, and fundamentally, it tends to establish European identity in a negative way, as a negation of America. Secondly, it imposes essential qualities on European and Hollywood films that oversimplify and reduce the complexity of

Baltic cinema 33 both’.55

In a similar way, the same could be said of Baltic film in the shadow of European film; perhaps Baltic film should not be subordinate to or separate from Europe, but a functioning and thriving element of a whole. In the time that has passed since gaining independence, the Baltic states have shown themselves to be highly adaptive in their approach to protecting and strengthening their film industries, and their efforts have demonstrated that industrial and governmental support are both necessary, the former to maintain an infrastructure and the latter to represent its citizens and culture. Though it is far from easy, with practice Baltic filmmakers should be able to manipulate strategies such as co-productions, playing on shared sentimentality and reorganizing funding and distribution systems to make their voices heard domestically and internationally, in a sustainable manner.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 KEA European Affairs (2011: 16). Karlo Funk (2000). Kevin O’Connor (2006: 164–7). Ibid. See for example their facts and figure sheets, which have been collected since 2004. See Estonian Film Foundation, =1&off=250&typeoflink=64. Estonian Film Foundation, op. cit. The Lithuanian Film Centre. ‘About the Project’. &ID=1867. Daira Abolina (2009). The Lithuanian Film Centre. ‘Articles’. Ibid. Louis Menashe (2001: 63–4). Ibid. Wendy Everett (1996: 15). Dimitris Eleftheriotis (2001: 26). Everett, op. cit., p. 15. Estonian Film Foundation, op. cit. Funk, op. cit. Estonian Film Foundation, op. cit. Annika Pham, ‘Exhibition – Baltic Counties’, Cineuropa, 14 December 2005. Estonian Film Foundation, op. cit., 2006. Estonian Film Foundation, op. cit., 2008. Bulent Diken and Casten Bagge Lausten (2007: 5). Interestingly, Bjorn Ingvoldstad has argued that ‘ “Lithuanian national cinema” did in fact exist and was viable – but only at a time when the Lithuanian nation was still subsumed with the Soviet state’. His argument is that the concept of a nation state is much stronger than the actual reality, and therefore more readily depicted and understood. See Bjorn Ingvoldstad (2009: 139).

34 Zoe Aiano 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

37 38 39 40 41 42 43

44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55

Roumiana Deltcheva (2005: 209). Estonian Film Foundation, op. cit., 2008. Jabob Neiiendam (2003). Deltcheva, op. cit., p. 208. Ibid., p. 204. Dina Iordanova (2003: 43). Anon (2008). Mari Laaniste (2010). Laaniste writes: ‘the most worrying trend about such patriotic fare [. . .] is that they have received direct backing from the right-wing conservative party, Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit. Several of the key figures in this party are historians by profession; [. . .] this has led to an unpleasant aura of reconstructing “historic truth” according to one political party. These productions come across as attempts to establish a “right way” of remembering historic events and eras, or representing the past “(more) correctly,” especially when it comes to those eras or viewpoints that were controversial or taboo during the period of Soviet occupation’. Katharina Kloss (2009). Irina Novikova (2009: 264). Fredric Jameson (1992: 130). For a detailed discussion of Tallinn’s architecture, see Mari Laaniste and Leena Torim (2010). Deltcheva, op. cit., p. 204. Anikó Imre (2009: 75). As Thomas Elsaesser (2005: 37) has noted, ‘the only cinema which for long stretches of its history has been able to operate profitably as a national one – the American cinema – is not usually referred to as a national cinema at all, but has become synonymous with the international film business, if not with “the cinema” tout court. It suggests that “national cinema” is actually not descriptive, but the subordinate term within a binary pair whose dominant and referred point (whether repressed or implied) is always Hollywood’. This makes filmmaking in a small nation context more problematic, as its major point of reference belongs to a culture with few common roots, made within a much larger financial and industrial infrastructure. Ibid., p. 82. Graeme Turner (2006: 186). M¯artin¸š Sliš¯ans (2010) Tom Birchenough (2002: 30). Estonian Ministry of Culture, ‘Agreement on the Creation of a Co-operation Platform Baltic Films’, Elsaesser, op. cit., p. 87. Ibid., p. 97. Turner, op. cit., p. 184. Elsaesser, op. cit., p. 59. Ibid., p. 109. Eleftheriotis, op. cit., p. 10.

3 Belgrade as New York The voluntary Americanization of Serbian cinema1 Vlastimir Sudar

There is something innately heartbreaking about perceiving any form of culture of the moving image through the perspective of a national, culture or industry. This is because the national, which is inherently of the nineteenth century, as has been robustly demonstrated by Benedict Anderson in his seminal study, was dependent on the industrial revolution and, above all, the proliferation of the printed word. This was based on the establishment of standardized languages that enabled this sense of togetherness and solidarity to emerge around a shared written and spoken format.2 Although first screened at the end of that century, moving images were to bring a new culture, a new century, and a new language, which would overcome the spoken and written one,3 and for the first time create a culture that would be truly international, or transnational, or even global – as the current jargon would probably have it. With the benefit of hindsight, we can already easily conclude that the twentieth century had its ‘quirks’, to say the least, and that it was not a century of common culture and internationalism. It rather saw its fair share of nationalism, strife and wars revolving precisely around these issues. However, two concerns remain relevant here for the survey that is to unfold. The twentieth century produced a culture, which, again with hindsight, we could say became recognizable, common, even global: sometimes in some places voluntarily, in others by force. The second concern is that moving images, although they still travel far and wide and are probably the easiest language to be understood globally, nowadays, in new media outside cinema, can be fruitfully analysed precisely as the product of national: either cultural consciousness (and sub-consciousness, not to offend Lacanians here), or as economic and industrial endeavours. It is again the twentieth century that revealed how thoroughly we can understand a nation’s culture and economics by scrutinising their films as cultural texts and as market products.4

Introduction To set an outline for the following study, I will first go back to textbook basics, and the lowest common denominator definition that is nonetheless useful for this debate. As Valentina Vitali and Paul Willemen succinctly point out: ‘when

36 Vlastimir Sudar considering the question of national cinema, it is necessary to distinguish between two understandings of cinema: as an industry and as a cluster of cultural strategies’.5 The topic of this essay will be a survey of cultural strategies, and although Vitali and Willemen, in relation to their definition, correctly underline that ‘the former undoubtedly determines the latter’,6 the focus here will be on a particular cultural strategy. The industry that supports it will be analysed in passing and very briefly or only as it is practically necessary within the scope of this study. The national cinema in question here is Serbian cinema, and this one cultural strategy will be surveyed historically from when it emerged in the 1980s until it established itself as arguably the most dominant and institutionalized cultural discourse within the Serbian cinema of the present day: the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. This cultural strategy could be called, simply, ‘Hollywood’, or more precisely the voluntary Americanization of Serbian cinema. How did such a strategy emerge in a socialist country, in the 1980s, when communist rule still prevailed? What did it mean in the 1990s during the first decade of the transition to capitalism, and what does it mean today, in a post-Miloševi´c Serbia that has fully embraced liberal capitalism and democracy? These are the issues to be explored in this survey. The first possible contradiction may be defined as: How could a strong tendency towards Hollywood, and the resulting Americanization, happen under a communist regime? How could filmmakers produce films promoting values that the state which supported them opposed, especially when the state fully funded precisely those films? I will answer theoretically, again by borrowing from Vitali and Willemen: ‘[. . .] because films [. . .] are clusters of historically specific cultural forms the semantic modulations of which are orchestrated and contended over by each of the forces at play in a given geographical territory’.7 And this was precisely the case: a group of filmmakers in Belgrade in the early eighties promoted the values of American film, initiating this specific ‘cultural strategy’ thereby contending with the ‘other forces at play’. As Vitali and Willemen conclude: In other words, films may and may not reflect the ideological trajectory dominant within the nation at any one time. The reason for this potential lack of a reflective fit is that the cinematic strategies on which the hegemony of a political configuration depend always also remain available to, and can be activated by, non-dominant power blocks.8 Therefore, a communist country, such as Yugoslavia at that time, with its socialist hierarchy representing ‘the hegemony of a political configuration’, also had a group of filmmakers, acting as a ‘non-dominant power block’ who ‘activated’ an aesthetical and political set of values, well outside, if not directly opposed to the hierarchy in power – which funded this very activity. This is an intriguing case already, but before this survey unfolds, it would be useful to first revisit briefly the history of cinema in Serbia, in order to identify some of the other cultural strategies in play, whilst also possibly recognising other elements that were drawn to American culture and cinema – which so strongly influenced and flavoured the twentieth century on a global scale.

Belgrade as New York 37

A brief history of Serbian cinema


The Cinematograph of the Brothers Lumiére’s arrived in the Kingdom of Serbia less than six months after the first Paris screening in December 1895, and was immediately very popular with the local population.10 So popular indeed that local entrepreneurs acknowledged the public interest in moving images, and as early as 1911 the first full blown Serbian feature length fiction film hit the screens. A lavish costume drama with well known actors from the National Theatre in Belgrade entitled Život i dela besmrtnog vožda Karadjordja/The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Leader Karadjordje (1911),11 simply known as Karadjordje, was a historical biopic about the eponymous Serbian aristocrat who led the most significant rebellion against the Ottomans, which presaged Serbia’s subsequent liberation and independence. The producer of the film, Svetozar Botori´c, was an entrepreneur who wanted cinema to be esteemed highly in Serbian society, and to be perceived as culture rather than the funfair attraction as it was at the time. Although his intentions were primarily fuelled by economic interests, his efforts could now be viewed as noble. Botori´c’s plan to make the film was influenced by the fact that Karadjordje’s descendants had taken over the Serbian throne from another royal dynasty less than ten years previously. Botori´c thus believed that a biopic about the family’s forefather would grant cinema a historical and cultural gravity that it had so far lacked. He mobilized actors from the National Theatre to further up his stakes, and the film is indeed a significant achievement from this point of view. However, although it was popular, Karadjordje failed to ignite the interest of the ruling hierarchies and there was no institutional endorsement of the nascent industry. Botori´c’s idea remains as an example of an early ‘cultural strategy at play within one nation’s cinema’, even though it is a cultural strategy that failed to be elevated to the institutional level, to which it aspired. Such is the history of pre-World War Two cinema in Serbia and the short-lived Kingdom of Yugoslavia. There was no institutional help, no appreciation of film as culture or as a potentially lucrative industry, so the German and American distributors captured the market in its entirety, and stifled almost all local production. Filmmaking was left in the hands of enthusiasts – culturally and economically – the ‘non-dominant power blocks’. There is an almost frighteningly absolute consensus amongst film historians that organized film production, in both cultural and industrial terms, started in Serbia and Yugoslavia with the communist takeover after World War Two.12 Indeed, this position is difficult to dispute. Building of film studios, training of staff and systematic film production were preceded by the first coherent, institutionalized, cultural strategy. And why not? The communists built and paid for the industry, hence they were to dictate what the product was to be like. In his seminal history of Yugoslav cinema, Daniel Goulding quotes Aleksandar Vuˇco at length, the Yugoslav Communist Party official, who in 1946 gave clear directives to the filmmakers on what their films were to be about.13 Perhaps predictably, a long expose by this pre-war Surrealist poet can be easily

38 Vlastimir Sudar briefed: the films were to educate the masses in the building of socialism as the nation’s ultimate goal, whilst at the same time upholding the values of the Partisan struggle during the War. This was the first articulated and institutionalized cultural strategy in the history of Serbian and Yugoslav cinema. Endorsed by the state, in its essence it was not at all dissimilar to numerous other strategies of the other communist countries around the world. Here a conclusion can be made that this first national cultural strategy was not so much nationalist, based on the nation’s specifics, but was ideological, and therefore, considering the tenets of communism, internationalist. The twentieth century thus was not far from delivering the promise of a culture overcoming the need for a nation state, even though it was the nation state that officially inaugurated the strategy, at least as far as the communist countries were concerned. It would be easy to demonstrate that filmmakers throughout the late 1940s and 1950s followed this directive closely. There were exceptions of course, as ‘nondominant power blocks’ were at play as always: although in a minority, they oddly had all the freedom they could wish for. Vojislav Nanovi´c directed a fantasy film in 1950, based on an ancient Serbian folktale, producing something closer to The Lord of the Rings than an average socialist realist representation of society.14 Vladimir Pogaˇci´c directed dramas focusing on marginal characters in society, set in dingy bars on the outskirts of Belgrade, where they listened to jazz music.15 However apart these examples may appear from the directives given by Vuˇco, another coherent, but different, cultural strategy was inaugurated, somewhat unofficially, by another party official, Ratko Draževi´c, in 1960. Ratko Draževi´c is a figure so far entirely un-researched and unacknowledged in the history of Yugoslav cinema. All the information on him predominantly stems from the biographies of a few significant directors of the 1960s, revealing intrinsic reasons for this overlooking of Draževi´c as a key player in building the Serbian and Yugoslav cinematic success of the 1960s.16 Draževi´c was a pre-war communist, a partisan during the war, and a highofficial – some say colonel – of the Yugoslav state security service, UDBA, the equivalent of the Soviet KGB. Immediately after the war, he is alleged to have been in charge of the elimination of political opponents, at home and abroad, and it is said he had no qualms in performing these tasks personally. He also had a penchant for economy, and spoke impeccable English, so, in addition to purging political opposition when abroad, he tried to sell any Yugoslav produce he could, thereby gaining hard currency for the new regime. This story so far is mainly apocryphal, yet, continuing in the same vein, in the 1950s Draževi´c ended up as Director of Jugoslavija Film. This company was formed as an equivalent to the Soviet Sovexport Film, for the export of Yugoslav films abroad. Towards the end of that decade, Draževi´c allegedly told his communist party comrades that Yugoslav films were non-exportable goods. He explained that films glorifying socialism cannot be exported to western markets, as these markets are not interested in socialism. Equally, such films can not be exported to socialist countries as these make their own versions of the same thing. Furthermore, considering Yugoslavia’s heretical position within that constellation, the other socialist

Belgrade as New York 39

Figure 3.1 Ratko Draževi´c (first from right) talking to Kirk Douglas (to his left) in Belgrade, 1964. Credit: Courtesy of Jugoslovenska Kinoteka (Film Archive of the Republic of Serbia), Belgrade.

countries certainly did not want them. The films on partisans fighting in the War were also impossible to sell, as again both East and West glorified the same battles their own forces ostensibly fought. Neither of them wanted to hear that it was the Yugoslavs who had bravely defeated the Nazis. In essence, deliberately or not, Draževi´c dismissed the cultural strategy set out by his comrade Vuˇco as impossible to export. However, what is perhaps even more fascinating, Draževi´c had a solution. Considering what he saw at international film festivals, he proposed that Yugoslavia was capable of producing ‘arty intellectual films’, such as those produced in some other European countries, referring mainly to Italian neo-realism, and the films produced in France and Sweden during the same period. All he then required was to be transferred to the position of Director of Avala Film in Belgrade, the largest Serbian film studio, and he would be sure to produce such films, which could then be sold for foreign cash. Communist he was, but a real film producer was speaking here. As it turned out, this is precisely what happened. Draževi´c did not know any young local artists and filmmaking wannabes, so he employed a well-known nonconformist intellectual, Borislav Mihajlovi´c Mihiz, as his right hand man. Mihiz then helped him recruit talent capable of writing and directing the films Draževi´c required. Mihiz’s employment was quite astounding, as Draževi´c knew about him through the state security services that kept Mihiz’s potential intellectual and artistic anti-state activities under permanent scrutiny and had a large file on him. Mihiz accepted the invitation and first brought in the painter Mi´ca Popovi´c to direct. Popovi´c was known to have rejected the tenets of socialist realism after the War. There followed a whole string of talent from the

40 Vlastimir Sudar Kino Club Belgrade who soon instigated what is now known as the Yugoslav New Wave, or Black Wave. This included filmmakers such as Aleksandar Petrovi´c who received two Oscar nominations in the late 1960s,17 as well as the enfant terrible of World cinema, Dušan Makavejev. A whole spectrum of budding directors had opportunities to shoot their first films, including the well-acclaimed Živojin Pavlovi´c, who always later emphasized that their breaks had been due to Ratko Draževi´c.18 Therefore it can be deduced that the Golden Age of Serbian and Yugoslav cinema throughout the 1960s,19 was largely owed to this man. However, the clues as to why he goes un-credited can only be guessed. Although Draževi´c helped in liberating Serbian cinema from the strict doctrine declared by Vuˇco, Vuˇco was known as a pre-War Surrealist poet schooled in France. Even when with the Partizans, Vuˇco’s role was that of educator and artist, and he was highly respected regardless of his later dogmatic views. Draževi´c though had fought in the War proper, and was a policeman – albeit a ‘secret’ one – after the War, so he undoubtedly had blood on his hands. In addition, he was from a poor, provincial background. For the artist community of post-War Belgrade, he could never be ‘one of them’, even when he had an affair with the popular and charismatic actress and singer, Olivera Katarina.20 Not that it appeared he had any great desire to be one of them: he allegedly misspent the budget of the studio, drove around in expensive western manufactured cars, and enjoyed the company of actresses. Still, such behaviour was not that different from many heads of studios anywhere else in the world: he may have been a communist, but was a human being too. What his true qualities or flaws were, it is difficult to ascertain for a fact.21 Draževi´c’s career certainly deserves proper study and thorough research leading to an adequate evaluation of his contribution to the cinematic culture of the region. However, such is not the focus of this study. Even if it is not Draževi´c who was solely responsible for this ‘cultural strategy’ that proved so exceptionally successful and for long unsurpassed in Serbian or ex-Yugoslav cinema, the main significance is that such a strategy was articulated and then tested.22 Its results are evident, and the strategy simply implied that Serbian and Yugoslav cinema belonged to the tradition of European cinema, culturally and economically, and that this is how they ought to operate.

Discovering America in the 1980s While Yugoslavia’s contribution to the canon of European films had notable success, with the majority of these films arriving from Serbia throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Yugoslavia had a wide variety of film production in its output. If we understand the Yugoslav ‘European art-house film’, as it is now called, as its most distinguished product, Daniel Goulding reminds that these films ‘coexisted with a much larger number of films produced during the same period’, which did not share the same aesthetic or ethical concerns.23 He explains that Yugoslavia continued producing ‘traditional’ films, following the cultural strategy set out by Aleksandar Vuˇco, glorifying socialism and the partisans who fought for it.

Belgrade as New York 41 Goulding further remarks that these were not the only two types of films in production. Yugoslavs also enjoyed their home-grown comedies, and whole swathes of ‘commercially oriented light-entertainment films’.24 This further confirms Vitali’s and Willemen’s notion that at any one time, within one national cinema, in various capacities, there are always ‘different cultural strategies at play’. It is also worth noting that Yugoslav partisan films inevitably went through various changes in order to remain popular. The first generation of such films was very fashionable in the late 1940s, immediately after the War. By the late 1950s, however, their popularity was waning. In order to bring back their appeal, a young Serbian director, Žika Mitrovi´c, was invited to inject new life into the genre. Mitrovi´c was known as a lover of classical Hollywood Westerns.25 Perhaps as a result, whether his films were about partisans or battles in World War One, he had guntoting heroes riding horses whilst even a cavalry could arrive to resolve the matter in the dénouement. Such illustrations of the genre codes of a typical classical Western may appear somewhat facetious, but the point is that Hollywood films were popular in Socialist Yugoslavia. Their aesthetical and ethical elements could be seen in the films directed by Mitrovi´c, giving a sense of forewarning about what was to emerge in the 1980s. The domination of the Yugoslav New Wave in the 1960s, highly revered in global cinema festival circuits and markets, came to an abrupt end in 1973. Usually understood as exceptionally liberal, Tito’s communist regime revealed a face that confirms why such regimes are now perceived as notorious. Various political prevarications in the country, primarily the rise of Croatian nationalism and increased Serbian liberalism, apparently oblivious to growing ‘anti-communist’ phenomena particularly in the arts and culture, led to Tito reasserting his authority. A major crackdown across the country ensued, often involving police and the army, and Tito re-established the firm rule of the party, or just his own, as some historians interpret these events.26 This had a detrimental effect on the film industry in the mid-1970s.27 Those filmmakers sheltering below the umbrella of the European art film cultural strategy were displaced. By definition, their films were intellectually inquisitive, socially engaged and formally daring. When all three, they were the prime targets as the artefacts allegedly usurping the healthy development of the edifice known as Yugoslav Socialism. The most eminent representatives of this group, Dušan Makavejev, Aleksandar Petrovi´c and Želimir Žilnik, all left the country. As a result of Tito’s crackdown, Goulding assessed the 1970s as the worst decade for Yugoslav cinema in terms of statistics and international success. In terms of cultural strategies, the partisan film was back in fashion, as there was little else on the smorgasbord.28 However, as is usually the case in history, the destruction of one thing eventually enables the birth of another, and a wholly new cultural strategy came to the fore in the 1980s. In the late 1970s, as the political situation in Yugoslavia was slowly returning to normal, a new generation of filmmakers appeared on the scene. A large number of them had studied at FAMU, the famous film school in Prague, and this truly pan-Yugoslav movement is now known as the Prague School.29 Internationally, by default and almost without question, the films they produced were perceived

42 Vlastimir Sudar as European auteur films, continuing from where their Yugoslav New Wave predecessors had left off. And this would be difficult to dispute. However, there was a whole new aspect to these filmmakers’ practice and ethics, which was distinctly different to, and sometimes even openly against, the traditions of European art-film to which they inherently belonged. They all loved Hollywood films and articulated this by studying and endorsing the concept of genre films, as the model on which Hollywood thrives. As opposed to Ratko Draževi´c who supposedly established the European style of filmmaking, which somehow went under the radar of scholarly studies, the new generations’ pious loyalty to Americana is well documented.30 The first representative of this movement was Belgrade’s Srdjan Karanovi´c31 whose debut was successful at Cannes, and in which it was difficult to detect this proclivity towards Hollywood.32 It was Karanovi´c’s third film Nešto izmedju/Something in Between (1983) that was telling, as far as the relationship Yugoslavia felt it had with America is concerned. The main protagonist is an American woman in Belgrade, to whom a local character explains that Yugoslavia is neither East nor West, but in between. Andrew Horton, an American who was a co-scriptwriter on the film, explained that for Karanovi´c this did not only have a political meaning, describing Yugoslavia as distancing itself from the Soviet block, seeking to become a country between East and West. Nevertheless, the director made a comment on his filmmaking, which he perceived to be unavoidably European, but striving towards Hollywood aesthetics and ethics, and is thus for him in between these two.33 Furthermore, this was not only how Karanovi´c felt, his Prague School colleagues shared his view, as did other contemporary filmmakers in Belgrade and, arguably, across Yugoslavia.34 The trajectory for most of these filmmakers was to first establish themselves at home. Once they had done this and had greater freedom with their producers, they openly engaged in what they considered to be Hollywood style filmmaking, respecting the tropes of their particular chosen genre. Goran Markovi´c, with his fourth and sixth films, knowingly wrote and directed two horror films: the first was a so-called ‘catastrophe’ film; the other focused on a sole lunatic killer, and could be classified as a ‘slasher’.35 Slobodan Šijan first directed the exceptionally popular Ko to tamo peva/Who’s Singing Over There? (1980), which could be described as a comedy of typically Serbian manners placed in a specific historical context. It was an adaptation from the work of a well-known playwright, which still makes this a typically European affair. However, Šijan also rushed to make his horror film,36 which he intended, as well as some of his other films, to be typically American,37 even though they were made very far from the United States. For this project, he enlisted the help of Nebojša Pajki´c as co-scriptwriter, who would later become one of the most outspoken proponents of the Serbian’s cinema need for a voluntary Hollywoodization.38 Throughout the 1980s, it could be concluded, that this trend of self-styled Americanization became a new ‘cultural strategy at play’ within Serbian and Yugoslav cinema. It is worth noting that Emir Kusturica, who was perceived as a Bosnian based representative of the Prague School, and who made distinctly European films, explained that the director from whom he had learnt most was John Ford.39

Belgrade as New York 43 According to Gerald Peary, you could not think of being part of Yugoslav filmmaking or the film scholarly scene, unless you were prepared to show unreserved admiration for American cinema. This could have been some obscure ‘B production’ that was largely forgotten in the States, whilst in Belgrade it was given unprecedented attention.40 As all of the Belgrade filmmakers mentioned above – Karanovi´c, Markovi´c, Šijan and Pajki´c – taught at FDU,41 the Belgrade film school, and as they all promoted the values of Hollywood genre films, this cultural strategy for the first time was not just inaugurated by a group of filmmakers as a ‘non-dominant power block’, but became a dominant strategy to be pursued and taught on an academic level. As this was in pretty much the one and only such academic institution, the Yugoslav equivalent of the Czechoslovak FAMU or Moscow’s VGIK, this ‘cultural strategy’ became effectively institutionalized: it became part of an educational curriculum. And the lasting consequences of this are still very vivid in Serbian and other ex-Yugoslav cinemas.42 The shift within cinematic aesthetics, away from Europe towards California, entailed by Yugoslav filmmakers’ love of Hollywood cinema, needs to be understood in a wider political context. The whole of the socialist block, Yugoslavia included – notwithstanding its differences with the main communist tribe – was showing signs of serious malfunction. This malfunctioning was often the topic of the films made by the abovementioned Prague School cohort. As the eighties progressed, and Mikhail Gorbachev inaugurated perestroika in the USSR, he implicitly acknowledged that the socialist project is in deep crisis. Numerous intellectuals looked to the West for an alternative, and liberal capitalist democracy appeared as the most obvious. When in the eighties, a filmmaker in Yugoslavia was to say that she or he preferred American Hollywood, a clear political message was sewn into the fabric of the statement. European art-house film was already perceived as a genre in itself, and one genre in which the Soviets often dominated, through filmmakers such as Tarkovsky. If one was to say that one preferred Hollywood, then that meant a plethora of genres, thus pluralism as opposed to singularity: a multiparty system versus communist hegemony; a liberal and competitive economy, against state-subsidized and controlled production, particularly in cinema. By favouring Hollywood, the filmmakers epitomized a new political opposition to the regime, and also pursued the old dream Europeans had about America. However, in both cases and on various levels, they might have been wrong. To use Hollywood as a political euphemism during socialism may seem all well and good. However, in terms of filmmaking, the Hollywood system in reality was more complicated and restrictive for scriptwriters and directors than the Yugoslav one, as some of those filmmakers soon learned. It was Karanovi´c and Šijan who rushed to the States on Fulbright scholarships in the early eighties, but found it difficult to seize the opportunities they were given: they discovered that filmmaking was simpler and – lo and behold – freer, back at home.43 Until this day, the only filmmaker from that group who has directed a Hollywood film is Emir Kusturica, but even he, after that experience, returned to Europe to reclaim his place as very

44 Vlastimir Sudar much a European filmmaker.44 The Hollywood and America they dreamed of was a figment of their imaginations, an entity of their own making, not the real place across the Atlantic. Graham Petrie correctly pointed out that these are the ‘cultural misperceptions and misunderstandings [that] explain the kinds of difficulties experienced by Yugoslav and other East/Central European film makers who try to adapt to a world that they know more as a myth than as a reality’.45 Petrie clearly adds other East European countries to this basket of Hollywood hopefuls, adding though that they also had their own perceptions of the place, which did not match the reality.46 Or perhaps the best definition of this Hollywood was given by Paul Coates, who was defining the West in general ‘as a purely utopian image in the East European consciousness’,47 a definition which can in fact be extended from Hollywood to the concept of the West in general, and from filmmaking to politics and wider, but that would be a subject for another study. More significantly, after his American experience, Šijan told Andrew Horton: Before I went to Hollywood, I thought I understood American movies. And I thought my films, especially Marathon Family, were quite American. But looking at them now I realize how wrong I was, how little I really knew about American films from a practical level.48 Whilst Šijan was lucky to find this out for himself, there were many back at home who kept on dreaming. Gerald Peary noted that Nebojša Pajki´c, professor of scriptwriting at the FDU, was often accused in Belgrade of acute provincialism, as he never went ‘outside of Yugoslavia’s boundaries in his whole life’.49 Pajki´c’s America was also a hopeful construction, rather than anything approaching reality. Still, neither this fact, nor the acquired knowledge of the Fulbright’s stipendiaries, had stopped this voluntary Americanization from proliferating over the coming decades – quite the opposite.

The American dream continues In 1991 Nebojša Pajki´c, together with his ex-student Dragan Jeliˇci´c, published an anthology of essays tellingly entitled A Light in the Darkness: The New Hollywood. The essays in the book were mainly written by Pajki´c’s students from the FDU, and included contributions from Slovenian and Bosnian film critics, and above all from Hrvoje Turkovi´c, a veteran critic from Zagreb, Croatia. As 1991 was the year Yugoslavia started breaking-up as a country, its love for Hollywood cinema remained a lasting, common pan-Yugoslav (or ex-Yugoslav) project. Each essay in the book focuses on one director, mostly surveying their careers with a few remarks on the films, usually written with unsubstantiated reverie. The choice of directors is perplexing, but justified in the introduction by the editors’ ‘aesthetic intuition’,50 and does not correspond to what is usually considered as the New Hollywood in film histories. While some of the young directors that famously rejuvenated Hollywood, such as George Lucas, found their place in Pajki´c’s Hollywood, other choices reflect more on how Hollywood was perceived in Belgrade.

Belgrade as New York 45 The book is actually a perfect description of this ‘other Hollywood’ that exists only in Belgrade, and includes directors who would not even be associated with the actual place, in the United States.51 In 1994, the second and revised edition was published, now including Quentin Tarantino.52 In the first out of two essays by Pajki´c, he quotes the words of his case study, the director Philip Kaufman, from an interview given to the Sarajevo film magazine Sineast. Kaufman explained to his Yugoslav interviewer that the America depicted in Hollywood films is a fiction far removed from reality. Pajki´c, however, then used this statement to claim that Kaufman was between ‘contradictions’ and ‘inconsistency’.53 Therefore, even a first hand account from the Hollywood director to whom his essay is dedicated could not convince Pajki´c that his America is an imaginary place. The book thus proved two points: that a certain ‘Hollywood’ exists in Belgrade, and that it will exist there for an unknown period of time, with who knows what consequences. The new generation of Serbian film directors emerging in the 1990s, all graduates from the FDU, continued in the same vein and with more vigour.54 The most distinguished of them, Srdjan Dragojevi´c, started his career with a popular ‘teenage comedy’ Mi nismo andjeli/We are not Angels (1992), following the genre codes strictly, and in the spirit of conventional Hollywood, produced two more sequels at a later stage.55 In the manner of his 1980s predecessors, he proved his talents by then directing two films, which would be perceived within a European canon, alas, still with his eyes firmly set on Hollywood.56 He secured a contract with Miramax in the late 1990s, but again, as with his predecessors, nothing came to fruition once he actually found himself in the United States. Dragojevi´c returned to Serbia, and there directed the most expensive Serbian film yet made, Sveti Djordje ubiva aždahu/Saint George Shoots the Dragon, in 2009. So far, therefore, Serbian Hollywood remains firmly located in Serbia, and no director from this place has yet made a ‘real’ Hollywood film. During the 1990s, the love of Hollywood and America continued to carry significant meaning. The socialist government of Slobodan Miloševi´c, a former communist, who, as is well known, flirted dangerously with nationalism, alienated Serbia from the international community. Serbia was under international sanctions enforced by – well – the United States. Furthermore, apart from Russia and Belarus, Serbia was the only country on the European continent that did not apply for membership of the European Union. So, just as in the 1980s, political opposition to the isolationist policies of Slobodan Miloševi´c could be shown simply by declaring a love of Hollywood cinema, and despising anything else, particularly Russian films: cinematic taste had alternative meaning. Just as much the FDU was a breeding ground for political opposition to Miloševi´c, so their admiration of American genre films continued to flourish.57 After 5 October 2000, when Miloševi´c was deposed from power, following the oppositions’ landslide victory in the elections, little changed in terms of film aesthetics. Hollywood remained the approach taken by filmmakers and critics, as if Miloševi´c’s departure only confirmed their choice. They pursued it subsequently, with even greater passion, turning it into something of an ideological dogma in itself. The most recent generation of film critics, predominantly trained at the

46 Vlastimir Sudar FDU, has continued an undiminished campaign in support of American genre films. Just as A Light in the Darkness set forth the views of an earlier generation, so this generation has also published its views. Edited by Dejan Ognjanovi´c and Ivan Velisavljevi´c, an anthology of essays entitled New Film Frames: The Cropped Values of Serbian Film is an attempted re-evaluation of Serbian cinema.58 The editors claim in their introduction how so far, only the films of the New Wave, of a very European art-house provenance, have been valued highly in film histories at home and abroad.59 This book intends to show that those Serbian film directors who pursued genre film in the past need to be re-evaluated and given their rightful place in history.60 This includes, for example, the likes of Žika Mitrovi´c, mentioned above.61 The book opens with an essay on Serbian horror film, praising domestic efforts, whether they were low budget or singular attempts by established directors such as Goran Markovi´c,62 also mentioned above. In this collection of essays, Serbian film history is thus re-written, with the aim of minimising the significance of the 1960s auteur art-house, and seeking to open a space for those directors who were influenced by genre cinema. Needless to say, half of the contributors studied at the FDU, and this project of re-evaluating Serbian cinema is something their professor Pajki´c initiated in the 1980s.63 With publication of this book, American genre cinema does not only become one of the most promoted ‘cultural strategies’ within Serbian cinema, but also one of the most enforced. As its supporters’ attempt to re-write history better to accommodate this strategy, so they move even beyond what the communists did after the War: they are now establishing their cultural strategy in a truly dogmatic fashion. Still, there are ‘different forces at play’ here too. Olga Dimitrijevi´c’s essay in the book is a re-evaluation of an undoubtedly ‘cropped’ history of Serbian cinema, one that deals with the representation of homosexuality. Involving queer theory, Dimitrijevi´c nevertheless concludes that it was the Yugoslav New Wave that represented gay and lesbian characters in an incomparably more appropriate and sympathetic fashion than contemporary ‘genre’ directors, who are thoughtlessly exploitative even though they claim to be doing the opposite.64 Young directors continue to closely follow this Americanization. Dejan Zeˇcevi´c released his pale re-working of The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman 2002) entitled ˇ Cetvrti cˇ ovek/The Fourth Man (2007). There is a scene in this film where the camera shows one of the largest boulevards in Belgrade, Knez Miloš street. This street, with its large buildings of Serbian government ministries, was badly damaged during the bombing campaign led by the United States in 1999. Some of these buildings are still wrecked, reminding passers by of the conflict. In Zeˇcevi´c’s film, however, we do not see them. He filmed the street at night, with the glaring street lights looking as if it could be any large city, anywhere in the world.65 Zeˇcevi´c then edits to his hero getting off an underground train, sprayed and tagged with graffiti. Could this be New York? No, it is Belgrade, and Zeˇcevi´c again obfuscates the facts: Belgrade does not have a metro. Or rather, it has just one metro station in which this scene was filmed. The rest of the network was supposed to have been built in the early 1990s, but the break-up and civil war pushed back these plans,

Belgrade as New York 47 for the time being, indefinitely. It is interesting to note that other East European capitals have their metros, all of them built by the Soviets. Even the most disgruntled Czech or Hungarian concedes that the Russians built their metros, but not in Belgrade. It is part of the price of Tito’s famous ‘No’ that he declared to Stalin in 1948. Never mind, in a film it can look as if Belgrade has a metro and the metro can look just as in New York. Voluntary Americanization has become by far the most overwhelming cultural strategy of Serbian cinema. Why cannot Belgrade be Belgrade in Serbian films? Why have recent generations of Serbian filmmakers almost completely dropped any grounding in local culture? Their tutors from the FDU, once known as the Prague School, made films which aspired to Hollywood aesthetics on the one hand, but were firmly grounded in local experience on the other. Their students have now abandoned local aesthetics altogether, and it is only the aspiration that remains. Why is this the case? Has the destruction of the political and economic system, as well as the break-up of the country, caused such a degree of identity crisis that finding identification elsewhere is better than identifying with anything at home? Or is this simply a result of thirty years of Hollywood dominating as a concept, a cultural strategy, so that it is now just a case of inertia? Why then do young filmmakers and critics so rigidly and uniformly defend and advocate American genre films? Does perhaps Serbia need to confront a patriarchal – absolutist – culture, which did not go away with Miloševi´c, a figure who replaced Tito, who himself replaced the Kings, and so onwards into the patriarchal past?66 Is the true fascism that is worth fighting against actually within us, as Michel Foucault once famously said? Is it only that these young people need to get accustomed to the true values of pluralism before we will be able to see more cultural diversity on the Serbian cinematic menu? Perhaps, but these are all questions that should be addressed in another kind of study.

Epilogue If someone were to ask me who is one of the most archetypal European film directors, whose films stand distinctly apart from Hollywood, off the top of my head I would probably single out the Russian, Andrei Tarkovsky. There is probably no need to elaborate on this. However, when I sat down to watch a documentary made by Chris Marker about this director, I was in for a little surprise.67 In the days when communism appeared as it might be in the end of history, young Andrei Tarkovsky was a student at the famous Moscow VGIK School and was directing his first student film. He opted for a literary adaptation, using a story by the American writer, Ernest Hemingway. He directed this film, The Killers, respecting the tropes of a genre film: American film-noir. To allay any doubt of his intentions, he has a little cameo in his film, in which he whistles a tune. This tune, well known to some, was that of the radio Voice of America, which broadcast its programmes in Russian, and was a significant oppositional voice to that of the mainstream Soviet state. Needless to say: listening to this station was banned. However, young Andrei had his heart set on America.

48 Vlastimir Sudar I would also like to point to the celebrated Polish film Człowiek z marmuru/Man of Marble from 1977, directed by Andrzej Wajda, who at the time was already acknowledged as a classic director, acclaimed across the world. In the film, his young protagonist Agnieszka, played by Krystyna Janda, is a filmmaker. At one point, she turns around to her camera operator, and orders the person to film handheld, with a wide angle lens, just like the Americans do. Wajda, I suppose, wanted us to know, that however recognized he might be, he knew what the trend was. No surprises here, I have pointed out above how many East Europeans revered America. However, not just East Europeans, was it not the West German, Wim Wenders, who famously summed all of this up by claiming that the Americans have colonized our subconscious?! Nor can I forget another truly curious case. I saw a short film once made by Jean Cocteau in the early 1950s, something of a home movie, in colour.68 There is a scene in this film in which an already aged Cocteau filmed himself, proud of a new piece of clothing he had just acquired. In the voiceover, he admires this garment without reservation: a pair of new blue jeans from America. Now, can this be true? Here we have a veritable behemoth of European culture, a poet, painter, writer, filmmaker, one of the first ‘interdisciplinary artists’, who admires a piece of clothing then stereotypically associated with illiterate, uneducated, uncouth men.69 But then again, why not? Is it my education, and upbringing and background, that is making me assume that it should be the other way around? That a cowboy should model himself on Cocteau? Am I, not so much Eurocentric, but simply a Euro-fascist? Perhaps, but that is not the subject of this study. The real issue is: are Americans to blame for this incommensurable adoration that Europeans had for them – probably not. Or are the two World Wars to blame for these deep scars that have made Europeans so profoundly insecure about themselves? Again, a subject for another study. What matters is that if America has seduced and inspired the imagination of young Andryosha, of Andrzej, Wim and Jean, is it then surprising that it has also seduced Belgrade, and the generations of filmmakers in that country? American culture, in one form or other, has been the unifying, homogenising culture of the twentieth century, and even the articulated opposition found in the communist countries has not been able to restrict its flow and popularity. Not much has changed in the postcommunist condition, as the fall of the communist social and economic alternative has only provided a boost for Americana globally. Will there be any space – and if so, how much – for other cultural strategies in cinema, whether Serbian or otherwise? We shall have to wait and see.

Notes 1 The research for this paper was kindly supported by the Research Office at the London College of Fashion, the University of the Arts London. This essay is based on a lecture delivered at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sport of the Republic of Albania, on 5 December 2009. The lecture was part of a conference, Balkan Cinema through Cross-Cultural Perspectives, organized in conjunction with the Tirana

Belgrade as New York 49

2 3

4 5 6 7 8 9

10 11 12

13 14 15 16


18 19

International Film Festival. Although it is shortened, the text closely follows the lecture, and the idea was to maintain its original tone. See Benedict Anderson (2006). I cannot resist adding here, since the case study in this examination is Serbian cinema, that the most famous Serbian film theorist was the late Dušan Stojanovi´c, professor of film at the University of the Arts Belgrade. His key work in film semiotics was entitled Film as an Overcoming of Language. See Dušan Stojanovi´c (1984). Here I am thinking, of course, primarily of that seminal work by Siegfried Kracauer (1947), who propelled these kinds of studies. Valentina Vitali and Paul Willemen (eds) (2006: 2). Ibid. Ibid., p. 7. Ibid. The history of Serbian cinema is of course inseparable from the history of Yugoslav cinema, and my intention is not to divorce these two. However, my focus is on the former, and for the sake of brevity I shall not refer to Yugoslav cinema in full; or rather, I shall try to do so, but only as long as this is manageable. There is no intention here of deliberately ignoring any of the other cinemas of the former Yugoslavia, and to borrow from Vitali and Willemen again, there is ‘the difference between the need to address the national conjuncture and being a “nationalist”.’ Ibid., p. 9. On early cinema in Serbia see: Petar Volk (1986), and Dejan Kosanovi´c (1995). ˇ ca Ilija Stanojevi´c. The film was directed by the famous theatre actor and director, Ciˇ One of the early academic histories of Yugoslav and Serbian cinema published in the United States was a history of Balkan cinema, written by Michael Stoil, whose dislike for communism is far from discreet. His language has a fragrance of the then ominous cold war, but even he admits that the communist nationalization of the film industries across Eastern Europe was necessary for home-grown film productions to emerge. See Michael J. Stoil (1979: 20). Aleksandar Vuˇco quoted in Daniel J. Goulding (2002: 8). ˇ See Cudotvorni maˇc/The Magic Sword (1950) directed by Vojislav Nanovi´c, based on ˇ the story of Baš Celik. See Subotom uveˇce/On Saturday Evening (1957) directed by Vladimir Pogaˇci´c. Goulding discusses this film at length. See Goulding, op. cit., pp. 54–7. The following story of Draževi´c is pieced together from several sources, mainly autobiographies of film directors, and his lover, the actress Olivera Katarina, who was then known as Olivera Vuˇco, as well as a personal interview with Želimir Žilnik, to whom I talked about Draževi´c on two occasions, in 2004 and 2008. The most detailed account comes from interviews with the director Aleksandar Petrovi´c, conducted by another film director Boro Draškovi´c, but so far unpublished. See Boro Draškovi´c, Roman reditelja, (1987: 35) unpublished manuscript. Most of the information comes from an interview held on 5 March 1987. See also an autobiography of the director Živojin Pavlovi´c (2002: 49–52). See also Olivera Katarina’s autobiography (2006). Petrovi´c was not himself from the Kino Klub Belgrade. He actually arrived at Avala Film earlier than the others, but he was nonetheless given a chance to make his first feature Dvoje/Two in 1961, thanks to Ratko Draževi´c. He later had a major success with Tri/Three (1965), which was Oscar nominated in 1967, and an even bigger success with Skupljaˇci perja/I Even Met Happy Gypsies (1967) which was Oscar nominated in 1968. Both these films were produced at Avala during Draževi´c’s tenure. Pavlovi´c, op. cit, pp. 52–3. Pavlovi´c spells Draževi´c’s name as Dražovi´c consistently, perhaps confirming that research into this Director of Avala Film is long overdue. Daniel Goulding states: ‘The richest and most complex period of Yugoslavia’s development of a domestic film industry was ushered in at the beginning of the 1960s’. See Goulding, op. cit., p. 62.

50 Vlastimir Sudar 20 When she started going out with Draževi´c, Olivera Katarina was warned by Mihiz to be wary of him. Although he worked with Draževi´c, Mihiz told the actress that Draževi´c is certainly intelligent and charming, but with a very dark past, therefore she ought to be careful. See Katarina, op. cit., p. 138. 21 It is also worth noting here that one of the best known film critics of the former Yugoslavia, Ranko Muniti´c, spoke briefly but highly of Draževi´c in one of his later ‘cinematic memoirs’, or biographies concerned only with the filmmakers he had met and had known. See Ranko Muniti´c (2007: 37). 22 In the latest twist of fate, Draževi´c will be fictionalized as a character in the Serbian film entitled Doktor Rej i djavoli/Doctor Ray and the Devils, which premiere is announced for 2012. However, according to these announcements, writer/director Dinko Tucakovi´c will laud Draževi´c as the cinema’s maverick whose main achievement was that he brought Hollywood co-productions to Serbia’s main studio. This includes a never finished project by the American legendary director Nicholas Ray, the doctor of the title, and the real protagonist of this story. The film will thus praise Draževi´c for his connections to Hollywood, rather than the domestic film production of a very European provenance he helped to create, which anticipates the debate to unfold in the rest of this Chapter. Draževi´c is also mentioned in a recent documentary from Serbia, Cinema komunisto (2010), directed by Mila Turajli´c, but the film mainly reiterates the facts already known about him. 23 Goulding, op. cit., p. 77. 24 Ibid., pp. 77–8. 25 On Živorad Žika Mitrovi´c and his ‘action-adventure films’, modelled on Hollywood. See Ibid., pp. 46–7. 26 There are historical works aplenty on this specific part of the Yugoslav past. A reader interested in further research, and particularly in Tito’s re-establishment of his power in this period, could start with John R. Lampe (1996: 304). 27 Daniel Goulding, asserts: ‘The period from 1973 to 1977 marked Yugoslavia’s lowest ebb of domestic feature film production since the beginning of the sixties’. Goulding, op. cit., p. 143. 28 Ibid. 29 Daniel Goulding, with admirable academic pedantry, lists amongst others schooled in Prague: Srdjan Karanovi´c, Goran Markovi´c and Goran Paskaljevi´c from Serbia, Rajko Grli´c and Lordan Zafranovi´c from Croatia, as well as Emir Kusturica as a representative of this group from Bosnia. Ibid., p. 145. 30 The two lectures given on the state of Yugoslav filmmaking at a conference held at the McMaster University in Canada, March 1989, are particularly useful in this case. The conference was concerned with East European filmmaking and its relationship to Hollywood. Andrew Horton and Gerald Peary, who had both spent time in Belgrade, reported in detail on this love for Hollywood amongst the Yugoslavs. The proceedings of the conference were later published as an anthology, and they include both Horton’s and Peary’s contributions, to which I intend to return again in this survey. See Graham Petrie and Ruth Dwyer (1990). 31 On Srdjan Karanovi´c’s popular TV series Grlom u jagode/The Unpicked Strawberries (1974), and its follow up, the feature film Jagode u grlu/Handful of Strawberries (1984). See Nevena Dakovi´c’s chapter in this book, ‘The crime that changed Serbia: representations of New Belgrade’. 32 This was Miris poljskog cve´ca/Fragrance of Wild Flowers (1977), which, as well as his second Petrijin venac/Petria’s Wreath (1980), belongs to the European tradition of filmmaking, without a doubt. 33 See Andrew Horton (1990: 159). 34 Karanovi´c expressed his regret that their films are ‘condemned to the festival circuit rather than the suburban mall cinema chains [in the US].’ Ibid., p. 158.

Belgrade as New York 51 35 See Variola Vera, made in 1982, and Ve´c vidjeno/Déjà vu, made in 1987. Goulding, op. cit., pp. 180–1, briefly discusses these two films. 36 This was Šijan’s fourth film, Davitelj protiv davitelja/Strangler versus Strangler, from 1984. 37 Šijan confessed this to Andrew Horton. See Horton, op. cit., p. 161. 38 On Nebojša Pajki´c’s aggressive pro-American attitude, see Gerald Peary (1990: 169–77). 39 See Horton, op. cit., p. 166, note 4. 40 See Peary, op. cit., pp. 169–71. 41 FDU stands for Fakultet Dramskih Umetnosti: Faculty of Dramatic Arts. 42 This is most in evidence in Montenegro. The country became independent in 2006, and its intellectual elites have promised to forge a distinctive culture of its own. One of these intellectuals is a young film-director Marija Perovi´c, who so far, has directed two out of three Montenegrin feature-length films made immediately prior and following the independence. However, Perovi´c also studied at the FDU, and actually lives in Belgrade, so her films very much belong to her fellow colleagues ‘genre film’ aesthetics, and have very little of anything which could be considered distinctly Montenegrin, although they are filmed there. Exactly the same is the case with Nikola Vukˇcevi´c, the director of the third feature made in Montenegro (Pogled sa Ajfelovog tornja 2009), although he studied in Novi Sad. 43 That the Yugoslav film system was freer than Hollywood’s, may sound contradictory, yet this is precisely what Horton’s argument elaborates. See Horton, op. cit., pp. 157–67. It could be argued that this view is becoming increasingly more widespread generally, as far as filmmaking under Communism is concerned. See, for example, Michael Brooke (2009: 35). 44 This film was Arizona Dream with Faye Dunaway and Johnny Depp, released in 1993. Kusturica then went to Serbia to film Underground, which won him his second Palme d’Or at the Cannes film Festival in 1995. 45 Graham Petrie and Ruth Dwyer, op. cit., p. 10. 46 Ibid. 47 Paul Coates (1990: 103–14). 48 Šijan quoted in Horton, op. cit., p. 161. 49 Peary, op. cit., p. 175. 50 See this peculiar explanation in Nebojša Pajki´c and Dragan Jeliˇci´c (1994), in the Introduction on page 10, and in the ‘Summary’, written in English, on p. 346. 51 For example, Abel Ferrara would rather be seen as an eccentric East Coast auteur, than as a typical Hollywood director, and the same applies to John Waters, yet both of them have entries in this book. There are some truly peculiar choices, such as Monte Hellman, or Larry Cohen, neither of whom evoke the average Hollywood director. Russ Meyer is in the book too. However, there is no sign of Altman, Scorsese or Coppola; overall, it could be said that there are more directors on the list who would not be directly linked to Hollywood, than those who would. The choice is idiosyncratic, and neither explained in detail nor properly introduced. 52 See Pajki´c and Jeliˇci´c, op. cit. 53 See Nebojša Pajki´c (1994: 66). 54 See Nevena Dakovi´c’s chapter in this volume on how the 1990s gave ‘birth to the range of [film] genres’. In the chapter, Dakovi´c also defines the popular genre codes of many other contemporary Serbian – or strictly Belgrade – films. 55 These are Mi nismo andjeli 2 and Mi nismo andjeli 3, respectively from 2005 and 2007. 56 These are still Dragojevi´c’s two most acclaimed films: Lepa sela lepo gore/Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (1996) and Rane/The Wounds (1998). For a detailed analysis of The Wounds see Nevena Dakovi´c’s chapter in this book.

52 Vlastimir Sudar 57 It could be argued that the FDU was historically a place of political opposition, firstly to ˇ Tito and his regime, subsequently to Miloševi´c. Ceda Jovanovi´c – one of Zoran Djindji´c’s closest associates (the late prime minister who was one of those most responsible for Miloševi´c losing the election) – who is now leader of an oppositional party that promotes confrontation with Miloševi´c’s past, studied scriptwriting at the FDU in the early 1990s. 58 See Dejan Ognjanovi´c and Ivan Velisavljevi´c (2008) (eds). 59 Both editors are strident advocates of Hollywood genre cinema. See their essays on the internet, such as Ivan Velisavljevi´c, ‘How We Loved America: The Significance of Rock‘n’roll and American Movies in the Serbian Film Industry’ (http://www.; and Dejan Ognjanovi´c, ‘Genre Films in Recent Serbian Cinema’ ( both last accessed on 8 February 2010). 60 The authors state: ‘The new frames mean a new “re-framing” of the history of Serbian cinema, a new angle of observing the themes and directors which younger film critics consider as relevant today.’ [original emphasis] See Ognjanovi´c and Velisavljevi´c, op. cit., p. 7. 61 In the book see: Djordje Baji´c, ‘Srpski krimi film: Ubistvo na podmukao i svirep naˇcin i iz niskih pobuda Živorada Žike Mitrovi´ca’, in Dejan Ognjanovi´c and Ivan Velisavljevi´c, op. cit., 43–65. 62 Ibid., pp. 12–42. 63 On Pajki´c’s idiosyncratic re-evaluation of Serbian cinema, along very similar lines. See Peary, op. cit., pp. 174–5. In addition, the book Novi kadrovi is considered as a continuation of the same project started with A Light in the Darkness. 64 See Olga Dimitrijevi´c (2008: 84). 65 That such nameless representations of Belgrade are common in contemporary Serbian – or rather strictly Belgrade’s – cinema, is also emphasized by Nevena Dakovi´c. She describes ‘New Belgrade as Deleuzian any space’, and talks about the city as a ‘glocal space that accommodates global stories’. See Nevena Dakovi´c’s chapter in this book. 66 Nevena Dakovi´c examines the notion of ‘absent father’ emerging after President Tito’s death. See her analysis of Srdjan Dragojevi´c’s The Wounds, in her chapter in this book. 67 Chris Marker made this for television, as one episode in a series, see: Cinéma, de notre temps – Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch, 2000. 68 The film is La villa Santo-Sospir, made in 1952. 69 On how ‘the humble pair of [blue] jeans’ was associated with ‘rural and blue-collar work clothes’, before it was transformed into a fashion garment in the mid 1950s by the likes of Elvis Presley and James Dean. See Jennifer Craik (1994: 194).

4 ‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ The socialist friendships of Mozambican cinema Ros Gray

This chapter explores the notion of ‘socialist friendship’ as a transnational phenomenon that connects diverse films and cinema cultures, and brings to the fore marginalized experiences of twentieth-century socialism that expand the concept of postcommunism. The chapter traces out some of the connections of solidarity manifested in the cinema between various socialist countries and the lusophone African liberation struggles, with particular focus on the cinema culture constructed after independence in 1975 in revolutionary Mozambique. In the case of Mozambique, The Liberation Front of Mozambique’s (FRELIMO’s) dependence on the Soviet Union was formally acknowledged in the ‘Treaty of Friendship’ signed between the two countries in 1977.1 However, the Instituto Nacional de Cinema (INC) also benefited from the support given during the armed struggle by other Eastern bloc and non-aligned socialist countries, and these connections of solidarity continued after independence. Mainly involving technical and pedagogical assistance, these interconnections also formed ‘affective communities’, producing a geography of what was known as ‘socialist friendship’ that was far more multi-layered and conflicted – an uneven relational geography.2 The phrase ‘affective community’ is used by Leela Gandhi to describe individuals and groups associated with marginalized lifestyles – homosexuality, vegetarianism, spiritualism, and so on – who renounced the privileges of British imperialism to elect affinity with the victims of colonial expansion. I adapt this understanding to describe the emotional bonds forged through connections of solidarity that are surplus to ideological identification. The very notion of ‘Socialist Friendship’ can thus be extended to describe an affective community beyond the frame of the revolutionary nation-state, in which friendship functioned as a resource for transnational anti-capitalist collaboration. The question of the legacy of these socialist friendships is raised in the documentary Rostov-Luanda (1997), by Abderrahmane Sissako, a filmmaker born in Mauritania and raised in Mali, who came to the Soviet Union to train at the film school VGIK in 1982. Rostov-Luanda follows the filmmaker’s search for Afonso Baribanga, a friend from Angola whom Sissako met while learning Russian in Rostov. Sissako describes how the education and cultural assistance that the Soviet

54 Ros Gray Union offered to African students in a gesture of socialist friendship also facilitated Pan-African affiliations as individuals from different countries across the Continent were brought together in Russia and shared hopes for African liberation. The film’s montage creates an affective geography between diverse landscapes: the desert surrounding Kiffa in Mauritania, which is the filmmaker’s point of departure; snow scenes in Russia, from where his former Russian teacher Natalia Lvovna, who speaks to him with warmth over the telephone, sends him a class photo; and the war-torn tropical landscape of Angola, where he conducts his search. Yet the quest for his friend becomes almost secondary to the testimonies he gathers of individual experiences of decolonization, the specific cultural legacy of Portuguese colonialism in Angola, and the affective ties that keep people there despite long years of civil war. Political engagements are described in personal terms as being as much about emotional connections with particular friends and lovers as about ideological commitment. Confronted by Sissako’s class photograph, the people he interviews are repeatedly nonplussed: ‘Why are you looking for this man?’ and ‘I too went to the Soviet Union – that photograph could have been me’. Eventually the filmmaker finds an address for Baribanga in Berlin. We see him standing on the doorstep, ringing the doorbell. The door opens, he enters and the film finishes. Sissako leaves the question of what these Pan-African ‘Socialist Friendships’ mean now radically open. The significance of such socialist friendships has been largely overlooked in theorizing the postcommunist condition. Indeed, something of a conceptual impasse seems to have been generated not only by the fact that African countries that were formally Socialist are both postcommunist and postcolonial, but also that the Soviet Union had an imperialist relationship with other non-capitalist States. Josephine Woll is one of the few scholars of Soviet film to consider this relationship between the Soviet Union and African filmmaking. As Woll describes, in the early 1960s the Soviet Union began offering a few opportunities for Left-leaning Africans to train as filmmakers. Focusing on the Francophone African filmmakers Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé and Abderrahmane Sissako, Woll argues that cinema was one of the areas in which the Soviet Union sought to extend its influence in Africa through film pedagogy.3 While Woll is attentive to the ways in which developments in filmmaking in Africa were reported in the Soviet Union, her analysis of their films in terms of Soviet influence gives little room to acknowledge how each of these filmmakers had specific and complex relations with the locations in which they made their films, and that there were other transnational and foreign forces that they defined themselves in relation to, or against – particularly the French government’s cultural policy of extending its influence across the African continent through financial support for filmmaking. A lusophone perspective also brings into focus the extent to which filmmaking in Africa in the late 1960s and 1970s was perceived as an inherently political activity, often connected with specific political movements. Along with Francophone African individuals, there were others whose invitations to study in the Soviet Union were because of connections with particular political organizations. Sarah Maldoror, for instance, a writer from Guadalupe

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 55 who had been associated with the Negritude movement in Paris, was invited to study in Moscow because of her affiliation with MPLA, which of the various independence movements in Angola was the one that managed to gain the confidence of the Soviet Union (her partner, Mario Pinto de Andrade, was one of the leaders of MPLA during the armed struggle, and then after independence acted as Minister for Culture in Guinea-Bissau).4 However, the Soviet Union was not the only Socialist country to assist African liberationist filmmaking. Film crews from Yugoslavia and Cuba, as well as delegations from communist municipalities such as Reggio Emilia in Italy, and Leftist filmmakers from Western Europe, and South and North America, came to produce documentaries about the lusophone African armed struggles. This dispersed archive testifies to a more complex map of Socialist affiliation and non-alignment. In 1967 Cabral selected four young students – Flora Gomes, Sana N’Hada, Josefina Lopes Crato and José Bolama Cobuma – to go to Cuba to study filmmaking at ICAIC. They stayed in Cuba until 1972, when they returned to Guinea-Bissau and then went to Senegal for further training.5 This signalled an ongoing commitment to technical and pedagogical assistance for the cause of African liberation from Cuba; the cultural part of a massive military intervention made often in advance of and against the wishes of the Soviet Union.6 Indeed, Mozambican filmmakers such as João Ribeiro and Orlando Mesquita trained as filmmakers in Cuba well into the 1990s. Despite these conditions of dependency, the ‘African Revolution’ was theorized as a movement that would enable Africa to produce specific local forms of modernity, which would be the means through which African peoples would escape colonialist regimes of knowledge, in which they were cast into a perpetual timeless past. Revolution would allow them to re-enter the global present and contribute to the universal culture of humankind by developing the best aspects of their indigenous cultures in dialogue transnationally. This internationalist ambition of the African Revolution has an uncomfortable relation to the present and to the way in which postcommunism has been theorised almost exclusively in relation to European experience – or to be more precise an idea of the European experiment with State Socialism that erases a kind of xenophilic internationalism which existed at certain moments within totalitarian regimes and was aligned to leftist supporters of the liberation movements in Europe. For instance, Boris Groys’ definition of postcommunist as a category that cannot be understood by Western cultural studies fails to address how postcolonial theory, which so much animated the discipline during the 1980s and 1990s, was in part a response to the collapse of hopes that were pinned on the politics of African liberation of the late 1960s and 1970s that sought to produce forms of futurity, which were both specifically African and Socialist. Groys argues that Western cultural studies has fundamental difficulties in describing and theorizing postcommunist Eastern Europe because the presupposition of the discipline is to celebrate diversity, which in Groys’s view is little more than a colourful masquerade for the commodification of difference by the forces of capitalism. This tendency, according to Groys, coincides with the demand of contemporary global market forces that the postcommunist world ‘re-discover, redefine and manifest their alleged cultural

56 Ros Gray identity[ies]’ from their imagined, preferably folkloric and ethically homogenous, pre-communist pasts.7 Cultural studies is thus conceptually ill-equipped to understand the extent of the radicalism of twentieth-century Socialism’s rupture from the past, and the way in which the aesthetic movements it produced positioned themselves as already part of a modern, universal future. Central to Groys’s argument is the Leninist–Stalinist model of universalism, defined by the ‘rejection of diversity and difference in the name of a common cause’: to be universal was to invent an idea or an artistic project that could unite people of different backgrounds, that could transcend the diversity of their already existing cultural identities, that could be joined by everybody. . . This notion of universality was linked to the concept of inner change. . . of transition from an old identity to a new one.8 In its focus on postmodernism rather than the postcolonial, and the alleged complicity between the ‘discourse of cultural diversity and the diversification of cultural markets’, Groys’ ingenious argument in fact overlooks a number of points that are crucial for a more internationalist understanding of ‘postcommunism’. The emergence of Western cultural studies as a discipline coincided not only with ‘the emergence of globalized information, media, and entertainment markets. . . and the expansion of these markets in the ‘80s and ‘90s’.9 It also coincided and asserted its affiliation with the momentous rise of non-aligned liberation movements through the 1960s and 1970s. From its foundation at the Conference of Bandung in 1955, the non-aligned movement repeatedly challenged the hegemony of Soviet Union. However, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, one revolutionary government after another came to an end, either through violent overthrow (Chile 1973), through new governments evolving into oppressive regimes, or through protracted civil war (Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique). This defeat was a profound disappointment for the Left internationally. To understand the depth of this malaise, it is necessary to consider that the non-aligned liberation movements offered a notion of universalism and an idea of the role of culture in social transformation that was grounded on internationalist cooperation. Across the African Continent in the 1960s filmmaking began to be understood as ‘an act of culture’ that was part of a wider anti-capitalist liberation struggle.10 Crucially, the notion of culture developed by Cabral, Andrade and others that was the theoretical extrapolation from the experience of the armed struggle insisted on the transformative effect of participating in a revolution. Cabral asserted that the liberation struggle creates a different kind of knowledge of the world from that of capitalist imperialism. It is ‘a riposte to the accumulation of information and ethnographic know ledges’ that group people according to supposedly timeless categories of race, caste and ethnicity, and which become the target of attention for those who study societies called ‘primitive’ or ‘in development’.11 Instead, ‘the struggle brings about the need to understand the characteristics of societies in radical change and struggle’.12 Revolution becomes the means by which people

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 57 collectively define a new kind of modernity that is specifically located and in dialogue transnationally as a contribution to the world. In 1973, the Meeting of Third World Filmmakers was held in Algiers to ‘lay the groundwork for an organization of Third World filmmakers’.13 Filmmakers who had trained in the Soviet Union and in Cuba, including Ousmane Sembène, Flora Gomes, Sarah Maldoror and Sana N’Hada, were among those who discussed how a liberated African cinema might be constructed. The filmmakers involved shared with Cabral and Frantz Fanon the conviction that, as Sembène affirms in Man is Culture, in the ‘tempestuous zones’ of revolutionary war, ‘the only form of artistic expression is armed struggle: the absolute quest for independence; the recuperation of one’s cultural patrimony and also its defence’.14 What was clearly thinkable at the time was the idea that the nation-state could provide a frame through which to construct film production, distribution and exhibition that would serve the African Revolution. The nationalized film industries of Socialist states would form a cinema network autonomous from the capitalist West, and this would act on the ‘cultural front’ against Imperialism. Of all the new nation-states that may have aspired to this vision of what cinema might be, nowhere was it more fully realised than in Mozambique. In 1975 Mozambique gained independence from Portugal after a protracted armed struggle led by FRELIMO, a liberation movement that by 1969 had embraced MarxistLeninism. One of FRELIMO’s first cultural acts was to set up the INC in 1976. The INC’s mission was to ‘deliver to the people an image of the people’. Across a territory whose borders were defined by colonial conquest, with a population divided linguistically and culturally, the vast majority of whom had no prior experience of the moving image, the INC’s task was to produce and distribute a new kind of liberated cinema that would present to the Mozambican people an image of themselves. This moment was an instance of revolutionary becoming in which cinema was privileged as the medium to give visual and sonic form to a new political constituency. As such it echoed previous socialist revolutions of the early twentieth century in Russia, China, Cuba and elsewhere, where cinema was recognised as an agent of revolution for its capacity to mobilize, educate and inform in situations of massive underdevelopment and illiteracy.15 In the early 1960s, wars of independence broke out in Portugal’s African colonies of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique following a series of massacres by the Portuguese army that convinced the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and FRELIMO that armed struggle was the only way to oust a recalcitrant fascist-colonial regime determined to hang on to its empire at any cost.16 Through the 1960s, the early optimism that had accompanied the independence of British and French African colonies gave way to an acute awareness of the reality of neocolonialism, and this led to a militant turn in the liberation struggles taking place across the Continent. In the polarized political climate of the Cold War, MPLA, PAIGC and FRELIMO came increasingly to depend on support they received from socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, who supplied them with arms, opportunities for military training and other forms

58 Ros Gray of education at a time when NATO countries were supplying Portugal’s fascist regime with weapons that were used to attack colonised peoples. The leaders of the liberation movements such as Amílcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto and Eduardo Mondlane, some of whom met while studying in Portugal, were members of a tiny elite of Africans who managed to access higher education under Portuguese rule. The vast majority, however, had no opportunity for even basic education. In comparison with military, technical or medical training, filmmaking was fairly low on the list of priorities. Yet film had the potential to counter colonial propaganda by telling the rest of the world about the new societies that were starting to be constructed in the liberated zones. Cinema became another area in which the lusophone liberation movements, lacking the skills, equipment and resources to make their own films, welcomed foreign assistance. Crews came from across the world to make films about the armed struggles, and some key figures of militant cinema internationally were involved. Often the newsreel or documentaries that these film crews produced translated these African struggles into terms that echoed the revolutionary battles that had taken place in their own countries against foreign imperialism and forms of feudalism that persisted into the twentieth century. Although Guinea-Bissau and Angola also set up new institutions dedicated to the moving image after independence, Mozambique was the country where, for a few brief years, this plan began to be realised. When independence finally came the films made by foreign filmmakers about the armed struggle were incorporated into the national archive and used as a resource to cultivate new narratives of national identity born through armed struggle. The films made with FRELIMO rarely focused on combat – only A Luta Continua (1971), directed by American Robert Van Lierop, has live battle sequences because the film crew was caught up in a surprise attack. Instead, the films tended to emphasize the construction of a new society by depicting the training, medical care and education that were taking place in the liberated zones. The liberated zones thus had an importance beyond their military significance. It was here that the people involved in armed struggle were starting to organize collectively as a precursor to the new kind of society that they hoped to construct after independence. This was the message that the independence movements wanted to project to the rest of the world. The reality of combat meant that there were limits to the kinds of films that could be made. British filmmaker Margaret Dickinson, who intended to spend extended periods with communities so as to film how the struggle was transforming their lives, found that such an approach, a kind of in-depth ethnography of radical change, was impossible.17 Dickinson had in fact been involved with FRELIMO’s armed struggle since the mid-1960s, when she was recruited by Eduardo Mondlane to work at the FRELIMO base at Nashingwea in Tanzania. On her return to Britain she began fundraising for the film and eventually received financial backing from Charles Cooper, a member of the British Communist Party who owned Contemporary Films, a company that was an important distributor of international art-house and documentary films, and thus was in a position to guarantee some distribution. Behind the Lines (1971) includes footage from FRELIMO camps and interviews with militants about their roles as soldiers, teachers

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 59 and interpreters, through which they describe their personal trajectories and how participation in the struggle has transformed their lives. The key moment of the film, however, in terms of its articulation of the new revolutionary culture emerging in the liberated zones, shows FRELIMO cadres teaching each other the dances and songs from their different regions across Mozambique. Armed struggle, the film proposes, is the alchemy that fuses a new culture out of the best elements of indigenous ways of life and forms of expression, a national culture that promised to cut across ethnic divisions and social inequalities after independence. In the immediate aftermath of Independence a Servico Nacional de Cinema was set up so that the authorities could keep the cinemas in the cities running in the chaos that followed the sudden mass departure of the Portuguese population.18 The first films released by the Servico included a number made during the armed struggle, such as Yugoslav Dragustin Popovitch’s Nachingwea and Do Romuva ao Maputo/From Romuva to Maputo, which were both released in 1975. Nachingwea takes a liberated zone as a metaphor for the process of decolonization itself, taking up this theme at the moment of independence when the liberation movement was consolidating itself into a national government. It represents the history of the liberation movement through the story of the FRELIMO camp at Nachingwea in Tanzania, whose government led by Julius Nyere was following policies informed by his ‘Ujamaa’ philosophy of African Socialism. This piece of land allocated by the Tanzanian government begins as an arid area that is transformed by FRELIMO militants into a productive zone – make-shift tents become houses, workshops and schools made of bricks and mortar.19 Cultivation of the fields runs parallel to the awakening of political consciousness through education and military training. Nachingwea becomes a place where people realise their potential, suggesting that FRELIMO was poised to carry out the same task across the whole of Mozambique. It was during the armed struggle that FRELIMO started to promote the notion of ‘the New Man’. Jose Luis Cabaço has argued that this figure was developed as a response to the anxiety that FRELIMO cadres in Tanzania might be distracted by the relative comforts and temptations of Dar es Salam.20 The ‘New Man’ was a model of militant behaviour consisting of discipline, productivity and moral integrity embodied by FRELIMO’s new leader, Samora Machel. From Romuva to Maputo follows Machel’s month-long journey from the Romuva river that runs along the border with Tanzania to the capital Maputo in the South, a journey that culminated in the proclamation of Independence on 25 June. Recording Machel’s reception by the crowds who flocked to catch a glimpse of him, the journey comes to signify FRELIMO’s symbiosis with the desires of the people. These films by Popovitch were particularly amenable to the Party to use for mobilization. However, at the chaotic moment of Independence, as filmmakers from across the world came to witness revolution, there was in fact a range of ways in which Mozambican resistance to colonialism was treated, with some that were more experimental and expressive. The film 25 (1975) by Brazilians José Celso and Celso Luccas, which was also one of the first produced by the Servico, illustrates this point. Celso and Luccas were part of a Brazilian theatre group much influenced by the radical pedagogy

60 Ros Gray of Brazilian Paulo Feire and Augusto Boal’s ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’. They left Brazil, which was then under military dictatorship to go to Portugal at the time of the Carnation Revolution, before going to Mozambique. 25 is about Mozambican Independence but also expresses a global political imagination that suggests this specific struggle is part of a culture of Revolution beyond borders that has an almost mystical dimension.21 The film begins and ends with images of a blackboard in one of the liberated zones. On this blackboard a woman spells out ‘re – vo – lu – cão’. This alphabet of Revolution is the new language that colonized peoples are learning so as to liberate themselves.22 The film 25 combines footage of the liberated zones, celebrations of Independence, grassroots re-enactments of anti-colonial resistance in Ilha de Moçambique, and symbolic sequences. The sound track is made from fragments of speeches by Samora Machel, Martin Luther King and others, with music evocative of revolutionary struggle. Allusions to racial conflict in the US are made through footage of civil rights protests, Black Panther demonstrations and Ku Klux Klan lynchings, overlaid with the sound of Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’. Across a film without narrative structure and lasting, in its longest version, over three hours, these images and sounds suggest a common culture of revolutionary struggle, liberation and political consciousness reaching out across time and space. The film’s euphoric and inventive montage is evidenced in the section that features a speech by Samora Machel interwoven with rousing images and sounds of the Makwayela, a song and dance with its origins in the South of Mozambique, which developed as a form of resistance in the mines of South Africa and was re-invented at the moment of independence to celebrate independence and internationalism. During this sequence Machel is questioned about the relation between the people of Mozambique and the people of Portugal. Just as Machel clarifies FRELIMO’s line that its struggle is against fascist imperialism rather than the peasants and workers oppressed by the regime, the film cuts for a moment to a still photograph of a Portuguese peasant family. In the midst of this euphoric and poignant expression of Mozambican cultural strength, 25 expresses how the armed struggles in Africa, by precipitating the Carnation Revolution, also liberated the people of Portugal. Significantly, however, it would seem the Party did not know quite what to make of 25. While it was screened widely internationally, the film quickly slipped into obscurity in Mozambique. Instead, From Romuva to Maputo, which is far more orthodox, became the film most widely distributed across the country through the mobile cinemas. 25 is excessive in length and style, and this exuberance could be understood as an expression of freedom liberated from the demands of both commercialism and propaganda. Yet there are other aspects that militate against its appropriation to the Party line. In one sequence, which Pedro Pimenta highlighted in the screening of the film in Maputo in 2005, 25 switches from the state celebration of independence in Maputo, with flags raised, military salutes and politicians embracing each other, to a scene on the beach where people gather to celebrate independence in another way. A huge crowd forms a circle around a fire, and, as the sun rises and waves crash on the beach, they dance and sing in a different kind

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 61 of ritual. The film thus refuses to elide the Party with ‘the people’, here signified as a more mysterious multitude of bodies who, it seems, are somewhere else, with their own modes of expression that cannot be fully represented by the symbols and rhetoric of official politics. Early on in the struggle, FRELIMO realised the importance of producing information and propaganda to convince Mozambicans to support the armed insurrection as well as to garner support abroad. Dispersed peasant communities had to be shown how their difficulties were compounded by colonial exploitation, and persuaded that fighting for Independence could improve their lives. Rural populations divided by culture and language, with little frame of reference outside their immediate worlds, had no inherent nationalist commitment to an abstract notion of ‘Independence’.23 By 1975 FRELIMO was convinced that cinema could teach o povo the meaning of Independence, what it meant to be Mozambican, and could show how the needs and energies of the peasants and workers would dictate the Revolution. The 1st Conferência Nacional do Departamento de Informação e Propaganda da FRELIMO, held in Macomia from 26 to 30 November 1975, set out the Party’s objectives for cinema. Although at this stage cinema was viewed as secondary in effectiveness to the radio in its capacity to reach ‘the masses’, the ‘Resolution on cinema, books and records’ highlights three fronts through which the filmmaking and distribution would be transformed. First, it condemned ‘the projection of films based on themes that negate the realities of Mozambicans, namely the exhibition of films that are pornographic, include gratuitous violence or markedly reactionary ideologies’.24 FRELIMO announced that it would nationalise all channels of distribution into Mozambique and set up a Comissão de Exame e Classificação de Espectáculos to control exhibition and define ‘rigorous criterias’ for the classification of films. Second, it stated the necessity to create ‘a truly Mozambican cinema’, recommending the production of films about the armed struggle, colonialism and ‘the various phases of revolution in our country’.25 This would involve the construction of systems of distribution that would take cinema to Mozambicans across the country, emphasizing the importance of mobile cinemas for education in the collective villages, specifically though documentaries that would be commissioned by the Department of Information. Third, it addressed the need to set up film circuits with other Socialist countries. As well as combating the neocolonial structures of the capitalist cinema industry of the West, this would give Mozambicans access to ‘films that testify to the struggles of other Peoples of the World against oppression and exploitation, on the struggle of the working classes, films of a political, educational and informative nature, recreational but not in ways that mitigate against our cultural values and ideological principles’.26 The INC was set up in 1976 with equipment seized from the colonial production houses and cameras and mobile cinema units donated by the USSR. It had a film archive that comprised an eclectic collection of films, including British documentaries, Soviet films and Indian musicals. The archive also included colonial productions, which were recycled into new films such as the essay-film Estas

62 Ros Gray Sao As Armas/These Are the Weapons (1978) by Murillo Salles, which debunked the myths of Portuguese imperialism. The British filmmaker and producer Simon Hartog, who had engaged closely with the setting up of the Estates General de Cinema in Paris in 1968, and had attended the Meeting of Third World Filmmakers in Algiers in 1973, devised a new system of acquisition and distribution so as to break the INC’s dependency on American distributors. This was crucial as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) had taken the decision to boycott Mozambique in an attempt to maintain its monopoly.27 The new system of acquisition involved buying actual copies of films rather than merely renting them, so as to build up an archive of international films. The profits were then ploughed back into film production and training so as to by-pass the American distributors. It was a system that, in the first few years, was very successful. In the years that followed, Mozambique sought to develop this in partnership with other African countries. The Conferência Africana de Cooperação Cinegráfica, held in Maputo in 1977, was a key moment in articulating hopes to create regional infrastructures that would break dependency on foreign distribution networks. The conference launched the Associação Africana de Cooperação Cinematográfica (AACC), which was the first attempt to re-organize the cinema industry at governmental level between multi-lingual African nation-states.28 The speech by Jorge Rebelo that opened the conference laid out a vision of how this constituted a ‘new front of combat against imperialism’.29 The battle for the ‘cultural liberation of Africa’ was not merely a question of aesthetics, as in the ‘reactionary ideology’ of Negritude, but demanded the creation of new economic spheres: Our objectives are not only, therefore, to combat and neutralise the enemy cinema in our countries. They are also to produce, exhibit and develop truly revolutionary cinema, a cinema that participates and is capable of pushing forward revolutionary transformation. In order to do this, we must establish a gradual rupture with economic and technological dependency in the sectors of production, distribution and cinema exhibition. The combat on this front is even more decisive when the cinema that dominates our countries, as still is the case in most of the world, is that which is directly controlled by a complex network of international monopolies.30 Staff at the INC included FRELIMO activists who were involved in information and film production during the armed struggle, international cooperantes and Portuguese Mozambicans who committed themselves to the new nation. Many of the white Mozambicans who joined the INC when it was set up had been involved in the colonial film clubs, which had been a clandestine site of dissent for those who opposed fascism. This cinephilic tendency militated against FRELIMO’s more instrumentalist idea of film as a tool of information, education and mobilization, and the INC attempted to build a critically informed culture of cinema through international film festivals focusing on, for example, Algerian, Cuban,

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 63 Italian and African cinema. Evident too is an interest in film genres that had popular appeal in Mozambique, particularly Indian musicals, which at the time had a predominantly rural setting, and Kung Fu movies, which were popular for featuring a non-Western hero who managed to overcome his enemies through physical strength and skill rather than guns. The international cooperantes were professional filmmakers who assisted in giving training as well as making films. They were paid for their work, but were also politically committed to the cause of Mozambican independence. Alongside individuals such as Margaret Dickinson, the Brazilian Murillo Salles and others from Canada and elsewhere, several Socialist countries sent delegations of filmmakers to train and produce films about the revolution. That same year delegations from Cuba and North Korea came to the INC at the same time to train INC employees and, in the process, to make a film. Both films celebrated FRELIMO’s charismatic leader but were vastly different in tone and approach. ‘Everyone wanted to work with the Cubans’, Pedro Pimenta, then Director of Production, remembers, as ICAIC then was the hub of a kind of revolutionary filmmaking that was seductive and lyrical as well as effective as propaganda.31 The North Korean co-production was called Moçambique em progresso sob a direcção do Presidente Samora Moisés Machel/Mozambique Advances under the Leadership of President Samora Moisés Machel (1981), the title of which gives an indication of the film’s tone. By contrast, the Cuban team made a film called Nova Sinfonia/The New Symphony (1981), which took as its starting point Machel’s habit of breaking into song at the beginning of Party meetings!32 Santiago Alvarez, who led the Cuban delegation, had developed a unique form of agit-prop using rapid montage imbued with humour and irony that was a new departure in political filmmaking during the 1960s and 1970s. It worked on the revolutionary promise of montage for disjunctive synthesis, its juxtapositions of un-reconciled images and sounds breaking the bourgeois illusion of continuity and involving the viewer in the construction of a ‘new symphony’ in the connecting of its disparate parts. In 1977 the INC also began training up a new generation of Mozambican filmmakers so that ‘the children of workers and peasants’ could be involved in producing the moving image of the new nation. FRELIMO saw this as a key task in the decolonization of cinema, as under colonialism only a few black technicians and cameramen had been able to find work in subordinate positions. In 1976 a group of young Mozambicans who were still at school were selected to learn different aspect of filmmaking and they were trained mainly through learning on the job and observing more experienced filmmakers.33 The fact that most of the trainees still work in film or television bears testament not only to the success of the scheme while it ran but also to the fact that rapid social transformation rarely happens without a strategy of intervention. This effort to radically decolonise cinema by addressing who got to make the moving images of Mozambique was also addressed in more marginal projects, particularly those of Jean Rouch and Jean-Luc Godard who each came to the country to carry out research, filmmaking and training in the late 1970s. Rouch was invited by Jacques d’Arthuys, who was then French cultural attaché in Mozambique, a

64 Ros Gray role he had recently performed in Chile when that country was under the popular government of Salvador Allende; both were keen to appropriate French funds available for cultural activities that would not otherwise have been granted to a Socialist country such as Mozambique.34 Rouch was based at Edouardo Mondlane University in 1976, where he brought Super-8 equipment so that students could be taught to make ‘film postcards’ that could be shot, edited and screened in a single day. The first film the crew showed to students to begin their film education was Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), as silent film was thought to be appropriate for teaching the elements through which to construct the moving image. The Super-8 film processor they brought with them promised autonomy, but according to Rouch’s report the group also worried that this expensive piece of equipment might be too ‘sophisticated’ and ‘luxurious’ for the context of Mozambique.35 However, the very qualities of Super-8 that Rouch liked – its rough and ready ability to make small disposable films that captured everyday life – was not of wider interest to the government of an emerging nation just beginning to build its own national archive of images. However, the team had some success with the films they produced with groups of students, and some of these were used to make direct interventions in social change, to mobilize and educate. In 1978 Godard was invited by then Minister for Security Jacinto Veloso, whom he met during the period when Veloso was working for FRELIMO’s clandestine operations in Europe and Algeria during the armed struggle. The pathway that brought Godard to Mozambique was thus very different to that of Rouch, and Godard was asked by the Mozambican government to do a project to devise possibilities for a liberated form of television broadcasting. At the time television did not exist in Mozambique, and Godard saw the country as a site where there was still some freedom to create alternative kinds of collective experiences through cinema, in contrast to the West, where sonic and visual registers were already ‘colonised’ by capitalist interests and ideologies.36 His eventual proposal was that communities should be trained by his company Sonimage to use video equipment so that people could produce whatever they wanted – this would form of the basis of television production in Mozambique. The plan was rejected by the State as too expensive and impractical, and the only direct outcome of Godard’s project was a photo-text article he made for Cahiers du cinema in 1979, in which he called his project ‘Birth (of the image) of a Nation’.37 Intriguingly, citing the title of Griffiths’s film Birth of a Nation (1915), Godard inserts the words ‘of the image’ in brackets in the middle of Griffith’s title, suggesting that when production of the moving image is radically democratized it has the potential to interrupt the consolidation of the nation-state around a singular notion of identity. In the meantime, the main output of the INC was more conducive to its aims, which were being re-focused towards making the institute into a more efficient and professional operation in preparation for the arrival of television, which was first broadcast in Mozambique in 1981.38 The Kuxakanema newsreel was first made sporadically in 1978, then from 1981 produced weekly as a 10-minute film. It was distributed across the country with mobile cinema units. Kuxakanema was

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 65

Figure 4.1 Mobile cinema unit, from the Kuxakanema newsreel. Credit: Courtesy of Margarida Cardoso.

intended to weave a cohesive image of national identity based on revolutionary nationalism that would cut across ethnic and linguistic differences. The name means ‘Birth of Cinema’, with words from Ronga, Changange, Chua and Macua combined to symbolize the unity of the nation. Another important function of the newsreel was to educate Mozambican people about the revolutionary struggles taking place in other parts of the world, so that they could understand their local situation as part of a global movement. The question that provides the title for this chapter is quoted from one of the earliest editions of Kuxakanema, one that shows a mobile cinema unit travelling through the countryside to a remote village.39 As the van enters the village a loudspeaker announces that tonight there will be a screening of a film. ‘Haven’t you heard of Internationalism’, the projectionist asks, ‘This equipment is a gift from the people of the Soviet Union’. Cinema is thus presented as the conduit of goodwill and cooperation across the socialist world. The newsreel had a function not only to inform, but also to promote the exemplary revolutionary fervour of the ‘new Mozambican’ embodied by Samora Machel. Machel’s distinctive mode of deportment, and the way in which he hectored and cajoled his audiences, was hugely popular with cinema spectators. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s the INC continued to focus on harnessing documentary forms to the revolutionary tasks of information, education and mobilization. Camillo de Sousa’s Ofensiva/Offensive (1980) depicts Samora Machel on a new kind of offensive to the Maputo docks. Here he accosts the ‘enemy’, but in a different form, rooting out ‘economic saboteurs’ who have

66 Ros Gray infiltrated the supply system to paralyse the economy. One scene in particular demonstrates how the fusion of different cultures depicted in Dickinson’s Behind the Lines as an expression of a politics of liberation was ossifying into a highly centralized, increasingly dogmatic and authoritarian form of Marxist-Leninism. Machel arrives at the docks with a retinue of ministers, officials and filmmakers to give the workers ‘ideological direction’. Engaging with a group of men clustered around him, Machel sketches out a diagram of power in which the worker’s labour to support his family extends to the nation as a whole and is an expression of his identification with the State. The scene demonstrates not only Machel’s immense charisma but also how the ideals of ‘the New Man’ continued to be central to the notion of national identity FRELIMO sought to promote. However, in the changed circumstances after independence the desire to transform attitudes and social relations came to focus on the need to maximise production. In the words of José Luís Cabaço, who is in fact present in this sequence of Offensive in his role as Minister for Information: Mechanisms for democratic power and collective management gave way to individual authority: subordination to leaders and to various organizational levels was posed against freedom and the spirit of initiative. Society became organised into a hierarchy.40 Through the 1980s the FRELIMO government became increasingly compromised by RENAMO attacks that were sponsored first by white-minority-ruled Rhodesia and then by Apartheid South Africa in retaliation for FRELIMO’s support of the ANC. RENAMO was able to build in strength through the support of communities discontented by some of FRELIMO’s less successful policies, particularly those aimed at collectivizing agricultural production and stamping out tribal divisions. Over the course of that decade the country descended into a disastrous civil war. As Mozambique became increasingly out of step with the free-market economics pursued elsewhere on the continent, the objective of displacing foreign distribution monopolies by regional intra-African circuits of distribution was never realised. Yet some international co-operation was achieved.41 Where this was successful, it reflected solidarities forged during the armed struggle for independence and in the support Mozambique gave to other liberation movements.42 Camillo de Sousa, Funcho (João Costa) and Licínio Azevedo thus went to Angola during the South African invasion, where they made Cinco Tiros de Mauser/Five Shots from a Mauser (1981). Funcho and Angolan filmmaker Carlos Henriques then worked together to make Pamberi ne Zimbabwe/Wind of Change (1981), a film about the first elections that resulted in the victory of ZANU-PF. This collaboration between the Instituto Angolano de Cinema and the INC was the first Southern African co-production made entirely without external support. Soviet support evaporated with Gorbachev’s accession to power, and in 1986 it was officially announced that the USSR was no longer interested in political involvement in Southern African countries. Zdravko Velimrovic’s Os Tempos dos Leopardos/Vreme leoparda/The Time of the Leopards (1987), which was a

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 67 co-production with Yugoslavia, can thus be seen as a last gesture of solidarity in filmmaking between African and European Socialist States. The ‘Socialist Friendship’ with Yugoslavia had begun during the armed struggle when Popovitch made films with FRELIMO, but this was a project on a different scale. The Time of the Leopards is a fictional account of the anti-colonial war told from the perspective of the colonised. Returning to an earlier moment in the armed struggle, it resembles in theme and scale two other African fiction films: Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga (1972), which was made during the colonial war in Angola about the struggle of the MPLA, and Flora Gomes’ Mortu Nega/Death Denied (1988), which is both an account and a reflection on the armed struggle in Guinea-Bissau and the legacy of the thinking of Amílcar Cabral. What distinguishes the film thematically, however, is its anti-essentialist message, in which black and white unite to fight for an independent Mozambique. While the collaboration with Yugoslavia enabled the INC to make its most ambitious single film project to date, the experience of individual Mozambicans who worked on The Time of the Leopards makes it clear that the power relation of this ‘Socialist Friendship’ was far from equal. The Yugoslav government provided the bulk of the finances, film stock and the colour processing facilities, and their scriptwriters, directors and technicians oversaw proceedings. Changes were made by the Yugoslavs to the script drafted by Licínio Azevedo and Luís Carlos Patriquim which distorted their attempt to make the film a realistic depiction of the experience of the armed struggle, which was conducted by a ‘people’s army’ whose strength lay in popular power rather than military hardware.43 Gabriel Mondlane, who was one of the first generation of black Mozambicans to be trained at the INC, went to Yugoslavia in his capacity as a sound engineer. In his account of his time there he had to convince his Yugoslav mentors that he was skilled enough to carry out his professional tasks, while at the same time his ethnicity made him an object of intrusive curiosity for people who had never encountered an African person before. The irony is that the utopian message of the film, in which FRELIMO’s anti-essentialist ethic has the power to unite black and white people within a singular revolutionary national identity, is undercut by the experience of the film’s production, which brought out deeply entrenched inequalities and racism within the dynamics of this socialist friendship. The INC’s next fiction film, José Cardoso’s O Vento Sopre do Norte/The Wind Blows from the North (1987), was made in black and white so that the film could be developed by the laboratory at the INC rather than being sent abroad, though that choice makes for an intense evocation of the country’s colonial past.44 The film gives cinematic form to a collective desire for change through the highly personal vision of the director. As such, when the film appeared in the final years of the Revolution, it offered a glimpse of yet another version of what a Mozambican ‘national cinema’ might have encompassed in different circumstances. In The Wind Blows from the North the liberation struggle appears only as a tremor through a repressed society. Set in Lorenzo Marques, the film shows the climate of fear affecting both the colonisers and the colonised. It seeps into every aspect

68 Ros Gray

Figure 4.2 Poster for José Cardoso’s O Vento sopre do norte (1987). Credit: Courtesy of the Director.

of daily life, infecting the games European children play as they stalk each other with toy guns through picket fences. The undercurrent of violence culminates in the attempted rape of a young black woman by a drunken Portuguese policeman. The winds of change that ‘blow from the North’ appear only as the crackled sounds of ‘A Voz de Moçambique’, FRELIMO’s radio broadcast listened to in secret in the opening scene of the film, or as rumours following an arrest about clandestine militant connections. In The Wind Blows. . . the camera weaves through space, taking in snatches of conversations and making connections, often by following and lingering with marginalized social figures – the houseboy who silently prunes the hedge while Portuguese children play and their mothers gossip over the garden fence, or the little boy in a café scene who moves from table to table, his begging largely ignored. Sequences move between the different spaces that divided the colonial city: the shacks of wood and corrugated iron in the suburbios; the PIDE headquarters at Villa Algarve; villas owned by Portuguese settlers and tended by black servants; and a café scene in the central part of the city, where

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 69 Europeans fret and bluster about the armed insurrection but continue to treat the rest of the population with contempt. Individual memories from different generations are folded into the narrative, so that they come to signify collective memories as well, to make an indictment of colonial society and signify the desire that lay hidden within it for radical change. Ironically, however, these two films emerged between two events that reversed the country’s path towards socialism. In 1986 Samora Machel was killed when his plane was mysteriously diverted and crashed on South African territory. In 1989 FRELIMO formally renounced Marxist-Leninism, paving the way for the negotiations that led to the country having multi-party elections and embracing the free market. The economic crisis caused by the war, compounded by the withdrawal of support from Soviet bloc countries, meant that during the 1980s the INC’s profits were increasingly appropriated for other uses by the State. Productions were cancelled, and cinemas across the country fell into an abject state. On the night of 12 February 1991, between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the INC was almost completely destroyed by fire. The paradox of the INC is that it embodied a set of aspirations that, at the time of their emergence, seemed like the beginning of something new and unstoppable. In fact it marks the end of an era, both in terms of a technological shift to television, video and digital forms and in terms of the failure of socialist African nationstates to create a network of cinema distribution and production independent from capitalist imperialism. The African revolutions of the 1970s are usually characterised today by the disappointment and catastrophe that followed in their wake. The very films that might provide a counter-view – the films of the armed struggle and those made by the INC – are largely inaccessible, rarely seen except in occasional screenings to specialist audiences or via degraded copies that circulate informally. Yet this troubled archive testifies to the fact that during the revolution Mozambique became a key site for theorizing through practice and, for a time, realizing the decolonization of cinema in the region. This had a series of unexpected effects that rupture the assumption that either the West or the Soviet bloc is the site of radical innovations that are belatedly exported to the ‘Third World’. It also disrupts a certain scepticism that such projects are inevitably another manifestation that merely mirrors or echoes the dynamics of imperialism, in which the economic and military giants of the world projected their utopian fantasies onto Africa as if it were a blank slate waiting to be inscribed. Instead, connections forged through filmmaking produced a relation geography that spanned vast distances, in which cinema was a form privileged to make the sounds and images of this African Revolution. The very survival of these moving images has an uncomfortable relation to present-day political and economic reality. When FRELIMO abandoned its policy of nationalization, the function of the INC changed from being an institute dedicated to an integrated system of production, acquisition and distribution to become a state regulator of private film production companies. During the period of transition to free-market capitalism, changes were also made to the structure of management at the INC that had the effect of reversing the efforts during the

70 Ros Gray

Figure 4.3 The film crew for Licínio Azevedo’s Adeus RDA (1992) confronts a group of neo-Nazis in recently unified Germany. Credit: Courtesy of Ebano Multimedia.

revolution to address the social and racial inequalities that were the legacy of colonialism. Mozambique’s postcommunist filmmakers are exposed to pressure to conform to the line of the political elite and receive little support to produce the kind of socially engaged documentary and fiction films that a handful of directors succeed in making against the odds. As Mozambique’s cinemas and television screens continue to be dominated by foreign images of consumer cultures beyond the reach of the vast majority, neoliberalism triumphs through a combination of saturation and amnesia. In this situation what is the affective legacy of these socialist friendships? Of the documentaries and fiction films made independently in Mozambique since 1991, only one speaks directly of the ‘Socialist Friendships’ that were such a prominent part of the experience of the Mozambican Revolution. Licínio Azevedo’s Adeus RDA/Farewell DDR (1992) is a compilation of interviews with Mozambicans who went to work in East Germany during the Revolution. Some believing they were being offered an opportunity to study abroad arrived in East Germany to find that they were in fact expected to work ‘like robots’ doing menial jobs in factories; others ended up marrying East Germans and attempted to make a life for themselves in Europe. The film recounts how when Germany was reunified the Mozambicans who came under the treaty of ‘Socialist Friendship’ were forced to return to Mozambique, despite the fact that the country had been their home for a number of years. The overwhelming narrative of German reunification as a triumph of democracy over totalitarianism eclipses these testimonies of a relational geography between Africa and the Eastern bloc that was also part of the

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 71

Figure 4.4 Wilson Buyaya as Idrissa in Oktyabr (1993). Credit: Courtesy of the Director, Abderrahmane Sissako.

European experience of socialism. Azevedo’s film, made at the time of a climate of xenophobia and rise in activities of the far right in unified Germany, gives evidence of a former, albeit minor, xenophilia that existed within the socialism of the Eastern bloc. What is the future of this affective connection between peoples living under geographically distant former Socialist regimes? A tentative answer is perhaps suggested in another film by Sissako. His beautiful early short film Octyabr/October (1993) captures moments in a doomed love affair between Idrissa, an African student, and Zhenya, a Russian woman who has to decide whether to continue with a pregnancy that she hasn’t told her lover about because she believes he will return to his own country. The film depicts the constant surveillance of a racist society atomised by repression. Shot in black and white, there is a single exquisite moment of colour that floods the screen when Zhenya pricks herself on a rose. The lovers barely speak to each other, but there are flashbacks to the happy, lighthearted moment of their first encounter. In a later scene Idrissa stands alone in a snow-covered park. He bends down and fills his hands with snow, which he brings to his face in an intensely sensuous cinematic moment. He looks up and sees a young girl of mixed race, with an aging Russian woman in the background. The scene can be interpreted in a documentary mode as a reference to the long history of African peoples coming to Russia – of small numbers of individuals who found there possibilities for education and making a life for themselves, often against great odds.45 But can this moment also be read as a vision of the child he will unknowingly leave behind?46 It is a reading that opens up the possibility of a future for this affective bond between two people that struggles to survive within

72 Ros Gray the oppressive social structure that encompasses them. In the postcommunist films mentioned here the legacy of socialist friendship seems confined to the intimate spaces of personal affect – that of individual friendships, of lovers, of children. Moving beyond a longing for the ‘lost alternatives’ of twentieth-century socialism, new collective sensibilities are bound to emerge in this context.47 Perhaps it is here, at these human points of interconnection across vast distances, diverse landscapes and cultures, that we can locate a form of the political oriented towards a different future.

Notes 1 Anon (2010: 105–10). 2 Leela Gandhi (2005). 3 Josephine Woll, ‘The Russian Connection: Soviet Cinema and the Cinema of Francophone Africa’, in Françoise Pfaff (2004: 223–40) (ed.). 4 Both Sembène and Maldoror trained with Mark Donskoy at Gorky Studio, an institute dedicated to making films for children. This kind of training was perhaps thought appropriate because of the imperative to use the moving image for the purposes of education, though as Jeremy Hicks has suggested, it had stylistic consequences: The films of Sembène and Maldoror also share with Donskoy a certain aesthetic of naturalism in their attention to the physicality of the body and collective rituals. At the panel discussion ‘The Soviet Connection’, Hicks argued that films such as Sembène’s Borom Sarret (1966) and Xala (1973), and Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga (1973) exhibit an aesthetic of naturalism in their focus on body and share with Donskoy in the tendency to engage audiences with unsympathetic characters who become sympathetic through their suffering caused by capitalist injustice. ‘The Soviet Connection’ panel discussion between Kodwo Eshun, Jeremy Hicks and Ros Gray took place at Gasworks, London, 26 February 2011, as part of a series of events organized as part of Mathieu Kleybe Abonenc’s exhibition ‘Foreword to Guns for Banta’, 26 February–17 April 2011. 5 Filipa César (2011: 4) (ed.). 6 See Jihan el-Tahri’s documentary Cuba! Africa! Revolution! (2007). 7 Boris Groys (2008: 156). 8 Ibid., p. 152. 9 Ibid., p. 150. 10 The year 1969 saw an explosion of cultural events and inaugurations: The FESPACO film festival first took place in Ouagadougou, bringing anti-colonial films to an African public and functioning as a ‘meeting place’ for African filmmakers. The Féderation PanAfricaine de Cineastes (FEPACI) was formed, which called for filmmakers to lobby their governments to nationalize their film industries and collaborate on Pan-African policies to develop liberated cinema networks. The same year Algiers hosted the First Pan-African Cultural Festival, which received delegations from the lusophone liberation movements as well as from independent states across the continent, and through which Algeria sought to assert itself as a center for a new militant Pan-Africanism. 11 Anon (1976: 235). 12 Ibid., pp. 235–6. 13 ‘Resolution of the Third World Film-Makers Meeting’, Algiers, 1973. Reprinted in Teshome Gabriel (1982: 103–7). 14 Ousmane Sembène (1975: 2). 15 Hannah Arendt’s theoretical investigation of Revolutions that preceded those of decolonization tells the ‘story’ not of irresistible progress ‘on whose thread the historian might string the history of the nineteenth century in Europe’, but of the emergence at

‘Haven’t you heard of internationalism?’ 73



18 19 20 21

22 23

certain times and places of moments of possibilities for political empowerment and freedom. The tragedy of revolution is that the uniqueness of each of these moments is often swept away when emancipatory popular power is swept away by the violence of a political elite. See Hannah Arendt (1990: 256). Also, Donald Donham (1999), which Marxist Modern makes a similar gesture in its account of the Ethiopian Revolution of 1978, drawing parallels with early twentieth-century revolutions in Russia, China and other countries through the ways in which the rhetoric of those earlier revolutions found new resonance in Ethiopia in the 1970s. In 1959 a strike by dock-workers at the port of Pijiguiti in Bissau was violently suppressed by the Portuguese army, who killed more than 50 protestors. In 1960 some 500 protestors were killed at Mueda in northern Mozambique; and in 1961 peasants working for the cotton multinational Cotonang in the region of Baixa de Cassanje revolted. The Portuguese military responded by bombing villages in the are, killing up to 7,000 people. The MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) was founded in 1961 and was led by Agostinho Neto, who became president after independence in 1975. The PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde) was established in 1963 and led by Amílcar Cabral until his assassination in 1973 just a year before PAIGC was recognized internationally as having won independence; he was succeeded by his brother Luís Cabral. FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) was founded in 1962. It was led by Eduardo Mondlane until his death in 1969, and then by Samora Machel, who became president after independence in 1975. Dickinson had been recruited with her friend Polly Gaster by Eduardo Mondlane in Cairo, and both were based at FRELIMO’s centre of operations in Tanzania during the armed struggle. FRELIMO had some footage that they hoped to make into a film, but Dickinson (who had worked as an editor before setting out to travel across Africa) found the material and facilities to be completely inadequate. Instead while in Tanzania she worked with Sergio Vieira to ghost-write Mondlane’s book The Struggle for Mozambique, which was first published in English. The British women then returned to London, where they set up an organization affiliated to the Anti-Apartheid Movement to garner support for the liberation struggle. The group was kept small and those involved consciously decided not to turn it into an organization that would seek mass membership so as to avoid the risk of it being hijacked by other factions within the nationalist movement, a struggle that was played out within FRELIMO itself after Mondlane’s assassination, in which the Marxist-Leninist camp achieved ascendancy and Machel was declared leader. Interview with Margaret Dickinson, London, 13 October 2005, in Ros Gray (2007: Appendix). Ibid. Anon (1982: 11). José Luís Cabaço (2001: 105). The title refers to the date of the foundation of FRELIMO; the ‘Day of Resistance’ that began the armed struggle; the day of the Carnation Revolution that toppled fascism in Portugal, and 25 June 1975, the day Mozambique became Independent. 25 June 1962, 25 September 1964, 25 April 1974. Anon (1977: 51). Looking back at this period, the Resolutions to the first FRELIMO Conference of Information and Propaganda in 1975 conclude that during the struggle: ‘ . . . in zones where it was possible to carry out intense activity in information and propaganda before beginning the armed struggle, [these campaigns] had immediate success. On the contrary, in places where that wasn’t possible, our soldiers often came face to face with indifference and even hostility from populations who had for centuries been submitted to intense colonialist propaganda’. See FRELIMO (1975a: 10).

74 Ros Gray 24 FRELIMO (1975b). Minutes to a meeting held on 12 November 1975 show FRELIMO’s concern about the quantity of films that had unacceptable levels of ‘pornography and gratuitous violence’ that had flooded into Mozambique from 1974, because of the lifting of censorship during the Carnation Revolution. See ‘Acta de uma reunião onde se discutiram questões relacionadas com o cinema no período imediatament posterior à independência’, 12 November 1975. Jorge Rebelo kindly provided a copy of this document. 25 Ibid., p. 79. 26 Ibid., pp. 78–9. 27 For an account of this episode, see Margaret Dickinson (2011: 129–34). 28 Present at the Conference were delegations from Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, Guinea, Madagascar, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cabo Verde, S. Tomé and Príncipe. 29 Jorge Rebelo (1977). 30 Ibid. 31 Interview with Pedro Pimenta, Johannesburg, 30 June 2005. See Gray, op. cit. Appendix. 32 Ibid. 33 For a more detailed account of the training programme, see Dickinson op. cit., and Margaret Dickinson (2011: 135–6). 34 Manthia Diawara (2003: 113–15). 35 Jean Rouch (1978: 2). 36 Jean-Luc Godard (1979: 73–129). 37 Ibid. 38 The chief proponents of this drive were José Luís Cabaço, who had replaced Jorge Rebelo as Minister for Information, and the Brazilian filmmaker Ruy Guerra, who in his role as an advisor had significant influence. See Ros Gray (forthcoming). 39 This sequence is included in Margarida Cardoso’s wonderful documentary about the INC entitled Kuxakanema – The Birth of Cinema (2003). 40 Cabaço, op. cit., p. 108. 41 Claire Andrade-Watkins (1996: 139). 42 Thus, for instance, when Julius Nyere stood down as President of Tanzania, the INC sent a team of cameramen to film his final State tour as Tanzania lacked the facilities and skills to make a record in film. Interview with Luis Simão, Maputo, 17 September 2005. See Gray, op. cit. Appendix. 43 The original script was based a book by Licinio Azevedo (1995), a collection of short stories based on testimonies of the armed struggle gathered from people who participated in the fight. 44 Interview with Luis Simão, Maputo, 2005. 45 Even before the Revolution the Russian monarchy had diplomatic ties with African States, particularly Ethiopia. In the early eighteenth century Avram Petrovich Hannibal, a young enslaved African man, who may have been from Ethiopia, was adopted by Tsar Peter the Great. He was sent to Paris for military education, were he was posthumously celebrated as the great grandfather of Alexander Pushkin. See Maxim Matusevich (2007) (ed.). 46 I am grateful to Basia Lewandowska Cummings for suggesting this possible interpretation. 47 Stephen F. Cohen (2009: xi). See also Mark Nash and Isaac Julien (2009), catalogue for the exhibition ‘Re-Imagining October’, curated by, Calvert 22, London, 2 October– 6 December 2009.

5 The remains of socialist realism Cyclo and Beijing Bicycle from a postcommunist perspective Lars Kristensen

In an economic analysis of postcommunist Eurasia and postsocialist South-East Asia, what immediately strikes us are the staggering differences that have occurred over the last two decades. Viewed in economic circles as shock-therapy versus gradual reform,1 the analysis has been synonymous with the title of Peter Nolan’s book from 1995, China’s Rise, Russia’s Fall.2 This chapter will argue, however, that common to the two distinct regions is a shared postcommunist condition. The chapter will examine two films, which centre on protagonists making a living with their bicycles (or tricycles). In Xich lo/Cyclo (1995) by Tran Anh-Hung, it is a young Cyclo (tricycle taxi driver), who tries to escape his poverty but gets entangled in a criminal gang. In Shiqi sui de dan che/Beijing Bicycle (2001) by Wang Xiaoshuai, it is a migrant worker from the countryside who gets a job in the big city as a bicycle courier. It is by drawing upon the representations of these bicycling heroes that I aim at describing how the postsocialist film industries of China and Vietnam are locked in a postcommunist neither/nor mindset. Cyclo is the product of diaspora filmmaker Tran Anh-Hung, who works from and resides in Paris. The film was co-produced between French Les Productions Lazennec, Vietnamese Giai Phong Film Studio and Hong Kong based Salon Films. Beijing Bicycle, on the other hand, has a native filmmaker, Wang Xiaochuai, who has been a significant figure in the Sixth Generation of Chinese filmmakers that arose in the 1990s with a gritty, ‘close-to-reality’ style of cinema. As with Cyclo, Beijing Bicycle is transnational, co-produced by French Pyramide Productions and Beijing Film Studio, but it is the brainchild of Peggy Chiao and her Taiwanese Arc Light Films. Another way of detecting the transnational negotiation zone (or Mary Louise Pratt’s contact zone)3 that the films are emphatic of, is through the crosscultural genre borrowed from neo-realism and Vittorio De Sica’s classical film, Ladri di biciclette/Bicycle Thieves (1948). Both Cyclo and Beijing Bicycle are constructed on the plot of the theft of the workingman’s bicycle, but also divert significantly from this plot line. The fact that they pay tribute to Bicycle Thieves indicates that a transculturalization has taken place, which in turn could explain why the films have resonated with European audiences in particular. Cyclo won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1995 and Beijing Bicycle won a Silver Bear (Jury Grand Prix) at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001. However, it is foremost the production mode of the films and the representation of the working men

76 Lars Kristensen on bicycles that I will focus on here, arguing that these two films, despite their different national contexts, can be taken as cinematic examples of the postcommunist condition. I will make the distinction between postsocialism and postcommunism where the former refers to economic developments of current communist countries and the latter indicates a condition that springs from the disintegration of the communist bloc. In this distinction, China and Vietnam have reached postsocialism in economic terms, but are still politically one-communist-party countries. In term of postsocialist filmmaking, which is particular to China and Vietnam, I argue that Cyclo and Beijing Bicycle are postcommunist through their engagement with global audiences and producers. Each of the films has been considered as representative of their respective cinemas; Beijing Bicycle is predominately seen as a national, Chinese-speaking film4 and Cyclo as an example of Vietnamese diasporic cinema in France.5 The aim here, though, is to compare the production contexts of Beijing Bicycle and Cyclo, in order to produce a synthesis of a Higsonian national and a Nafician diasporic perspective. I will examine these productions, arguing that there are three important ‘players’ in each production: (1) postsocialist state authorities, (2) a diaspora community and (3) foreign producers. I will draw from concepts of state regulation and displacement of the filmmaker both within and outside the frame of the nation state. I will concentrate predominately on the filmmakers and their filmmaking practice, but at the same time give attention to the national contexts in which they were made.

Vietnamese diaspora cinema Tran Anh-Hung emerged in the 1990s with a string of films set in Vietnam, L’odeur de la papaye verte/The Scent of Green Papaya (1993), Cyclo, and Mua he chieu thang dung/At the Height of Summer (2000), which portrayed Tran’s own displacement from his country of birth. Hence, Cyclo comes in a line of French films that are themed on postsocialist Vietnam, but in reality deal with France’s own postcoloniality.6 The opening up of this postcolonial interrogation is made possible by the fall of communism and the disappearance of Soviet patronage to Vietnam. Furthermore, just like its big neighbour in the north, China, Vietnam has developed from a planned economy to a free-market orientated economy since the mid 1980s. Triggered by a stagnating economy, the Doi Moi (renovation) reforms can be seen as a fusion of a general enlarged economic globalization and a particular Vietnamese anticolonialist spirit.7 While Vietnam has moved into a post-Doi Moi phase, being accepted into trade organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the duality of the reforms still exist; a fusion of nationalism (anti- or neo-colonialism) with a silent acceptance of the geopolitical order based on global postcommunist economics. It is under these conditions that Tran Anh-Hung was allowed to return to Vietnam. Although Cyclo was shot in Vietnam, it was produced from France with the participation of Giai Phong Film Studio. It was the first film that Tran made with

The remains of socialist realism 77 Vietnamese co-producers. His previous film, The Scent of Green Papaya, was also projected to be made in his country of origin, but the project failed because of miscalculations in the preparation of the shooting.8 Instead, the film was made in a French studio outside Paris.9 It is often reported that Vietnam does not have a ‘proper’ film industry, a view that Tran himself has promoted.10 However, filmmaking in Vietnam has existed since 1953 through a decree signed by Ho Chi Minh, and since 1910 through the hands of French colonizers.11 Producing an average of 20 films per year, the Vietnamese film industry has evolved into a quasi-independent industry where censorship has been relaxed, but also where studio management has to make profit from the films. In the postcommunist era, some filmmakers have lamented this commercialization and hailed cinematic realism as the highest aim of the art form – a discourse found in much postcommunist filmmaking.12 However, a new wave of Vietnamese filmmakers has taken on the mantle of popular cinema, addressing young and more affluent urban audiences.13 Termed ‘instant-noodle’ films – for example, Gai Nhay/Bar Girls (Le Hoang 2002) and Nhung Co Gai Chan Dai/Long-Legged Girls (Vu Ngoc Dang 2004) – they explore issues of sexuality, youth culture and consumerism in popular Cinderella style that depicts the seedy nightlife or the fashion scene of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. While containing a subtheme of queer identities, the films conform to a dominant system where women’s roles in society are as good teachers or mothers – not beauty queens or slaves to fashion. This commercial filmmaking practice helps to contextualize Tran’s diasporic filmmaking. He is not a Vietnamese filmmaker who is out to portray the fashionable youth culture spiced with queer homosexuality. Rather, Tran is similar to other diasporic filmmakers, such as Atom Egoyan, in that he is the provider of ‘free indirect discourse in the sense of forcing the dominant cinema to speak in a minoritarian dialect’.14 The dominant cinema that Tran breaks into, however, is not Vietnamese cinema but French cinema. He manifests the personal exile experience through his filmmaking, but contrary to Egoyan’s Calendar (1993), he does so without depriving viewers of Asian spectacle in the form of gangster suspense or culinary exoticism. Tran immigrated to France with his family in 1975 and got his filmmaking education at the Louis Lumière College (1982–85).15 Therefore, he is working within a French cinematic tradition that promulgates filmmakers from former French colonies. Beur cinema is the best example of this tradition, allowing immigrant filmmakers to make films about their relationship to home- and hostcountries. Tran is part of an ever-growing group of filmmakers that, through their own immigration, are assigned to work in the fluid structures of a postindustrial/post-national film industry. This transnational type of filmmaking occupies an increasingly important place in postcommunist cinema, with an emphasis on cross-cultural filmmaking. However, it is important to stress that the filmmakers fit into the dominant society of multiculturalism and ethnic pluralism, providing narratives that are able to challenge ideas of national essentialism and purity. In this way, the filmmakers become ‘insiders’, or moderators of a cross-culturalism that manifests the dominant (Western) society as multicultural.

78 Lars Kristensen Cyclo is a film that highlights the perspective of the transnational filmmaker, who works inbetween home and host countries, but addresses predominantly nonVietnamese audiences. In this modification process, Tran has to ‘play’ along with cinematic conventions and traditions that will ‘familiarize’ the work to producers and consumers. It is this ‘playing’ that Delphine Bénézet refers to as stereotyping. She argues that the neo-realism, added a slight gangster theme, is the frame that allows the filmmaker to rise above the two distinct regions, East and West.16 There is in Cyclo a touch of Scorsese and Tarantino, as well as Kitano, according to Bénézet, but it is the migration, the cross-cultural encounter and the expanding reach of global artistic production that make possible the interconnection between the honest tricycle worker and gang criminality.17 In my opinion, the film converges on the postcommunist framework in its on-location shooting, a transnational mode of production, and a cross-cultural genre recognition, which together underline the film’s standpoint. This production is in opposition to commercial national cinema, whether French or Vietnamese. Tran is not aiming at making a post-Doi Moi national discourse, which is ‘intended to educate people and to argue the line of the [political] power’,18 but he has nonetheless to conform to the Vietnamese film industry and its political censors. In fact, Tran had to visit the Vietnamese censors daily, and authorities were present on set to prevent ‘damaging images of Vietnam’.19 The film has to promote national sentiments abroad while not propagating a socialist system. As such, Tran’s film is not seen as propaganda,20 but manages to crossover as a melodrama that is neither nationalist nor post-national. The emulation of the neo-realist protagonist is important in this crossover. Often the hero would never regain footing in society and the film would leave him on the streets of the city that has sucked the life out of its characters, such as Antonio Ricco in De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. More often than not, we the audience would have to speculate as to the fate of the character we have come to sympathize with, but nonetheless conclude that society is the cause of our hero’s downfall by way of poverty and depression. In regard to Cyclo, my point is that since the Vietnamese state would not allow for its society to be portrayed as evil, the positive hero returns to infuse the narrative with melodrama.

Cyclo and poet in Ho Chi Minh city Cyclo tells the story of a rickshaw boy called Cyclo (played by the nonprofessional actor Loc Le Van).21 Cyclo belongs to a rickshaw family. His father was a rickshaw boy who died at work in a traffic accident. The same peddling life is on the cards for Cyclo, whose rickshaw is stolen one day. Cyclo dreams of leaving his working class poverty behind; he actually wants out, and applies for a scheme that aims at eradicating ‘old’ poverty, but the rickshaw business has its firm grip on the young man. He soon finds himself trying to survive in the murky sinister underworld of Ho Chi Minh City, where the gangster boss, Poet (Tony Leung), roams, with his business of drugs and prostitutes. This is a throwback to life before the reunification in 1975 and recalls a system that needs to

The remains of socialist realism 79 be eradicated, according to the socialist image. Cyclo’s struggle serves to express this idea. It is his fall into easy money, his subsequent rise out of criminality and his re-establishment as the main provider for his family, that make him a hero of nationalist proportions. Money (dollars or dongs) is dirty and leads to immanent violence, which can be read in a neo-Marxian fashion.22 I want to focus on the two male protagonists, Poet and Cyclo, in illustrating the film’s postcommunist ‘double occupancy’, to borrow from Thomas Elsaesser.23 The character Cyclo is molded on the neo-realist model, but tries to showcase a cultural force that the hero of Bicycle Thieves is indifferent to. Cyclo wants to leave his toils on the rickshaw; a life of never-ending pedaling that leads to nothing, as his father tells him. He is 18 years old and has become the main provider for his grandfather and two sisters. But he has difficulty in taking his family out of the poverty and their old house, located in the old shantytown. He hires his bike from the boss, who takes a percentage from the earnings and a deposit for the bike. This system neatly set out the life of a poor Vietnamese boy. He is trapped in a Doi Moi economy where private enterprize has been given free hand and where the state is trying to modernize the infrastructures so that the country can prosper according to international monetary funds. Cyclo is working within a business that has a particular colonial history, but in the eyes of the socialist regime present-day cyclo tourism bears resemblance to a pre-socialist feudal system.24 The worker is enmeshed in a boundless debt system that will only take him further into poverty. Equally, in the big cities, the cyclos are taking up space on the streets, and thus impeding further economic growth of the country. Thus, cyclos have been banned from major roads and largely reduced to a cultural icon mostly reserved for tourists.25 The duality of being at once a touristic symbol and an image part of the eradication of poverty converges in the film. If Cyclo is the exploited working class hero, who is trapped in the service of others more well-off than himself, then Poet is an explicit reference to capitalism (and popular Hong Kong cinema, through Tony Leung).26 Poet is the reluctant gangster, who has been lured by monetary gains and forgotten his moral conviction. He has enlisted Cyclo’s older sister (played by Tran’s wife) as a prostitute, selling her into kinky sexual exploitation, but Poet fails to protect her virginity, as she is raped on one of her outings. Although he later kills the rapist, he cannot live with the burden and sets fire to his own flat, thus committing suicide. The fact that his sense of honour (killing the rapist) prevails in the end is not a surprise in the perspective of postcommunist cinema, where countless cinematic heroes have emerged in the postcommunist landscape, poised between the lure of the dollar bill and a sense of moral order that has taken a beating with the introduction of capitalism. This ending is, of course, also in concurrence with the official position of the Vietnamese authorities, which have to implement a socialist capitalism that upholds the moral and spiritual correctness of the people. The criminal gang masters (foreign and clearly identified as Hong Kong Chinese) are chased like dogs (as Poet is in the film), but are also beautified by their screen presence, exhibiting the graphic violence that transnational audiences have grown to like.27 Poet is doomed because of his capitalist sins, but he is also a spectacular element

80 Lars Kristensen (as actor and character) in the film, which helps to promote it to non-Vietnamese audiences. Contrary to Poet, Cyclo, his sisters and grandfather are given a prosperous ending, or at least a promising one. As Poet perishes in flames, Cyclo regains his freedom from the Boss and leaves on his bike carrying his whole family. In the last images of the film, they cycle off into the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City. This optimistic ending is one reason why the film was critiqued by its French reviewers, who attacked it for the ‘lack of [a] political agenda’.28 However, this ‘airbrushing’ of political elements is part of its production mode. The remains of the socialist realist narrative serve the political aim of the postcommunist nation, which influences the filmmaking process in order to secure ‘right’ images of the country. Tran has to be more subtle when commenting on globalization and the influence of Empire. Just before the camera picks up the family’s ride into a new future, there is a long pan shot that starts by showing the skyline of the city. The camera captures derelict buildings, new highrises and a scrap yard before it pans over a hotel with a swimming pool and sunbathing tourists and ends up on the busy streets with Cyclo and his family on the bike. The continuous movement of the camera selects these features of Ho Chi Minh City as symbolic of Vietnam in the postcommunist era: old/new, ruin/palace, regress/progress, and tourist/native. The point is that these moving images cannot be said to critique either socialist Vietnam or Western Imperialism. They are in-between easy definitions and can only be located in the diasporic attempt to carry both worlds, the double occupancy.

Chinese ‘independent’ filmmaking If Vietnamese cinema has yet to be attached to a ‘postsocialist’ term, Chinese cinema already has such a defining epithet. Postsocialist of Chinese cinema has historically been characterized by the introduction of market economy by Deng Xiaoping, and as such it is a transition term that underlines the economic reforms instigated in the early 1980s. While the postsocialist mixture of capitalist economy and communist politics still exists in film production in China, it is by the Sixth Generation of filmmakers and post-Tiananmen Square films that Chinese cinema is defined outside China. There are Chinese mainstream filmmakers, who make state-sanctioned bankable blockbusters within China; few would consider these as part of the Sixth Generation but they are indeed very ‘postsocialist’ through their filmmaking practice of securing return on investment while explicitly supporting state socialist ideology.29 However, Gary G. Xu’s grasp of postsocialist Chinese cinema is guided by three observations, which in turn illuminate the connection to postcommunist cinema: (1) a shift from literary culture to visual culture; (2) Chinese state regulations of the film industry are generated toward market orientation and globalization; and (3) rampant piracy both threatening and helping to shape the film industry.30 In the postcommunist context, the disappearance of the celebrated writer has been described by Andrew Baruch Wachtel, who addresses the postcommunist

The remains of socialist realism 81 writer’s turn to more popular forms of culture, such as journalism and genrefiction.31 Secondly, the state’s involvement in regulating and promoting visual images of particular nations is well known in relation to the rise of postcommunist cinema.32 Lastly, the third observation that Xu makes about the rampant piracy is highly compatible to the postcommunist transition period in Eastern Europe and Russia. But film scholars also underline particularities to Chinese-speaking filmmaking. For example, Sheldon H. Lu remarks that Chinese cinema lacks complete compliance with enlightenment ideas and values.33 Furthermore, the Chinese mainland film industry was corporatized into state-owned enterprizes, which gave them an advantage in controlling the inflow of foreign films and the huge revenues generated from these products.34 In Eastern Europe and Russia, such mechanisms were never realized when shock therapy called for the privatization of state property, including the film industry. This does not, in my opinion, preclude the alignment to a postcommunist one. I would rather argue that post-1990s Mainland Chinese cinema is based on global postcommunist cultural politics, which explains why a certain proportion of Chinese-speaking films, or a certain filmmaking practice, are able to gain recognition more broadly than ‘just’ among home audiences. Moreover, it is Gary Xu’s argument that ‘postsocialist Chinese visual culture is based on postmodernist politics’,35 which in turn points to a global condition where Eurocentric Enlightenment of questioning state authorities and national values is cast either as indifferent to regional cultural production or as embedded with colonialist ideas of cultural imperialism. Postcommunist moving images embody neither of these positions; rather they are made in an interstitial location of being ‘situated but universal’.36

Pay-rolling the underground filmmakers Beijing Bicycle is part of a six-film project envisioned by Peggy Chiao and entitled ‘Tales of Three Cities’, which has the urbanization of Taipei, Beijing and Hong Kong as a common trait. Pyramide Productions has underscored European art cinema through its distribution and production divisions, backing filmmakers such as Tony Gatlif, Denys Arcand, Claire Denis and Catherine Breillat. It has come to signify the sustainability of auteur cinema, but has also increasingly focused on filmmaking with a global perspective. Beijing Bicycle should be viewed in line with such films that are of interest (and therefore profitable) to transnational/festival audiences looking for alternatives in a Western ‘cine-market’ dominated by mainstream filmmaking (whether European or US produced). The market orientation of Pyramide and Peggy Chiao’s Arc Light Films match each other perfectly in filling this gap. As Zhang Yingjin emphasizes, the ‘Tales of Three Cities’ project is ‘export oriented’ and thus cannot be tied to one particular cine-market.37 The Taiwanese globetrotting cosmopolitan (similar to diasporic filmmakers) figure of Peggy Chiao facilitates the cross-cultural encounter, but also forms the product according to standards of overseas sales. The third partner in the production of Beijing Bicycle is Beijing Film Studio, which is owned by the state-run China Film Group. In other words, as the film production arm of the

82 Lars Kristensen Chinese government, China Film Group produces film, imports films and oversees Sino-foreign co-productions. The economic interests of China Film Group should not be disregarded just because it is a state-owned enterprize. As several critics have noted,38 the Chinese film industry has developed over the last two decades from ideologically serving its (pay)master to being held accountable financially by its owner, the State, whose primary aim is to advance its own national/regional agenda. China Film Group is very much part of this project, enjoying near monopoly-size market share which ‘stems from the company’s government origin’.39 On the one hand, the cultural strategy of the Chinese government is to maintain and control film production for political content (not damaging the nation), using films as a didactic visual tool. On the other hand, the strategy is also to make the film industry accountable for the films it produces. This is viewed as a break from the dictum that ‘art must serve politics’ as a form of education.40 A postsocialist didactic film, the new ‘postcommunist’ dogma seems to say, necessarily needs mass audiences or, at least, return on investment. Postcommunist moving images need to be adjusted and remodeled in their ideological expression according to the concerns of the projected audiences. Yingjin Zhang argues that ‘co-optation and complicity are integral to the dominant pattern of postsocialist filmmaking’.41 I argue that this is part of the postcommunist condition that is global rather than particular to postsocialist Chinese filmmaking. It is in this postcommunist set up that Wang Xiaoshuai was hired to film a script that he co-wrote with Peggy Chiao. Wang was brought in because of his status as an ‘independent’ filmmaker who had been passed over by Chinese studios since he and his generation were viewed as ‘problematic’ filmmakers. Independent filmmakers, in this regard, are those whose films are ‘neither “mainstream” nor confrontational toward the political status quo’.42 They are the filmmakers for whom the Tiananmen Square clamp down has impacted their filmmaking by motivating them to investigate an alternative ‘truth’ to the official version. Thus, their films project a hidden reality that has not been covered by the state system. In this regard, this Sixth Generation bears resemblance to other (post-)communist cinemas, which saw the increasing demand for loosening the ties to the state studio systems as the road to greater cinematic realism. Equally, although never tied to the state system, the Sixth Generation cinema were low budget films, shot on location with digital cameras, and with non-professionals cast in leading roles. The global configuration of postcommunism as trauma on film is noted by Xiaoping Lin, who makes direct links between avant-garde Chinese filmmaking and the cinema of Kira Muratova of the late 1980s. Xiaoping writes, ‘Muratova’s grim social and moral postsocialist landscape has found a distinct echo in China’s “New Urban Cinema” of the 1990s, when most Chinese cities were going through an enormous process of demolition and reconstruction’.43 The common trait is the agonizing experience of transition from socialism to capitalism. Wang’s first feature film was produced in this mode of filmmaking and subsequently banned from getting distribution in China because it was made outside the studio system. However, Chris Berry highlights the film in connection with

The remains of socialist realism 83 an increased reliance on the documentary image, aiming for greater on-the-spot realism as opposed to representational realism (i.e. older socialist realism).44 The Sixth Generation filmmakers, such as Wang, sought this greater ‘truth’ and thus rejected the previous generation’s flight into national(istic) romanticism.45 However, a shift in this realism paradigm appears in the late 1990s. As Chris Berry asserts concerning Zhang Yuan’s Seventeen Years (1999), it ‘lacks the critical social edge’ and thus marks the filmmaker’s movement from the quasiindependent mode of film production towards mainstream filmmaking, i.e. made in co-operation with the big studios.46 Beijing Bicycle also signifies Wang’s shift from ‘underground’ to mainstream studio works. The discourse of the auteur going popular is one that is often utilized in the critique of postcommunist cinema.47 In the case of Chinese cinema and Zhang Yuan, it is important to stress the rise in nationalism during this period. As Chris Berry notes, ‘unlike the 80s, when a large proportion of the population was critical of the Chinese government and various social and cultural problems, at the moment any attempt to articulate social criticism is bound to be seen as treachery. [. . .] Nationalism in China has now reached almost hysterical dimensions’.48 The ‘fall of the auteur’ should be seen within the framework of a rise of nationalistic sentiments. Thus, postcommunist national states are giving impetus to a state-sponsored filmmaking that is less critical but more likely to reach mass audiences.49 In regard to Beijing Bicycle and the filmmaking of Wang Xiaoshuai, the cinematic expression, thus, has to be located in the concerns of transnational audiences while not sporting critical images of contemporary China. As viewed through its transnational production value, Beijing Bicycle offers neither a critique nor a celebration of postcommunist China.

Thieves and bicycles in Beijing Wang opens the film with frontal shots of young men giving their personal details to an off-screen female interviewer. They are the new workforce of a budding bicycle courier company, and are mostly economic migrants from the countryside. As such they are Wang’s representations of the new China, highlighting a behind-thefaçade scene where there is a need for a flexible workforce consisting of ordinary people (men),50 who dream of making it in the big city but are exploited as cheap labour. Another point in Wang’s careful selection of people (his representation) is that their individuality is curbed once they get their company uniforms and bicycles. They become, as the manager tells them, the ‘Camel Xiangzi of the New Era’, taken from China’s most well-known example of Socialist Realism in literature, Lao She’s Camel Xiangzi (1938).51 The immigrant workers in Beijing Bicycle are thus an explicit comment on the postcommunist economic condition that has occurred in China over the last two decades. The modern mountain bikes of the courier company are only on loan. Hence the line is drawn from the feudalist past that the communist revolution sought to eradicate to the return of modern enslavement of migrant workers seeking to fulfill their dream of prospering in the city. Guo, one of the new employees, is working hard to earn his bicycle (similar to Cyclo and Xiangzi). Before he can own his

84 Lars Kristensen modern rickshaw, he has to pay 80 per cent of his income to the company. At the rate that he is working, this can be done within a month. Guo has a day left of repayment when his bicycle is stolen on a job. He has, in fact, been stripped totally naked for this job as he is misguided through a hotel sauna. While this points to Guo’s determination in the way he carries out his duties, it also suggests the humiliation that his work consists of. As in de Sica’s film, Guo is totally desperate to find his bicycle, but we as spectators quickly realize the impossibility of his task – the huge number of bicycles in Beijing (as in Rome) and, in comparison, how ‘little’ Guo is among them. Inserted into this search is on-the-spot footage where we see the abundance of bicycles moving through the city. While also being funny, emphasizing the grotesque load that the bicycles can carry, these images heighten the realism of the film and accentuate the ‘independent’ filmmaking practice. For example, in the shots of Guo searching for his bike, the people around him look curiously at the camera and at the scene that is behind it. These realistic location shots also ‘give the city of Beijing a strong tinge of lyricism and nostalgia’.52 While this could be seen as a postcommunist nostalgia, it is also an attempt to cinematically move beyond representational realism (or neo-realism). With this, Beijing Bicycle enters a zone of critiquing the modes of realism that ‘tends to be manipulated by various ideological ends, including that of postsocialism’.53 The on-the-spot realism underlines that this is a film constructed for its spectators. It is with this notion in mind that the film crosses over to the introduction of Jian, who ‘buys’ Guo’s bicycle. The story of Jian is not filled with on-the-spot actuality, but rather can be seen as a conventional flight into the melodramatic. But Jian’s story manages to carry a critical tone of, or resistance to, postcommunist development. As a 17-year-old student, Jian is part of the growing middle class that has come to signify modern China. He comes from a modest background, but has been given social mobility by means of education. He goes to a vocational school, which is paid for by his father, who recognizes that in order to secure prosperity in China one has to have a good education. Jian is an adolescent trying to prove himself – to his friends and to the opposite sex. Thus, Jian steals his father’s money, meant for his stepsister’s education, and claims to have bought Guo’s bicycle secondhand. The bike is important to Guo, because the shared culture among his friends is the X-games biking. They practice this sport/culture in an unfinished high-rise, which overlooks the old hutong. This is a culture that is worth stealing for, because it brings the respect and affection of friends and girls. One of the feats that Guo practises on his new bicycle in the alleys at night is the ability to balance the bike while not in motion. This image becomes, in my opinion, the key to understanding the film’s relationship to economic progress and social mobility, and its relationship to the postcommunist condition. It represents the in-betweenness that modern China is facing, weighting economic prosperity against the human cost that it entails. Jian’s immobile bicycle becomes the image of worthless, good-for-nothing cultural acquisition at the expense of the hard-working migrant, who is robbed of his livelihood. But Jian is not mocked by

The remains of socialist realism 85 the filmmakers for his pursuit of happiness and success with Xiao, the girl of his desire. The image of these two riding along the Qianhu Lake, and their tentative relationship are constructed in the same nostalgic lyricism as the images of daily bikers in the streets of Beijing. Xiao’s and Jian’s ride is contrasted to the busy street life and the enormous quantity of bicycles present in Guo’s bike search; their space is that of individuals, as if the streets were made only for them to ride. While Guo frantically searches for the singular in the mass, Jian is the singular who searches for ways to remain part of his class and group culture. The image of Jian on the immobile bicycle crosscuts to Guo’s despair at not being able to locate his bicycle, thus underlining the postcommunist condition as being visible (circulation of goods and culture) and invisible (circulation of people and labour). This image has to contain progress without progressing at all – just like Jian’s balancing trick in the dark alley. Jian’s fondness for cultural acquisition (the X-games and bike-race culture) should not be seen exclusively as critique of the foreign culture corrupting the youth of China, but far more as a critique of the system that promises him this. As Jian screams to his father when he returns the bike to Guo: ‘You promised me a bike when I got into the vocational school, where is it? When I became a top student. . . Have you bought a bike? Should an adult not keep his word?’ Jian reasons that the money he stole from his father was rightfully his and that the broken promises from the adult world justify his actions. The resistance in Jian’s argumentation is that when one prioritizes education over everything else, as Jian’s father explicitly does in the film and as the Chinese government implicitly does in reality, then this can be at the cost of the individual’s dream. This is ‘the inherent contradiction of postsocialist logic based on suzhi [better quality of life through higher education]’.54 In Jian’s resistance to the normative suzhi and its contradictions, Wang exposes the postcommunist condition as paradoxical in that both middle class Jian and migrant worker Guo are in fact in the same position of keeping up with expectations – their own as well as those set out by parents or government. Both protagonists are part of the circulation of products and labour; Jian is the system’s consumer and Guo its catalyst. In this sense, both have the ‘right’ to the bicycle, but it soon becomes a tug of war between Jian (plus friends) and Guo. In the standoff Guo has to cling on to the bike with all the energy left in him. The echo of his wild and ardent scream rings eerie in the hollow skeleton of a building where Jian and his gang have caught Guo. The two owners reach an agreement to share the bicycle – changing ownership of the bike every other day. But this agreement between the worker and the rising middle class cannot be sustained. Before one of their bike exchanges, Jian knocks down Dan Huan, the pretentious X-bike freak who has stolen Jian’s girl.55 Jian and Guo are then hunted by Dan Huan and his biking friends. They are caught, beaten up and their common bike is wrecked. One of Dan Huan’s friends cannot stop his trashing the bicycle and Guo knocks him down with a rock, just as Jian did with Dan Huan. Desperation seems to lead to violence; that is, if an individual is pushed too far, he will fight back violently. Since Dan Huan and his gang of pedal bikers are

86 Lars Kristensen easily identified as having adopted a ‘foreign culture’, this image could be seen as the ‘foreign’ breaking, or disrupting, the locally regulated ‘labour agreement’ between Jian and Guo. However, it is again a neither/nor image, whose critique includes mocking the individuality of the race/X-game cycling culture (seen in the individual T-shirts sported by the gang) and sneering at the pressure of uniformity that leads to violence (as seen in the school/company uniforms of Jian and Guo). If the system pressures the people to uniformity it can lead to a violent backlash.

Conclusion While Cyclo in Tran’s film offered his family to new possibilities of achieving a decent living, Guo and Jian are left beaten by the onslaught of economic development, social mobility and transnational culture. Common to the two conclusions are that images of the busy city get the final say. The city gives life to the films’ representations, but also sucks the life out of their characters. Moreover, common to these moving images of postcommunism are a search for realism, emphasis on youth culture, concerns about consumerism and increasing attention to popular/cross-cultural forms of expression by the state-owned film studios. In this respect, postsocialist Chinese cinema is remarkably similar to Vietnamese film production, but also, I would argue, to many other postcommunist cinemas.

Notes 1 2 3 4

5 6

7 8 9 10 11 12

Vladimir Popov (2007). Peter Nolan (1995). Mary Louise Pratt (1992). See Yingjin Zhang (2004); Zhang Zhen (2007) (ed.); Gary G. Xu (2007). It should be mentioned that the national perspective is implemented transnationally comprising Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. The Swedish film scholar Olle Sjögren takes a religious/philosophical perspective on the Chinese-speaking cinema. While not denying neither economic nor political aspects, he nonetheless uses Daoistic thinking as the key that unlocks the filmmaking. See Olle Sjögren (2007). See Delphine Bénézet (2002); and Sylvie Blum-Reid (2003). For example Regis Wargnier’s Indochine (1992). In regard to Indochine, it is worth mentioning the Stephen Hutchings (1999) has made suggestions at a postcommunist French filmmaking. In his analysis of Indochine and Est-Ouest/East-West (1999), he writes that the latter ‘is not about Soviet communism at all, but rather it is about Wargnier’s postcolonialist fantasies projected onto, and therapeutically “worked through”, Soviet communism’. Lan Duong (2007: 165). Scarlet Cheng (1994: 6). Blum-Reid, op. cit., p. 69. See Jean-Pierre Tallon (2000). ‘Entretien avec Tran Anh Hung’, HorsPress (November). John Charlot (1994: 106). A good example of a critic of post-Doi Moi cinema is Dang Nhat Minh, who in his films explores issues pertinent to Vietnamese authorities, such as historical events. For example, Ha Noi, Mua Dong 1946/Hanoi, Winter 1946 (1997), which explores the days leading up to Vietnam’s independence. See Ngo Phuong Lan (1998: 51–2). Dang Nhat

The remains of socialist realism 87

13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

22 23 24 25


27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42

Minh discovered filmmaking while translating for a Soviet film professor teaching at the Vietnamese Institute of Cinematography. See Ngo Phuong Lan (1996: 18–21). Panivong Norindr (2006: 52). Hamid Naficy (2001: 25). See Bénézet, op. cit. Ibid. Ibid. Tallon, op. cit. Blum-Reid, op. cit., p. 82. See Stuart Cunningham and Tina Nguyen (1999). The word Cyclo/Xich lo was introduced by the French into Vietnamese language. The bicycle is often accounted for as part of the heights of European modernity and exported widely to European colonies. The bicycle is often viewed as entrenched within Western colonization, and as an Eurocentric invention that ‘helped’ develop the backward colonies. However, there is evidence that the bicycle was received with modesty in Asia. In Japanese wood cuttings, for example, the European bicycle was viewed as modern, ‘but only along side the more common rickshaw’. See Iain A. Boal (2002: 170). With the rise of socialism in the region, the rickshaw was viewed with shame, because it was ‘symbolic, not of modernity, but of a feudal world of openly marked class distinctions’. Boal (ibid: 171) writes, in ‘The World of the Bicycle’, that the rickshaw became the symbol of the slaving working class, who labours to transport their exploiters around town, and the mass-produced bicycle became the symbol of the classless society, where the toiling masses traveled from A to B by their own means (or legs). J. Paul Narkunas (2001: 151). Thomas Elsaesser (2005: 108–30). Michael Waibel (1999: 11–13). Ibid., p. 11. According to Waibel, the cyclo industry attracts economic migrants from the region around Hanoi, who seek to supplement their farming enterprizes in the countryside. For many cyclos the business is a second profession. State regulation has implemented restrictions on who are authorized to work as cyclos, which is predominantly to regulate the influx of migrant workers. The fact that it is Tony Leung, a star of Hong Kong cinema, shows that Tran’s film is playing on the idea of the South-East Asian action film, trying to attract audiences that are familiar with Hong Kong cinema. Leung has indicated that the two are working on future projects, that the two filmmakers share a mutual understand. See Kong Kam Yoke (2000: 29–34). Blum-Reid, op. cit., p. 85. Blum-Reid, op. cit., p. 71. I am indebted to Ruby Cheung for this point. Xu, op. cit., p. 10. See Andrew Baruch Wachtel (2006). e.g. Russian cinema, see Birgit Beumers (2009: 242); also, chapters by Jasmijn van Gorp and Zoe Aiano in this book. Sheldon H. Lu (2001: 69). Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh and Darell Williams Davis (2008: 37–51). Xu, op. cit., p. 12. Naficy, op. cit., p. 10. Zhang, op. cit., p. 294 (Zhang’s italics). Xu, op. cit., p. 12; Zhen, op. cit., p. 13; and Yingjin Zhang (2007: 54). Yeh and Davis, op. cit., p. 42. Chris Berry (2007: 115). Zhang, op. cit., p. 73 Zhen, op. cit., p. 14.

88 Lars Kristensen 43 Xiaoping Lin (2009: 26). 44 Chris Berry, op. cit., p. 120. With regard to realism and documentary in Post-Soviet Baltic video art, see also Harry Weeks (2010: 57–70). 45 Zhang, op. cit., p. 53. 46 Chris Berry (1999: 14–15). 47 In case of Aleksei Balabanov see Andrew James Horton (2001b), and in Serbian cinema see Vlastimir Sudar’s chapter in this book. 48 Berry, op. cit., p. 15. 49 See Jasmijn van Gorp’s chapter in this book. 50 The gender perspective is somewhat altered in Ning Ying’s documentary Railroad of Hope (2002), where she follows migrant workers, mostly women, on a train ride to the western parts of the country for work in the cotton fields in North-Western China. In Beijing Bicycle, the female characters are constructed as objects of desire. Xiao, the upper-class girl that Jian fancies, is ignorant of his lower social status and rather indifferently shifts her attention to Jian’s rival, Dan Huan, when he cannot accept to follow her home on the bag of her bike. Even if he would be riding her home on her bicycle, Jian refuses, and abuses, her. Female mobility is also the concern of the other female character portrayed in the film. The girl next door to the shop of Guo’s uncle is not the high-class lady she projects when posing in the window or when she comes around to buy soya sauce. She pretends to be something she is not, while in reality being the nanny. While it would be easy to read the fluidity and flexibility of these female characters in a treacherous way (the pretending and indifference), the cross-cultural analysis will have to highlight the problems of implementing a transnational feminist framework without considering the perspective of the filmmakers and local/home audiences. See E. Ann Kaplan (1991: 141–54). 51 Xu, op. cit., p. 70. In Lao She’s novel, Xiangzi is a rickshaw puller who, in his attempt to gain independence from his employers (from noble households to greedy rickshaw loansharks), is tried and tested in patience and courage and fails in the end and dies penniless. The novel symbolizes the need to regulate a corrupt feudal system that enslaves the masses in debt bonds they can never break; obviously advocating the advances of communism in curing this particular decease. 52 Xu, op. cit., p. 72. 53 Ibid., p. 73. 54 Ibid., p. 76. 55 Dan Huan is the champion rider of concrete blocks by the railway line. He is the iconic symbol of unconscious adaptation of global culture – constantly happy to show off his bike tricks, has dyed his hair, wears sunglasses and smokes cigarettes lit with a Zippo. At the same time, he is a Western icon of the urban warrior, who conquers the environment by athletic achievements (as with parkour) and anarchistic realization of the impossibility of progress (riding without arriving). Most of his tricks consist of excelling in the ability to defy gravity with the immobile bicycle.

6 Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf Postcommunist reception and Albanian cinema Bruce Williams

While Albania as a nation was remote from western eyes during both the Ottoman years and the Communist period, even more so was its cinema. During the height of the nation’s isolation in the 1970s and 1980s, Albanian films were, on occasion, screened in international festivals, which afforded rare opportunities for scrutiny by western viewers.1 The reception of these, however, was highly influenced by the stereotyping of Albanian cinema as a mere mechanism of propaganda. Such a perception is, in part, correct. One cannot deny that a great deal of funds was dedicated by the Enver Hoxha regime to the film industry at the expense of other sectors of the economy, this largely due to the ideological goals that could be attained by the medium.2 Although Albanian films were viewed sporadically at western festivals, they had a real audience in the People’s Republic of China, at least at the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution during which China’s own film studios were virtually shut down.3 The fall of Communism has changed this situation considerably. Although the number of Albanian films produced under democracy is a fraction of those released under Communism, these recent films have enjoyed a wider audience in the West. This chapter will examine the reception in the English-speaking world of Albanian films made following the collapse of the Kinostudio mechanism. Although emphasis will be placed on critical discourse in the United States and United Kingdom, it will acknowledge that such reception is more extensive and includes speakers of English as a global language who have access to scholarly articles and reviews of Albanian film. Our exploration will concentrate on the Anglophone reception of a group of directors who successfully made the transition from the Kinostudio era to the post-democracy, post-pyramid years, namely Kujtim Çashku, Mevlan Shanaj, Fatmir Koçi and Gjergj Xhuvani. These directors are not expressly chosen at the expense of younger generations of Albanian filmmakers. Rather, they have been picked due to the simple fact that their work is available on dvd with English subtitles. The discussion will argue that western readings of these Albanian films go hand in hand with western perceptions of Albania. Two of the films of the above-mentioned directors reassess diverse aspects of the Hoxha regime. Kujtim Çashku’s Kolonel Bunker/Colonel Bunker (1996) presents

90 Bruce Williams an exploration of the heightened paranoia of the Communist era. Set in 1974, the film focuses on Muro Neto, a soldier who is charged with overseeing the ‘bunkerization’ program in which 700,000 concrete bunkers were installed to protect Albania from enemy attacks. The film traces the psychological breakdown of the protagonist due to the nature of the regime he serves, but increasingly has come to question. Xhuvani’s Parullat/Slogans (2001) relates the story of a teacher who has been assigned to a remote village in the Albanian mountains where students and teachers construct revolutionary/anti-imperialist slogans in rocks on the mountainside. Significantly, a number of the slogans are anachronisms. For instance, one refers to the Vietnam War, which had ended years before. The teacher becomes outraged at the futility of the task and comes into conflict with local authorities. Other films deal with the theme of the waves of emigration that plagued Albania following the fall of Communism and the economic collapse of 1997. Fatmir Koçi’s Tirana viti zero/Tirana Year Zero (2002) is a road movie that explores Albania at a time when vast numbers of the country’s citizens are seeking a better life in the West. Protagonist Nik is in love with a woman who is determined to go to Paris to become a model. Nik opts to remain in Albania, and embarks on a trip in his old truck through the country’s chaotic landscape. In the end, he is reunited with his lover, who has decided to return to her native country. Mevlan Shanaj’s Lule të kuqe, lule të zeza/Black Flowers (2002) treats similar issues, but from the perspective of Albania’s remote South. A poetic and somewhat enigmatic film, Black Flowers focuses on a village that is gradually becoming a ghost town. Its protagonist, Liliana, must come to grips with abandonment by both her husband and daughter and face the realities of the moribund town alone with her lover, the local schoolteacher. Of the films of the above directors, it is Kujtim Çashku’s Syri magjik/Magic Eye (2005) that most overtly transcends the confines of postcommunist Albania. It focuses on a retired photographer who attempts to debunk a case of media manipulation in which an innocent man is turned into a crazed child killer through newsroom post-production. Although set in Gjirokastër during the chaos following the fall of the 1997 pyramid scheme, Magic Eye’s indictment of irresponsible journalism is indeed universal. From the majority of the above-mentioned films, we note that Albanian film is closely tied to the nation’s historical context, however this is understood or interpreted. To this effect, Dina Iordanova (2001) has argued for a contextual approach to Balkan cinema, one that ‘gives as much weight to the background and implicit politics of a film as it does to its aesthetics and cinematic language’.4 The importance of this observation notwithstanding, in the case of a study of reception, one must modify somewhat Iordanova’s notion of ‘context’. The context here is not exclusively history and politics, but also, how Albania has been read and re-read in the Anglophone world. Nonetheless, as this chapter hopes to demonstrate, the context of reception is not always as simple as it seems. A number of studies made over the course of the past 30 years have emphasized the importance of the cultural frames from which we view film. Eric Rentschler’s (1981) essay on the cross-cultural reception of the New German cinema argues

Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf 91

Figure 6.1 Poster for Kujtim Çashku’s Magic Eye. Credit: Courtesy of the Albanian Film Archive.

that the American reception of this cinema masks its ignorance of the cultural and production contexts of Germany in favor of an over-emphasis on the auteur.v One can surmise that the New German Cinema was something constructed by and for the outside based on partial knowledge of the social and political realities of the Federal Republic of Germany. Along a similar vein, Stephen Crofts’ (1993) examination of cross-cultural readings of Crocodile Dundee stresses that Americans and Brits read the film differently due to their distinct constructions of Australia, gender, class and ethnic politics.5 We can argue that there are three Austalia’s: mine, yours and theirs! More recently, Antonio Lázaro-Reboll’s (2007) exploration of the transnational reception of Guillermo del Toro’s Mexican-Spanish production, El espinazo del diablo/The Devil’s Backbone (2001) questions the frames through which Hollywood critics approached del Toro’s Spanish/Mexican film. Lázaro-Reboll argues that American film magazines attempted to foreground the ‘Hollywoodness’ of the works and make comparisons with American films.6 He asserts that ‘comparisons to contemporary Hollywood filmmaking in [The Devil’s

92 Bruce Williams Backbone’s] overseas reception are inescapable’, and further emphasizes critical comparisons between the film and the Hollywood monster movie.7 Thus, the frame through which an audience views a foreign film is closely tied to its overall perception of the country of origin and its cultural, political and historical context.

A free haircut at Rinas airport: diplomacy and travel Arguably, the Anglophone world first came to know Albania through Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812–1818), which sang of the valor, romance and exoticism of Ali Pasha’s court. Albania was an uncharted land to which western codes and values were unknown. A century later, Britain further learned more about Albania through the ethnographic writings of Edith Durham, especially High Albania.8 Originally published in 1910, this work opened British eyes to the age-old traditions, beliefs and social practices common in the high mountains of northern Albania. Durham’s work, however, was not limited to a discussion of exotic culture and rites of passage. She also undertook an extensive examination of ethnicities and further historicized and contextualized Albania within the intense conflicts of the Balkans. In 1920, Durham’s Twenty Years of Balkan Tangle would go on to offer a more in-depth study of the Balkans that ventured the claim that no solution to the region’s long-term problems could ignore the ethnic Albanian issue.9 From an American perspective, Rose Wilder Lane’s The Peaks of Shala chronicled the travels of another woman ethnographer, once again in remote regions of Albania’s North adjacent to those visited by Durham.10 This book, originally published in 1923, was followed by Travels with Zenobia: Paris to Albania by Model T. Ford, an account of an automobile trip made by Wilder and her companion, children’s writer Helen Dore Boylston, from France, to Italy, and onward to the port of Durrës on the Albanian Adriatic.11 The United States, moreover, had another opportunity to gain an insight into Albania. When King Zog of Albania married a Hungarian-American in 1938, it was expected that ties between Albania and the United States would be strengthened. Granddaughter of Virginia millionaire John Henry Stewart and a distant cousin of Richard M. Nixon and Robert Frost, Géraldine Margit Virginia Olga Mária Apponyi de Nagyappony only spent one year as Queen of the Albanians. Zog’s reign was cut short by the invasion of Albania by Italian Fascists in April 1939. At that time, the United States officially ended relations with Albania. Although a United States mission was set up in Tirana in 1945, the Hoxha government cut off all ties with the United States in 1946. It was not until some forty years later that Tirana would reach out to the United States to re-establish diplomatic relations. Britain likewise broke all ties with Albania following the destruction of two Royal Navy Cruisers off the shore of Corfu in May 1944, which cost the lives of 44 men. In 1991, the two countries began to resume diplomatic ties. From 1946–91, Albania was a land of mystery for most Brits and Americans. It was known for its exoticism coupled with extreme political isolation. Very few westerners were granted access to the country, and Americans were among the most restricted. As late as the 1970s, United States passports were stamped

Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf 93 ‘not valid for travel to Cuba, Albania, and North Korea’.12 Albania, however, allowed Americans whose families emigrated to the United States before the communist period to visit the country.13 Tourists would travel within Albania in groups of fifteen to thirty, and since they were thus conspicuous, they were easily ‘policed’.14 A barber was stationed at Rinas airport to assure that visitors would maintain an appropriate appearance. We can add that Albania’s tourism policies at once served to make the country accessible and preserve its aura of mystery. Tourists were permitted to see ‘something’, but what they saw was limited and often reflected remote eras of the past rather than contemporary reality. Despite the complete severance of diplomatic ties, British travel to Albania was never as completely banned as that of the United States film theoretician Laura Mulvey has spoken of a group excursion through Albania in which she participated in the 1970s.15 In the early 1980s, an establishment in London’s Covent Garden district simply called ‘The Albanian Store’, sold books, memorabilia and food goods brought back from the owner’s frequent trips to Albania. This store, replete with official Albanian publications, reinforced the notion of Albania as an isolated, communist country marching to its own drummer. As is the case with the United States, travel from Britain to Albania was normalized in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, for Brits and Americans, Albania is one of the least-visited destinations of all of Europe and is still cloaked in mystique and an aura of the forbidden.

Illegal Albanian restaurants: depictions of Albania in American/Western films In Gene Saks’s Barefoot in the Park (1967), Charles Boyer invites newlyweds Jane Fonda and Robert Redford to dinner at a clandestine Albanian restaurant on Staten Island. Housed in what appears to be an unassuming apartment building, the Four Winds restaurant is a ring-bell-for-service speakeasy, where loud music and belly dancing is enjoyed. What one encounters in the Four Winds, however, has nothing to do with Albania; rather, the food, drink, music and dancing appears a synthesis of Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. The words to the folk song ‘Shama Shama’ are not at all Albanian. The names of the dishes sound somewhat Russian. When Fonda makes a toast (with Greek ouzo) shouting words she has made up, once again the language sounds Slavic. Fonda and Boyer are adventurers, as opposed to the rather stuffy Robert Redford. And an Albanian restaurant responds to their quest for the exotic and unusual. Inasmuch as the film was made during Albania’s period of heightened isolation, the entire sequence reinforces at once the mysterious and unattainable. Shortly before the fall of communism in Albania, Jon Amiel’s Tune in Tomorrow (1990), a film based on recent Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1997),16 includes a number of insipid and offensive Albanian jokes made by a New Orleans-based radio soap opera writer who picks a country of the month on which to blame all ills. Such lines as ‘You look like an Albanian fellow whose owl has just died’ presume that the radio audience knows nothing about Albania and suggest that the radio station believes there are no

94 Bruce Williams Albanians in the listening audience who would be offended by the remarks. Once again, Tune in Tomorrow reinforced the distance between the US and Albania, and the former’s virtually complete lack of knowledge of the Balkan country. At the end of the film, a group of livid Albanians bomb the station, and the scriptwriter makes Norway his new country of the month. In 1997, at the time of the pyramid collapse in Albania, Barry Levinson made extensive references to Albania in Wag the Dog. Following a scandal in which the United States President is caught having sex with a ‘Firefly Girl’ on visit to the White House, executive-branch spin wizard Robert De Niro is forced to create a means-impending, the need for such distraction is particularly urgent. De Niro elicits the assistance of media professional Dustin Hoffman, who can stage a virtual war via the mass media to divert all eyes from the president’s indiscretion. Albania is chosen as the enemy. The duo create interviews stating that Albania has the atomic bomb, and that it will cause massive destruction in the United States, by means of a suitcase bomb which will arrive via the Canadian border. They further invent images of a young Albanian girl fleeing terrorism in her village with her kitten (which is digitally morphed from a paper bag into a feline). For a sense of authenticity, a village harvest festival is conjured up. As in Barefoot in the Park and Tune in Tomorrow, Levinson’s film reveals how truly ignorant the United States public was to the reality of Albania. De Nero and Hoffman’s vision of the Balkan country was only slightly more convincing than those of the previous film.17 From outside of Hollywood, Gianni d’Amelio’s 1994 Lamerica offered the first opportunity for many international viewers to see footage actually shot in Albania. Chronicling the adventures of a young Sicilian man who travels to Tirana to pull off an investment scam, loses all evidence of his Italian nationality, and ultimately joins a mass of Albanians attempting to gain entry to Italy, Lamerica presents a poignant vision of the hardships and chaos in Albania in the early 1990s. One can argue that, despite the fact that Lamerica was an Italian production, it essentially paved the way for Western reception of Albanian film. Iordanova stresses that one of the fundamental strengths of the film was its repositioning midway through the diegesis of point of view. Iordanova argues: What is substantially different here, however, is that the direction of the movement, and thus the gaze of the narrator, which is traditionally positioned from West to South-East, changes at one point in the narrative and is redirected from South-East to West, as we see the situation from the “inside”. With its change of viewing point, Lamerica challenges the established hierarchy, which guaranties the Westerner an untouchably higher standing, and thus subverts the Balkan travelogue construct itself. The subversion is achieved by taking the protagonist, the Italian Gino, from his initial position as Western onlooker, and throwing him into the ultimately deprived position of a local Albanian outcast.18 In her analysis of the Lamerica, Iordanova redeems the film from the indictments made by such intellectuals as Albanian writer Ismail Kadaré, who, from his home

Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf 95 in Paris, asserted that d’Amelio maliciously chose to stress the impoverishment and to suppress any positive features in representing the country.19 Iordanova’s insightful essay attempts to create a new paradigm whereby western viewers can shed the cultural baggage through which they view Albania. Although such a goal may be idealistic, at least it can serve to unmask the limitations that westerners frequently display in their approaches to Albanian film.

Re-mystifying the eagle: the popular press Few reviews of Albanian films have been published in the popular English press in recent years. Nonetheless, there are a number of blogs on the International Movie Database (IMDb),, and other electronic resources that give an indication as to the directions of this popular-press discourse. Considerable discussions are also to be found following screenings of Albanian films in international festivals, both in print and online. In what concerns the analysis that follows, mention of the more popular sites will proceed, not so much in order of publication, but rather in accordance with the chronology of the films discussed. This section will then proceed to analyze discussions in two websites, one online journal and one blog, that, although displaying the insight of academic approaches, are written in a readable, popular language. Kujtim Çashku’s Colonel Bunker has been discussed on several internet sites, most of which recycle a brief review by Sandra Brennan. Brennan describes the film as ‘bizarre but true’ and argues that ‘the insanity of a government [is] far more dangerous to its people than their worst enemies’.20 The majority of her review consists of a short plot summary and a mention that the prototype for the protagonist is still alive and served as a consultant on the film. Although Brennan’s remarks indeed match a number of Çashku’s stated goals in making the film, the brevity of her comments fail to help audiences fully contextualize the film. A 1996 review of Colonel Bunker by Philip Kemp describes the film as ’a darkhued political parable based on fact. . . [that] shows in stark detail the lengths to which an insanely paranoid regime will go to terrorize its own people’.21 Making mention of Albania’s isolation from the rest of the world, Kemp briefly describes the program of ‘bunkerization’ that extended from 1974–1981. He stresses that ‘The deranged response of Albania’s leaders to an imagined external threat underlines the film’s message that the true enemy of the people was their own government’.22 Kemp’s critique once again is in line with Çashku’s primary message in Colonel Bunker. But given that so many other elements of the film are ignored, the Variety reader’s perception of Albania is once again that of a paranoid, isolationist, Stalinist state. Gjergj Xhuvani’s Slogans has perhaps received the most popular press and internet attention. As of the time of the completion of this chapter, in December 2010, the IMDb database for Slogans indicated that viewers either demonstrated a rather stereotypical understanding of the Hoxha years or confessed to their own lack of knowledge about Albania in general. Some tended to generalize communism at large from what they had seen, and others focused on the mysterious nature of

96 Bruce Williams Albania and the country’s poverty. One viewer critiqued the film for its lack of a more extensive depiction of the classroom, even though it was set in a school! What is most noteworthy is that the blogs reveal that viewers have tended to create, unintentionally, an atemporal version of history in which all distinctions between Albania’s communist past and its present-day reality are obliterated. Blogs on that focus on Fatmir Koçi’s Tirana, Year Zero are equally problematic. Koçi is chided for his ‘ridiculous film’ and for his arrogance in having borrowed the title from Rossellini’s Berlin [sic] Year Zero. Other comments have focused superficially on the level of profanity in the film, Koçi’s inability to explain his own work in personal appearances, and, as can be predicted, on the ‘novel’ and ‘mysterious’ nature of Tirana. Judging from these blog posts, once again viewers appear to have had very little context in which to ground their interpretation of Tirana Year Zero. Although these comments express the views of a limited group of individuals, they are harmful to an understanding of the film. We must acknowledge that the obviously-nonnative-speaker characteristics of the comments indicate that they were submitted by writers of English from around the world – the blog does not provide the place from which the comment was made. Blogs are a quick-comment medium. Although on a surface level the posts regarding Albanian film appear superficial, catering to the dual thread of exoticism and political repression, they at least allow reactions to the new Albanian cinema to travel instantaneously beyond the English-speaking world. It is to be hoped that they can spur readers to view the films themselves and explore other critical discourse about them. Although very few film reviews have been made of Mevlan Shanaj’s Black Flowers, it is significant to note that Shpetim Alimeta, director of the Albanian film festival that took place during London’s Golden Autumn of 2005, reports, without further substantiation, that the film received a bad reception at the festival. Alimeta takes the opportunity to stress that, in 2003, all the budget of the Albanian National Cinematography Centre for film production went to Black Flowers. He argues that 25 short films would have cost the same, and that it was unfortunate that no young directors had had the chance to prove themselves.23 Despite Alimeta’s criticism, we must remember that Black Flowers had won the Best Picture Award of the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival of 2004. Of particular consequence, nonetheless, is that there exists on the internet a handfull of hybrid websites which, although addressed to a broader audience, impart a good deal of the insights of more scholarly critiques. Two of the most significant of these in what concerns Albanian film are the essays of Andrew James Horton in the now-defunct online review, Kinoeye, and a blog by Iordanova entitled DinaView. Such online sources help provide a much more solid context for the understanding of the recent films whose reception has been discussed above. In a 2001 discussion of the Albanian film industry following the Thessaloniki festival, Horton asserts that, in recent years, we have come to see Albania as ‘sort of sub-cultural, extra-civilizational’.24 He stresses that this is partly due to the

Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf 97

Figure 6.2 Bujar Lako and Arta Dobroshi in Çashku’s Magic Eye. Credit: Courtesy of the Albanian Film Archive.

news media as well as to such films as Wag the Dog. Horton further notes that ‘the country’s nickname of “Land of the Eagle” doesn’t exactly help express modernity and process’.25 In recognition of the best actress and shared best director prize for Slogans in Tokyo and the film’s success at the Thessaloniki festival, Horton explores just how Albania is able to make films. He discusses the state of the Albanian film industry both as it was under communism and in the era- of postdemocracy, when production dropped to four films per year. Mentioning Koçi’s comment that ‘seventy per cent of accomplished technicians have left the country, there’s no usable [film stock]. . . even the editing tables are unavailable’, Horton foregrounds the work of the Albanian Center of Cinematography and the reliance upon international co-productions.26 Given the relative inexperience of producers in the postcommunist era, the French provide ‘invaluable know-how and modern equipment which are not available in Albania’.27 Horton argues that ‘if Albania has any sense, it will be cashing in on films such as Slogans and Tirana Year Zero. He concludes by noting that the mechanism in place whereby French producers team up with Albanian talent will help bide time until we see a wholly-Albanianproduced film’.28 Horton opens his discussion of Tirana Year Zero by providing a broader context to Albania’s recent plight.29 He notes the combined factors of the legacy of isolation, the pyramid scam, the looting of arms depots and the Kosova refugee situation, which together led to the emigration of roughly a quarter of the country’s population of four million. In his article, Horton builds bridges between

98 Bruce Williams the Albanian emigration crisis and those of other countries. He asserts that, during a press conference with the international jury in Thessaloniki, jury member Eduardo Antín stressed that four of the jury’s seven members were refugees. Another jury member, Yannis Kookkos, ‘went on to say that besides people being brave enough to live abroad, there are those that lose their bearings even in their own country’.30 Horton explains the international acclaim of Tirana Year Zero by emphasizing: it is Albania’s seemingly eternal state of marginalization, lack of selfconfidence and insignificance on the global stage that makes it such a potent and universal symbol of our nervous and insecure times that have attracted our attention to it.31 In a July 2008 discussion entitled ‘Albanian Cinema’ on her personal website DinaView, Iordanova discusses Slogans and offers a number of insights into its production and reception. She acknowledges the major role of the French coproduction partners in the film’s success in obtaining even a scant distribution in Albania, France and a few other European countries. Iordanova further stresses that despite its lack of a mass distribution, it seems to have found a niche audience. Regarding reviews of the film, Iordanova remarks: Those who have written about the film on occasion of its release in the West often begin by admitting they know next to nothing of the place where the film comes from, referring to it as a ‘mysterious’ and ‘enigmatic’ country with ‘weird’ and ‘bizare’ history. They usually end up recommending travel books on Albania, which, supposedly, contain answers on this peculiarly isolated corner of Europe.32 Iordanova asserts that if one views the film in a non-Balkan context, ‘it could be considered as yet another representation of the presence of Maoist indoctrination in Europe, continuing in the tradition established by Jean-Luc Godard in La Chinoise (1967) and the Norwegian satire Gymnaslærer Pedersen/Pedersen High School Teacher (Hans Petter Moland 2006)’.33 She concludes her essay by questioning whether the participants in the building of the mountainside slogans were those who pretended to participate and kept their heads down or those who had truly been indoctrinated, which she asserts is the more plausible answer. Thus, while the vast majority of reviews and internet resources on recent Albanian film have tended either to reinforce either the aura of mystery evoked by the Balkan nation or its Stalinist years of isolation, the work of such critics as Andrew James Horton and Dina Iordanova have brought to popular review a greater level of sophistication, one that provides the non-academic film buff of the Englishspeaking world with greater insight into the complex context of contemporary Albanian film.

Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf 99

Doing what no one else does Despite the fact that Albania produced some 170 films between 1957–83 alone, this film tradition has enjoyed very little critical attention. Western academic studies of Balkan films have virtually ignored Albania. In part, this dearth of critical discourse can be attributed to the fact that Albanian is an Illyrian rather than Slavic language, and few scholars or critics have linguistic access to primary sources. Thus, most studies of Albanian film have been undertaken in Albania and in the Albanian language. From an international perspective, the work of the Groupe de Travail sur le Cinéma Albanais of the Department of Film Studies of the University of Paris, Vincennes, published in 1975 a brief monograph on the history of Albanian film, Le Cinéma albanais. Relatively superficial in nature, it presented examinations of the speeches of Enver Hoxha on literature and the arts, together with summaries of selected Albanian films.34 In the Anglophone world, scholarly work, until very recently, has been equally cursory. Iordanova’s impressive filmography in Cinema of Flames lists seventy-five Balkan films, only two of which are Albanian.35 We can similarly note that the BFI Companion to Eastern European and Russian Cinema is very weak in its discussions of Albanian film.36 Offering few insights, Mathew May’s entry on Albanian film stresses the presence of oppressive propaganda. The only discussion of an Albanian figure in the Companion is Iordanova’s brief entry on novelist Ismail Kadaré, on whose works a number of films from Albania and abroad have been based. This discussion does present an overview of the writer’s importance, but it is only distantly related to film. Despite the few Albanian films mentioned in Cinema of Flames. Dina Iordanova has offered to date the best discussion published in English of the historical and cultural contexts of Albanian film. She argues: In my usage the Balkans is not a geographical concept but one that denotes a cultural entity, widely defined by shared Byzantine, Ottoman, and AustroHungarian legacies and by the specific marginal positioning of the region in relation to the western part of the continent. . . More importantly, however, my concept of “the Balkans” is especially concerned with this unique positioning defined by some as marginality, but by others as a crossroads or bridge across cultures.37 Regarding the relative isolation of the Balkans from the rest of Europe, Iordanova further asserts: ‘The Balkans gravitated from a dreary unpredictable outpost if the old Soviet Empire toward a gloomy orientalist fringe of the new Europe. Within a short time, they became more “other” than they used to be’.38 Regarding Albania specifically, Iordanova, in her above-referenced discussion of Lamerica, makes the following observation: The images of underdevelopment ask the painful question: is this really Europe of the 1990s? Barren hills, poor peasant houses, women in black and scruffy, raggedy men? Somehow, it does not fit into the traditional mental

100 Bruce Williams

Figure 6.3 Yllka Mujo and Mevlan Shanaj in Shanaj’s Black Flowers. Credit: Courtesy of the Albanian Film Archive.

image of Europe. Neither, for that matter, does it fit into the traditional mental image of a grey industrialized Eastern Europe. It does fit, however, into a newly carved corner of the mental map of Europe, the Balkans.39 In what concerns Western academic discourse directly related to Albanian film, of prime importance is a summer 2007 issue of the New York-based journal, Cinéaste. Although not recognized as a refereed journal in the same sense as other journals in the field, its contributors are among the finest scholars in academia. It hence commands a great deal of respect and is more highly regarded in the profession than journals such as Kinoeye – despite the latter’s incisive discussions. In this issue, Gareth Jones writes a thoughtful review of Çashku’s Colonel Bunker and Magic Eye. Having worked closely with the director at the Marubi Film and Multimedia Academy in Tirana, Jones has gained a great deal of familiarity with the Albanian film context.40 Jones opens his article by attempting to demystify Albania and view the country from a less-stereotyped position, all the while recognizing those factors that have led to such stereotyping. He describes the country as ‘frozen in time for half a century under the communist tyrant Enver Hoxha, now reawakened to a dubiously free market and some very mixed memories’.41 Jones recognizes the complexity of the film discourse of Colonel Bunker and expresses its dual positioning: ‘One can relish in Colonel Bunker the animus of the creative director finally set free from censorship and hell-bent on revenge against his former masters. Çashku’s love-hate relationship with his country tempers his critique with sympathy’.42 A similar comment is made of Magic Eye.

Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf 101 Magic Eye is several films rolled into one, as it presents the confession of a mature artist who is not afraid to explore his own identity, using the explosive recent history as a vehicle for self-doubt, both personal and national. The proliferation of themes and a certain casual tone in plot construction can be reproached as the hyper-investment of “an old man in a hurry”, with a great deal left to say and too little space to say it.43 Jones’s review combines the historical with the present-day context, the psychological with the political. It helps the reader contextualize Albania and distinguish it from other Balkan countries. As Jones remarks, ‘[Albania’s] influences are Mediterranean and classical, not Slav’.44 Comparing Albanian film culture to that of its neighbors, Jones stresses that, while some find the content of this cinema ‘ponderous or naïve. . . [it depicts a world in which] order is absent, justice unavailable, life grim, but humanity fights on’.45 Iordanova’s article in the same issue of Cinéaste adds Albania into the mix of Balkan cinema in a way in which Cinema of Flames had not. She discusses both Xhuvani’s Slogans and Çashku’s Colonel Bunker and Magic Eye. To an extent, she chides Colonel Bunker for the absence of a depiction of the ‘authority that generates the paranoia’, but asserts that Slogans ‘puts a more credible human dimension on the same period’.46 Iordanova’s discussion of Magic Eye situates the film in the context of the aftermath of the pyramid scheme of 1997. She argues that ‘presenting lawlessness as a consequence of local people’s insanity is a practice favored by Western media agencies, the main clients for this type of material’.47 Describing the notion of media as depicted in the film, Iordanova writes: ‘Public space is shown as available only for the manipulated media coverage. The truth remains confined between the four walls of private gatherings and only a handful of people seem to care to be privy to it’.48 Popular press and academic discourse on Albanian film is thus a mixed bag. Evidence from reviews of Albanian films in festivals and online discussion blogs has indicated that, by and large, the dual thread of mystery/exoticism and political isolation still colours Anglophone perceptions of both Albania and its cinema. But there is also evidence of change and reconceptualization. Still within the confines of popular discourse, the astute essays of Andrew James Horton in Kinoeye and Dina Iordinova’s discussions in her blog, DinaView, are testimony for an outreach to a broader public and an attempt to contextualize Albanian cinema and to help viewers to understand and assess its cultural, historical, political and production contexts. Perhaps it is this intermediary type of critique, housed somewhere between film review and academic essay, that will have the broadest impact. On an academic level, discussions of Albanian film have not quite reached refereed scholarly journals. But the essays in Cinéaste by Gareth Jones and Dina Iordanova indicate that this could soon be coming. Jones, by virtue of his cooperation with Marubi, is quickly becoming an expert on Albanian cinema. Iordanova, whose insightful studies on Balkan cinema and whose South-Eastern/Western perspectives serve to mediate between Balkan films and their Anglophone audiences,

102 Bruce Williams has now begun to write more specifically on Albania.49 It is time now for both educated film reviewers and academics to venture out into the still mysterious world of Albania, which is on the verge of becoming demystified, and explore the dynamic energy of the country’s new cinema. It is also time for studies of Albanian film to embrace the younger generation of filmmakers in the hope that, through subtitling, these films can be more accessible to an international public. The eagle is spreading its wings, and we as critics/scholars need to latch onto the flight.

Notes 1 Filmi artistik shqiptar (Tiranë: 8 Nëntori, 1987) by Abaz T. Hoxha is an excellent reference work, which lists all international festivals in which Albanian films were screened up through 1984. 2 Miranda Vickers and James Pettifer (1997: 119). 3 To date, virtually all studies on Albanian cinema have focused on the role of this media at home. There have been very few discussions of substance regarding international distribution. In a personal contact on 5 August 2006 with Chinese historian Incong Dai, the author learned of the extent of the popularity of Albanian films during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In January 2009, Eriona Vyshka of the Albanian National Film Achive provided the author with a list of Albanian films distributed to China (see Eriona Vishka, ‘Filmat shqiptare që qarkulluan në Kinë’, Arkivi Qëndror Shtetëror i Filmit 2009). Further research into this topic must be made in Chinese archives. In general terms, Elez Biberej’s Albania and China examines the complex relationship between Albania and China. See Elez Biberej (1986). 4 Dina Iordanova (2001: 9). 5 Stephen Crofts (1993: 157–68). 6 Antonio Lázaro-Reboll (2007: 39–51). 7 Ibid., p. 45. 8 Edith Durham (2000). 9 Edith Durham (2008). 10 Rose Wilder Lane (1923). Lane was the daughter of Little House on the Prairie writer Laura Ingalls Wilder. Lane, who claimed to have been the real author of the ‘Little House’ series, adopted an Albanian boy and later sponsored his education at Oxford University. 11 Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston (1983). Helen Dore Boylston was the author of the Sue Barton nurse books and the Carol Page actress books intended for adolescent girls. Lane and Wilder lived in Tirana for two years. Together with her friendship with Lane, Boylston maintained close ties with actress Eva La Galliene. 12 See Anon (1952). See also United States Appellant v. Lee Levi Laub et al. http:// (accessed 9 December 2010). 13 Derek R. Hall (1990: 38–54). These excursions were facilitated by negations made by former Liria editor who agreed to publish selected news items from the Albanian Telegraphic Agency in exchange for the issuance of visas to Albanian-Americans. Visitors were escorted at all times and closely scrutinized by Albania’s secret police, the Sigurimi. Van Christo, president of Frosina, an Albanian Immigrant and Culture Resource based in Boston, describes the trips: ‘Many of those who visited Albania during Hoxha’s regime saw that their homeland had advanced from when they left it. The saw a new hospital or bridge built and got good impressions. However, that was not the case with the young people’. See Vehbi Bajrami (1999). The first trip, in 1958, was led by Dr. John T. Nasse (Ibid). Anecdotal information, nonetheless, suggests that a handful

Spotting the eagle on Anglophone turf 103

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

of Americans, who were somehow connected to high-ranking Albanian officials, could travel to Albania with few restrictions (Mary Abdall Romano, ‘Private conversation with author’, September 1980). There have been further reports of travel by American citizens from Bari to Vlorë in the early 1980s via Mafia connections in both cities (Mariana Rosignano, ‘Private conversation with author’, June 2005). It was not until 1990 that Albania opened its doors more extensively to United States visitors. For the first year or so, these trips were closely guarded and given few if any opportunities to wander off on their own. Hall, op. cit., p. 43. Laura Mulvey, ‘Private conversation with author’, January 1992. Mario Vargas Llosa (1982). Nonetheless, in hindsight, Wag the Dog was uncannily prophetic. It anticipated by only a few short months both the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal and the outbreak of war in Kosova. Iordanova, op. cit., p. 64. Ibid., p. 66. Sandra Brennan, ‘Summary of Kolonel Bunker’, (accessed 9 December 2010). Philip Kemp (1996). Ibid. Shpetim Alimeta (2006). Andrew James Horton (2001a). Ibid. Ibid. See also Zoe Aiano’s chapter on Baltic cinema in this collection. Ibid. Ibid. Andrew James Horton (2001c). Ibid. Ibid. Dina Iordanova (2008). Ibid. Groupe de Travail sur le Cinéma Albanais (1975). Le Cinéma albanais, Paris: Université de Vincennes-Paris VIII. Iordanova, op. cit. As it is on many other post-Soviet nations. See Richard Taylor, Nancy Wood, Julian Graffy and Dina Iordanova (2000) (eds). Iordanova, op. cit., pp. 6–7. Ibid., p. 9. Ibid., p. 67. Kujtim Çashku founded the Marubi Film and Multimedia Academy in Tirana in Fall 2004. A three-year university following the European model, Marubi is the only film school in Albania. Gareth Jones (2007: 52–3). The notion of mixed memories is directly in line with many of the observations made by Iordanova in Cinema of Flames. Jones, op. cit., p. 52. Ibid., p. 53. Ibid. Ibid. Dina Iordanova (2007: 25). Ibid., p. 27. Ibid. In a private discussion with the author, Kujtim Çashku asserted that Magic Eye is a universal film on the theme of media manipulation, and that its setting during the

104 Bruce Williams chaos of 1997 could have been set anywhere (Kujtim Çashku, ‘Private conversation with author’, May 2007). 49 Discussions of Albanian film during an academic panel presented at the Tirana Internal Film Festival in December 2009 further suggest that the entry of Albanian film into western scholarly discourse is well underway.

Part II

People, place and nation

7 Demolish, preserve or beautify Representations of the remnants of socialism in Polish postcommunist cinema Ewa Mazierska

The aim of this chapter is to discuss how the remnants of socialism are represented in Polish postcommunist cinema. I am interested in the position taken by filmmakers in the debate about what should be preserved from the socialist past, why and how. Such a debate has taken place in virtually every country, which made the transition from state socialism to postcommunism. Where the next two chapters also focus on place and space, Pedersen’s on landscape and Dakovic’s on cityscape, my chapter primarily concerns material objects, such as buildings and monuments, because much is at stake in saving or destroying them, often including the livelihoods of millions of people.1 Monuments and buildings, however, also have symbolic meanings: they stand for specific traditions, lifestyles and values. More often than not, these traditions, lifestyles and values are contested, for example Berlin’s Palace of the Republic or Warsaw’s Palace of Culture. For some sections of society these buildings (the first one no longer exists) stand for totalitarianism and the subjugation of the citizens of Eastern Europe to Soviet rule. For others, they symbolize the service of the socialist state to the people, and its subsidized access to culture. Whether these and other buildings are saved or not often depends not only on the state of their material structure or even their usefulness to their current and future users, but also on their ideological superstructure; namely, whose memory proves stronger in contests of postcommunist memory. Films, of course, and their interpretation, provide arguments for preserving or destroying the material and figurative (narrative and symbolic) monuments, remnants or ruins of the communist past. I will focus on three examples: Mała Moskwa/Little Moscow (2008), directed ´ c sk/Silesia, directed by Anna Kazejak-Dawid, which constiby Jerzy Krzystek, Sla tutes the first part of an anthology film, Oda do rado´sci/Ode to Joy (2005), and Rezerwat/Preserve (2007) by Łukasz Palkowski. More films have been made in Poland following the collapse of communism which tackle the fate of the remnants of socialism, for example Juliusz Machulski’s Kiler dylogy, Kiler (1997) and Kiler-ów dwóch/Two Kilers (1999), which are set partly in Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.2 However, unlike in many others, where the issue of demolishing or

108 Ewa Mazierska preserving the remnants of socialism is placed at the periphery of the film narrative, here it takes central stage. Second, each film focuses on a place of neglect, but at the same time on a distinctive culture, which might soon disappear if it is not preserved materially or imaginatively for future generations, and offers a distinctive view of a different aspect of the communist past. Respectively, there are Poland’s subjugation to Soviet rule and its resistance, heavy industry and anti-communist working class movement of Solidarity and the specific culture of Warsaw’s Praga district. Third, they base their right to participate in discussions about the legacy of communism on creating narratives rooted in a specific locality, as conveyed by their titles, which refer to the places in which their narratives are set. Due to their focus on a distinct place, they belong to a minor strand in Polish cinema, which I describe as ‘vernacular’. This feature is also conveyed by these films’ style, lending itself more to television broadcast than being shown on a large screen, and their mode of production. All of them were made on a relatively low budget, which were provided by Polish television (in case of Little Moscow and Ode to Joy), independent producers (Preserve) and even local authorities (Little Moscow). All of them were also partly supported by state funds (Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej or Agencja Produkcji Filmowej). In this sense, they purport to represent the views which were dominant in Poland at the time. Vernacular cinema is also minor because (unlike the cinema of its neighbour, Czechoslovakia) Polish cinema tends to privilege unusual and extraordinary characters and events over usual and mundane ones. This can be explained by its ambition to speak for the nation as a whole.3 Or, at least this was the case until recently. The success of these three films, including the main award for Little Moscow at the festival of Polish films in Gdynia in 2008, might suggest that the situation is slowly changing. Thomas Lahusen, in his article about the ruins of socialism, maintains that ‘when “universal”, rigorous, scientific techniques are applied to the classification of objects and places, archives and archaeological traces, they tend to predominate over local memories or even efface them’.4 But it can also be argued otherwise, the stories of individual people, especially when displayed on the silver screen, sometimes become so powerful that they efface historical and scientific data and affect policies. A seminal example of such a case is the ‘afterlife’ of Oscar Schindler in the famous film by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List (1993). For a large proportion of viewers, the story of Schindler is the privileged story of the Holocaust; it matters more than the fate of millions of anonymous Jews who were not saved by this German man or the narratives of numerous anonymous Nazi perpetrators. Moreover, the charismatic, saint-like Schindler overshadows the much less noble, historical Schindler.5 I would like to discover whether a similar process takes place when stories from the communist past are displayed on screen. Little Moscow Little Moscow was set and shot in Legnica in south-western Poland, a town which, known then as Liegnitz, belonged to Germany until the end of the Second World

Demolish, preserve or beautify 109 War. It is also the hometown of its director, Waldemar Krzystek, and, according to him, the film is largely based on the memories of his mother. Virtually all critics who wrote about Little Moscow regarded this fact as a source of Krzystek’s special right to make this film and a guarantee of providing a truthful account of represented events.6 However, what interests me is not only Krzystek’s adherence to the (historical) truth, but also his divergence from it and its ideological consequences. Krzystek’s story concerns the tragic love between a Russian woman and a Polish man. They met because Soviet troops were stationed in Legnica from the end of the Second World War until 1993. Their presence was a taboo subject, because, as one might guess, it was bitterly resented by the majority of Poles, not mentioning the fact that the size of the Russian army was a military secret. Hence, by choosing Legnica, Krzystek’s film underlines the least appealing feature of communist Poland – its suppression by communist Russia, being practically a colony of the ‘evil empire’. The ultimate symbol of Russian colonization of Poland is the unofficial name given to Legnica by its Polish and Russian inhabitants – ‘Little Moscow’. At the same time, Krzystek’s story points to a different side of the PolishRussian relationship, namely the fascination of ordinary Russians with Polish culture. Such fascination, which different authors describe as ‘self-colonization’7 or ‘reverse-cultural colonization’8 resulted from a specific relation between Russia and its colonies. As David Chioni Moore observes: The standard Western story about colonization is that it is always accompanied by orientalization, in which the colonized are seen as passive, ahistorical, feminine, or barbaric. However, in Russian-Central European colonization this relation is reversed, because for several centuries at least Russia has been saddled with the fear or at times belief that it was culturally inferior to the West. Mittel-European capitals such as Budapest, Berlin, and Prague were therefore seen in Russia, at least by some, as prizes rather than as burdens needing civilising from the occupiers.9 Of course, Russian reverse-cultural colonization was a cherished consolation prize for nations such as Poland, which lacked the political and military power to resist the Russian oppression. In Krzystek’s film the self-colonising attitude is encapsulated by Vera, the wife of a Russian military pilot sent to Legnica, who even before arriving there is enchanted by Polish books and songs and can speak good Polish. Not surprisingly, soon after her relocation to Legnica she falls in love with a Polish officer named Michał, whose eye she catches when performing a song by the famous Polish singer, Ewa Demarczyk. We can even deduce that for him she stands for an ideal Polish girl. Being a cultural colonizer, Michał does not attempt to learn anything of his lover’s cultural heritage. All communication between the couple is done literally and metaphorically in his language. In due course Vera becomes pregnant by her Polish lover and gives birth to a baby girl. She manages to maintain contact with Michał, but her story finishes tragically when Soviet secret services murder

110 Ewa Mazierska

Figure 7.1 Svetlana Khodchenkova as Vera in Little Moscow (2008). Credit: Courtesy of the Polish Film Archive.

her, worried that her affair would set a dangerous precedent. Her Polish lover, persecuted by the Soviet authorities, attempts to commit suicide by jumping out of the window, but survives, disabled. At the same time as showing Polish cultural superiority over Russia, Krzystek uses the love affair between Vera and Michał to demonstrate that fundamentally they led a similar life and shared a similar fate, due to the great extent to which the personal freedom of ordinary citizens was limited in the old Soviet bloc. Potent symbols of this subjugation of private lives to public projects are the gates, fences and barriers, which feature extensively in Little Moscow. Barriers divide the Polish and Russian parts of Legnica, as well as the military zones from civilian zones and even civilian institutions, such as hospitals, from the rest of the city. The function of these barriers is to keep people apart from each other: Poles from Russians, civilians from military men, women from men etc. Even dogs in ‘Little Moscow’ are contained by barbed wire encircling the trees, which is meant to prevent the dogs climbing them. Another sign of social and political division and the lack of freedom of ordinary people are the military vehicles continuously passing through the gates. Their movements are feverishly accelerated following Czechoslovakia’s attempt to gain independence from the Soviet Union in 1968 and the Soviet decision to crush the Czechoslovak uprising using the military force of other countries of the Warsaw Pact. The Czechoslovakian rebellion and the need to contain it are presented in the film as important reasons why Vera and Michał’s behaviour is met with particularly severe punishment by the Soviet authorities. Simultaneously, Krzystek shows that Legnica of the late 1960s, despite these numerous divisions, is a porous space. People, information, material goods and

Demolish, preserve or beautify 111

˙ Figure 7.2 Svetlana Khodchenkova as Vera and Lesław Zurek as Michał in Little Moscow (2008). Credit: Courtesy of the Polish Film Archive.

cultural patterns cross the borders; Poles and the citizens of the Soviet Union communicate and become friends, just as Krzystek himself did when he, as a child, became friends with some Russian children.10 This is because the ordinary people discover that those on both sides of the divide share the same misery and oppression. The sense that one’s life does not belong to oneself but is a ‘common good’ whose purpose is decided by political or military authorities is also the reason that, despite being deeply hurt, Vera’s husband forgives her and ultimately bears no grudge against her lover. The lived, everyday multiculturalism of Legnica, as portrayed by Krzystek, stands not only in contrast to Soviet official pseudo-multiculturalism and real hostility to multi-culture, revealed in the everyday practices of the Soviet authorities, but also to the homogeneity of Polish culture and the Polish air of superiority over other nations comprising the Eastern bloc, conveyed secretly before 1989 and openly after the collapse of communism. Another feature of life in Legnica is greyness, underscored by the limited use of colour. The exteriors are greyish blue; the interiors brownish. Similarly, men dress in brownish, dark-green or grey coats, as if trying to merge with their surroundings. However, this overwhelming greyness, conveying the uniformity and mediocrity of living in the Poland under then the Party leader, Władysław Gomułka, is pierced by the colourful and elegant presence of Vera. Her beauty and taste signify her rebellion against the imposed and generally accepted uniformity and testifies to her desire to live as an individual.

112 Ewa Mazierska Of course, the old Legnica was destroyed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Russian soldiers returned to their own country; military quarters were closed down. However, Krzystek does not celebrate the changes brought about by the collapse of communism. Instead, he shows that nothing of value replaced the real and metaphorical ruins. Where there were old buildings of importance for Vera’s history, now there is wasteland. Tunnels and polygons are covered with grass and bushes, old roads are full of potholes. The lack of political ideas about how to deal with the Soviet legacy is also epitomized by the unresolved issue of caring for the graves of Russian soldiers and other citizens of the Soviet Union who died on Polish soil. Their relatives are often too poor or too far away to put candles and flowers on their graves, and Poles, of course, feel no urge to tend the graves of their (however reluctant) colonizers. Hence, there is a real danger that the graves will be destroyed to create space for the burial of Polish citizens. Moreover, the film’s author suggests that the fall of communism did not afford any sense of solidarity between the previously oppressed peoples. On the contrary, it led to a re-emergence of old ethnic prejudices. Vera’s daughter, who comes to Legnica with her father to visit places related to her mother’s life and death, despite being half-Polish by blood, feels utter contempt towards Poles, regarding them as a nation of dwarfs who eke out their living by stealing from their richer neighbours, Russia and Germany. Paradoxically, it is Vera’s father, who was wronged by his Polish rival and his wife’s love of Poland, who has to teach the young woman to respect other people for what they do and not for their belonging to a specific nation. Krzystek also shows that the new wider culture arising on the ruins of socialism is highly individualistic. There is no sign of communal living or solidarity in Legnica. The only place where people show some solidarity is the cemetery, where Vera’s grave constitutes, to use Pierre Nora’s term,11 a perfect site of memory for Russians and even more so for Poles. Here new generations of Polish inhabitants, especially women, come to burn candles and lay flowers. No doubt to these young women, Vera is most of all a perfect heroine of melodrama, a symbol of love stronger than death, which transcends national or any other differences and is universal. As other contributors find in this book, melodrama is a key feature in reaching international audiences. Testimony to this is calling Vera a ‘Russian Juliet’, who fell for the ‘Polish Romeo’. Judging by the reviews in the Polish press, as well as numerous protests following awarding Krzystek’s film the main prize at the Polish film festival in Gdynia, it transpires that for the majority of the Polish critics, the film concerned Polish superiority over Russia more than solidarity between the victims of communism from both the colonized and colonising countries.12 For many critics the film’s central idea was that Polish men could not defeat the Russians on the battlefield, but they could defeat them in the private sphere. A symbol of Russian inferiority is the impotence of Vera’s husband and her impregnation by her Polish lover. Other victories of Poles over Russians in the film include Poles helping an Armenian family baptize their baby, against the wishes of the KGB. Such a representation, as Tadeusz Sobolewski argues, also points to the current Polish attitude to the

Demolish, preserve or beautify 113 Caucasus conflicts, in which Poland tends to consistently support anti-Russian forces.13 Inevitably, after the film was made, the press and public at large also became interested in the ‘true story’ behind it. From numerous press articles Polish readers can learn that the real name of Krzystek’s Vera was Lidia Novikova. She did not have a daughter, but two sons, fathered by her Russian husband, who were respectively eight and twelve years old when their mother died. Moreover, the affair took place in 1965 – thus not after but before the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. Moreover, Lidia was most likely not killed by the KGB, but committed suicide. Furthermore, in contrast to the film, which suggests that Vera’s grave is a Polish affair because it is maintained by Poles, in reality the person who erected it was Lidia’s brother, who was also a Russian officer, serving in Poland. The grave was surrounded by an iron gate, which was stolen in the 1990s, most likely by Poles.14 The differences between the cinematic and the historical narratives of Lidia/Vera point to the extent to which Krzystek’s film serves Polish causes, at the expense of Russian ones. The film absolves Poles from any guilt for causing Vera/Lidia’s death or invading Czechoslovakia and constructs the memory of the Russian woman as belonging almost entirely to Poles, as opposed to casting Poles in the roles of both her custodians and erasers. Krzystek’s film not only ‘Polonized’ and romanticized Lidia’s story, but also affected the way she is remembered. Lidia’s son, who visited Legnica following the film’s premiere, confessed that he and his family were planning to move his mother’s remains to Belorussia, to lie with her dead parents and make it easier for her sons to visit her grave. However, after watching Krzystek’s film and witnessing the attachment of the inhabitants of Legnica and Poles at large to her grave, most likely they will reverse their decision, allowing Lidia’s remains to stay in Legnica, thus making this town the privileged site of memory of their mother.15 If this is indeed the case, I am impressed by the magnanimity of these two men, forgiving the director and Poland at large for erasing them from the portrayal of their mother, as well as the power of the narrative to influence people’s approach to the past. The story of Lidia Novikova was also presented in the context of the fate of the graves of Russian citizens who died in Legnica during the period 1945–93. After more than ten years of negotiations between Polish and Russian sides it was agreed that a common grave would be set up in Legnica cemetery for all the Soviet citizens who died in this region during this period – almost 500 people in total, paid for by Russia. However, Lidia’s grave is exempt from this decision; at the request of the mayor of Legnica, she will remain in her old, individual grave.16 As this story demonstrates, for a woman with an attachment to Polish culture and a distinct, romantic story, beautified on the silver screen, there is an individual site of memory. For those whose fates merge with that of their country, there is a common grave and, most likely, indifference and oblivion. In this sense, the story of Lidia bears similarity to that of Oscar Schindler and Anne Frank; they remain in the public’s memory thanks to their perceived uniqueness and romanticism; the fates of millions of others are forgotten.

114 Ewa Mazierska

Figure 7.3 Małgorzata Buczkowska as Aga and Barbara Kurzaj as Danka in Ode to Joy (2005). Credit: Courtesy of the Polish Film Archive.

Krzystek’s film also initiated a discourse about the national character of Legnica. Some readers, most likely natives of Legnica or those having a personal attachment to this town, expressed their uneasiness about perpetuating the opinion that Legnica is a ‘Little Moscow’. I encountered an opinion that ‘it is a shame that this beautiful town of Liegnitz, which was once a town of gardens and an architectural pearl of lower Silesia is nowadays promoted as a Russian skansen’. Of course, for the individual who holds this opinion, the German roots of Legnica matter more than its Russian history. Again, an opinion like that suggests that memories are layered, complex and therefore contested. Silesia The director of Silesia, Anna Kazejak-Dawid, is also a native of the town where her film is set, Bytom – although in the film the town is never explicitly named as being in Upper Silesia – and, like Waldermar Krzystek, claimed that the film is inspired by the events which she witnessed in Bytom, namely the coalminers’ strikes which took place in 2003.17 In communist times Bytom and the whole of Upper Silesia was known for an above-average standard of living of the working classes (which acted as a magnet for young men from other provinces of Poland) and later as a stronghold of the Solidarity movement, which was related to the fact that workers’ organizations were most powerful in large factories, such as the Silesian coalmines. As a result of these factors, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Upper Silesia appeared to suffer a greater crisis than any other part of Poland, although objectively poverty and unemployment were higher elsewhere, for example in the North-East. The

Demolish, preserve or beautify 115 sense of crisis Silesia suffered is conveyed in the very first scene of KazejakDawid’s film, in which the protagonist, a young woman named Aga, listens to the radio while on a bus from London to her hometown, hearing announcements that there are strikes in several Silesian coalmines. This news is juxtaposed with information about the Polish victims of a bomb exploding in the London underground. Hence, the impression is given that for Aga there is no good place to live. In England she is condemned to a lack of personal security, and in Poland to the harsh reality of factories closing down and political conflict. The film also visually connects London with Silesia, showing vast areas covered by apartment blocks, which come across as soulless machines for living: anonymous and ugly, without any landmarks or parks. By showing similarities between London and Bytom, Kazejak-Dawid connects the end of communism with the current state of the First World. As Charity Scribner notes, ‘The [communist] system’s collapse prompted comparisons to the exhausted welfare states of the West, particularly in Britain and France’.18 Although Kazejak-Dawid does not elaborate on this condition, it provides a framework for her story, which comes across as a tale of the working class character’s difficulty in finding a place for her/himself in any political and economic system. Initially, Aga, following a year of hard work and boring life, and her realization that in London she would always be condemned to menial work, is determined to find a place for herself in Silesia. She wants to re-establish herself in the apartment of her parents, but it proves difficult, as her belongings were packed away because, as her mother explains, Aga’s father, a miner, planned to renovate their apartment. Yet he failed to do so, being too preoccupied with organising a Solidarity strike in his mine, which was threatened with closure. At the same time Aga’s mother lost her job in a hairdressing salon and now only works from home, attending to the hair of her neighbours. Her husband’s alienation and her own loss of social status led to her deep mental crisis. Aga wants to help her parents in their predicament, which ultimately results from their inability to adjust to postcommunist (capitalist) conditions of life. She visits her striking father, bringing him food, and attempts to arrange for her mother her own hairdresser’s salon where, most likely, she can also work. However, these women’s efforts to find their place in a new world is destroyed by a Solidarity demonstration against the closing of the mine, which changes into an attack by hooligans on local businesses, including the salon which Aga and her mother, after putting much work into its renovation, were about to open. Solidarity, as represented by Kazejak-Dawid, thus comes across as a reactionary force, which ultimately forces the young woman to return to London, to recoup the financial and presumably mental losses she suffered when her mother’s shop was vandalized. In a wider sense, it is a source of division in Polish society and an obstacle to building a new Poland, in which young people get a chance to be successful. Its nostalgic and reactionary character, unlike the old, ‘original’ Solidarity, which, in common with all revolutionary movements, was future-oriented, is also underscored by the fact that the strikers are obsessively attached to symbols. In particular, Aga’s father is very offended when she sits on the Solidarity banner.

116 Ewa Mazierska The activists keep telling each other stories from the past rather than making any plans for the future, thus being themselves remnants of socialism. Moreover, the custodians of the old traditions are all middle-aged and male. Women, like in the 1980s, are reduced to offering support to their husbands and fathers, which, however, they provide more reluctantly than twenty years earlier. In a wider sense, Kazejak-Dawid’s film shows that there is no universal solidarity and unity; unity is always at the expense of somebody’s interests, which are subordinated to the apparent greater cause. It is worth mentioning that during the original Solidarity movement the voices articulating the interests of women workers or those of specific categories of employees were also suppressed. At the time there was a hope that after the victory of Solidarity, these ‘minor voices’ would be heard. This hope, however, was not fulfilled: the subsequent governments, dominated by Solidarity activists, proved anti-female and prejudiced against certain categories of workers.19 Thus Silesia, by showing a specific situation from the 2000s, encourages a re-appraisal of what happened twenty years or so previously, finding in it the seeds of current resentments and divisions. If we ask the question of whether to demolish or preserve the mines and the working-class ethos, which they encapsulate, the film leans towards the answer ‘demolish’. Demolish, because preserving them is incompatible with gender equality, and because doing so will create chances for the younger generation and, in a wider sense, Poland’s transformation into a modern state. At the same time, Kazejak-Dawid offers no answer of what to do with people like Aga’s father, for whom Solidarity was a religion and who might be too old to learn new skills. Her film, like the two remaining parts of Ode to Joy, is almost exclusively concerned with the welfare of young people, tacitly suggesting that the old generation received more chances, privileges and recognition than they deserved. Visual means reinforce the message that in places like Bytom the remnants of socialism are worthless rubble. Throughout the whole film Aga’s hometown is shown in a reduced palette of colours, with a prevalence of greys and blues. At times, the images are almost monochromatic. The use of colour, as well as mise-en-scène, including tanks and police cars, in the scenes showing the miners’ strike, bring association with the strike in the ‘Wujek’ mine during the early days of martial law in 1981, which constituted the most tragic episode in the period ´ of martial law and its representation in the film by Kazimierz Kutz, Smier´ c jak kromka chleba/Death as a Slice of Bread (1994). In my opinion, this association, unlike in Kutz’s film, does not point to the heroism of the miners, but underscores the regressive character of their behaviour; their ‘mental arrest’ in the 1980s. Furthermore, Kazejak-Dawid frequently directs her camera towards a working class estate, consisting of dilapidated blocks of flats without any green areas or facilities. The neglect and lack of comfort, characteristic of the whole estate, is mirrored in the state of Aga’s parents’ apartment. We get the impression that their apartment cannot be effectively renovated; the only chance for the inhabitants is to move out and start afresh.

Demolish, preserve or beautify 117 Preserve Preserve is set in Praga, on the east bank of the river Vistula in Warsaw. Praga became regarded after the war as the worst part of Warsaw, infamous for poverty and high levels of crime. At the same time, it was one of the few districts in Poland’s capital that could boast a distinctive culture, largely because its population was relatively stable and its material structure was less damaged than in other parts of Warsaw, which was largely destroyed during the Second World War and post-war developments. Paradoxically, being regarded as backward and marginal helped Praga retain its original character. However, the pressure on housing and the obsession for ‘regeneration’ and ‘beautification’ felt in Eastern European cities following the collapse of communism eventually caught up with it. In the new millennium it has been gradually transformed into a place of fashionable cafés and art galleries, as well as new housing developments. Of course, such changes affected the original inhabitants of Praga and their culture: both became threatened with extinction. This threat and the way to overcome it lie at the centre of Palkowski’s film. It tells the story of Marcin, a young photographer, who can be regarded as the director’s alter ego. After being thrown out by his rich girlfriend from the apartment they shared, Marcin moves to an old tenement block in Praga, as he cannot afford better accommodation. Soon he receives two assignments. One is to photograph Praga for a feature to be published in an up-market newspaper; the other is to capture on camera the neighbourhood and its inhabitants for his landlord, who wants to use the pictures as proof that the tenement block needs to be demolished, for which he expects good compensation. Marcin fulfils both assignments, but not in the way he originally planned. Instead of showing how bad his new neighbourhood is, he captures on camera its unique charm, which results from its ingenuity and communality. Whatever people do here they do together. The kids chase each other, play football and climb on the frames for cleaning rugs. Unlike children in more affluent areas, they do not need any special equipment or adults to supervise them during their games. Any shoes prove to be good for kicking a ball; any courtyard will do to hide in or chase each other. The adult men sit on a bench in front of their block, talk or sing, and drink beer. Women exchange gossip near corner shops or get the latest news from the lady in the kiosk. Unlike more ‘classy’ parts of Warsaw, where people pretend to be somebody else, Palkowski suggests that in Praga people are who they are. There is no point in pretending because people know each other so well that any false note is immediately detected and ridiculed by one’s neighbours. The resilience of the local culture, as well as the fact that people in Praga have to depend on each other in order to survive and that many of the inhabitants are loafers with plenty of free time, results in the emergence of a strong community, even a self-contained universe, marked by its own set of rules, language and customs. Some of these customs hark back to pre-communist times. For example, the manner of speaking, characterized by treating the interlocutor with excessive respect, calling him the ‘chairman’, the ‘director’ or the ‘boss’, most likely in order to trick him out

118 Ewa Mazierska of money, brings association with the pre-war ‘Warsaw fixer’ operating in flea markets and other dodgy places, a character immortalized by Adolf Dymsza in many pre-war films. Other customs, however, such as drinking cheap alcohol outside grocery shops, bring association with socialist Poland, where there was a shortage of restaurants and bars, and the high price of alcohol and food in them put working people off visiting them. On other occasions, it is difficult to say whether we observe the relics of pre-war or post-war, socialist Poland. Palkowski’s film confirms the view that traditions are layered and intertwined; similarly, memories are layered and intertwined. Of course, accepting this opinion allows for a less divisive history and a less divisive present. At the same time as showing Praga as a culture in danger of extinction, Palkowski points to the alternative danger of preserving it as a touristy skansen or rezerwat (preserve), which might also lead to its destruction. This is because playing one’s culture for touristic gaze equals being self-conscious about it, emphasising its most ‘exotic’ features and trying to artificially preserve it rather than treat it as one’s natural part of life, which changes in step with it. We observe this danger in an episode when some inhabitants of Praga pretend to fight on the street, so that Japanese tourists can photograph them from a taxi window. This episode is not realistic, but constitutes Marcin’s nightmare, from which he wakes up, convinced that he should fight to correctly preserve the block where he is lives, not as a preserve, but as a living culture. However, it is worth mentioning that a similar situation, showing some Japanese tourists visiting ‘an average Czech family’ in order to film it, was represented as entirely realistic in a film set in Czech Praga: Samotáˇri/Loners (2000), directed by David Ondˇriˇcek. Representing the skansenization of Warsaw’s Praga as the protagonist’s worst nightmare can be viewed as an attempt by Marcin and, by extension, Palkowski, to remove a suspicion on the part of Preserve’s audience that they themselves are changing this district into a tourist site. However, as some critics observed, by taking photographs to be published in the newspaper and displayed in a gallery, they do exactly this. Palkowski typically represents Praga through the filtre of what John Urry and his followers call ‘tourist gaze’, by adopting the strategies of beautification, romanticization, idealization, homogenization, decontextualization and mystification.20 As Eva Näripea observes, ‘tourist gaze’ was also a common approach to representing the gems of domestic architecture and culture in Estonian cinema.21 In particular, unlike Krzystek and Kazejak-Dawid, who opt for a grey and almost monochromatic image, Palkowski’s film is full of colour. The colours are unnaturally bright, bringing to mind posters advertising exotic locations. Second, Palkowski focuses on ‘gem objects’, specific buildings which he idealizes using flattering camera positions and movements, for example showing the character running among some interesting-looking objects at the expense of a wider variety of more mundane and less photogenic objects. Equally, he privileges what can be regarded as ‘gem people’: those inhabitants of Praga who reveal easily recognizable and mostly pleasant features. Stories of blackmail, extortion, murder and other activities of the Praga mafia, which tended to fill numerous pages of Warsaw newspapers, are not even alluded to by Palkowski. Thirdly, the story

Demolish, preserve or beautify 119 of an outsider falling in love with an exotic culture neatly fits the romantic narratives fed to tourists in guidebooks and other semi-touristic literature. Furthermore, Palkowski stays away from any real history of Praga and its inhabitants, reducing its past to a series of faded, decontextualized photographs, displayed by Marcin at his exhibition. The touristic approach, employed by Palkowski, encouraged what can be described as touristic or meta-touristic reaction. Following the film’s premiere, a large proportion of the reviews asked what the film did for Praga’s public image ˙ and self-image.22 I even found an article, published in Warsaw’s oldest daily, Zycie Warszawy, describing in detail the past and present state of many objects included in the films – no doubt encouraging the viewers and readers to take a stroll among the buildings mentioned in the report and learn something about their history. The article also suggested what should be done to preserve the objects listed and make them more attractive for potential visitors.23 The conclusion one can draw from the whole discourse initiated by Preserve is that (some) remnants of communism can and should be preserved, but only by cleansing and beautifying them.

Conclusions In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the films discussed attest to different aspects of Poland’s communist past and different ways of interpreting it, which include nostalgia and condemnation of nostalgia. They excellently illustrate the words of Tony Judt, who states that following the fall of communism there is ‘too much memory, too many pasts on which people can draw, usually as a weapon against the past of someone else’.24 They also add to the proliferation of ways to commemorate the past by providing new narratives or unearthing old ones and encouraging specific commemorating practices, such visiting the grave of a Russian victim of communism in the case of Little Moscow, or establishing new routes for tourists visiting Warsaw, as in Preserve. In a wider sense, they demonstrate that history is never finished, but is always under way.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Thomas Lahusen (2006: 736–46). Ewa Mazierska and Laura Rascaroli (2003: 106–15). Aleksander Jackiewicz (1989: 387–9); and Ewa Mazierska (2007: 11–21). Lahusen, op. cit., p. 739. See Tim Cole (1999). See Agnieszka Jakimiak (2008: 27–8); Bo˙zena Janicka (2008: 78); and Anna ˙ Zebrowska (2010). See Petra Hanáková (2008: 111–21). David Chioni Moore (2001: 111–28). Ibid., p. 121. See Jakimiak, op. cit. See Pierre Nora (1989: 7–24). ˙ See, for example, Tadeusz Sobolewski (2008a); Bartosz Zurawiecki, Lech Kurpiewski, Michał Chaci´nski (2008).

120 Ewa Mazierska 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

See Tadeusz Sobolewski (2008b). See Magda Podsiadły (2010) and (2009). Ibid. Ibid. See Artur Cichmi´nski (2006). Charity Scribner (2005: 64). See Ewa Mazierska (2006: 92–109). See John Urry (1990) and also Patricia C. Albers and William R. James (1988: 134–58). My reading of Preserve is largely inspired by Näripea’s study. See Eva Näripea (2009: 108–16). ´ 22 For example Michał Szczerba (2008) and Piotr Smiałowski (2008: 18–20). 23 See Gajda-Zadworna (2008: 14). 24 Tony Judt (1992: 99).

8 Treading new paths Czech and German postcommunist road movies Sune Bechmann Pedersen

Europe today is mobile. High-speed railroads, low-cost airlines and a steadily growing network of motorways facilitate the constant movement of Europeans to an extent unimaginable before 1990. In Central and Eastern Europe, cross-border mobility was highly regulated during most of the time from the end of the Second World War until the fall of the Berlin Wall. The road movie genre, predicated on mobility, stands in stark contrast to the restrictive policies of movement behind the Iron Curtain. For natural reasons it was not until the regimes changed that the road movie developed in an Eastern European context.1 Following the demise of the communist regimes, the film industries in Central and Eastern Europe also embraced the genre. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the earliest experiments with this genre in two postcommunist countries, the Czech Republic and unified Germany. In the road movie, scrutiny of the Self and the Other often adds a critical impulse to the film. Postcommunist road movies are thus rich material for studies of representation and contestation of societies in transition. Furthermore, the road movies analysed in this chapter travel in a space clearly articulated as national, which allows for an analysis of the thematization of the nation.2 The questions addressed in the film analyses are: In what surroundings does the action take place and what is the relation between the different spaces encountered home and abroad? How is the transformation from state socialism to market economy presented and how do the characters cope with the transformation process? How is the past represented and what are the hopes for the future? Answering these questions enhances our understanding of the contentious issues of identity that accompanied the transition process and the new mobility. Films are neither the pure expression of a creative agent nor the stable representation of a national culture. Instead, film can be approached as a site where national identity, history and culture are represented and contested. Studying films yields an opportunity to engage with the influence of history on contemporary society and the strategies adopted for coming to terms with problematic pasts and presents.3 The literature on road movies has most often considered the genre distinctively American, and concentrated on Hollywood productions.4 A geographical

122 Sune Bechmann Pedersen delimitation of a genre is, however, problematic. As a matter of fact, films in general tend to show elusive behaviour when they are sought to be defined by genre. Lists of defining characteristics prompt lists of exceptions.5 For instance, Andrew Nestingen in his study of Aki Kaurismäki and the road movie provides the following taxonomy of the road movie: its semantics are images of the car, dialogue taking place in its interior, an opposition of rural and urban locations, and the use of sweeping panoramas of great scenery. The syntactic binaries upon which the road movie genre is predicated are social restraints versus freedom, belonging versus marginality, mobility versus fixity.6 Even if this generic taxonomy is supposed to be valid only for the ‘canonical’ American road movies it nevertheless fails to accommodate Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper 1969) which is otherwise considered formative of the road movie genre, also in European literature on the subject.7 Ironically, Easy Rider, with its motorcycles, is an exception to the dominance of the car in definitions of road movies like Nestingen’s above. This exemplifies the pitfall of seeing genres as static categories. Rick Altman has suggested seeing genre instead as delimiting a set of norms that are constantly reworked, extended and transformed.8 In the processes of production, distribution, viewing and critique that constitute the life of a film, the generic semantic and syntactic elements of a film are applied and interpreted within the available genre discourses. This discursive approach to genre discards the strict taxonomical norms and has visibly inspired a growing literature on the long history of European road movies and their relation to their American counterparts.9 However, as Mazierska and Rascaroli argue, the idea of ‘the American road movie as compact category obeying relatively consistent set of rules’, whereas travel in European films as characterized by richness and diversity, is simplistic and merely reflects stereotypical thinking of ‘industrial’ Hollywood and ‘artistic’ Europe.10 Instead, they identify a constant generic core common to the road movie: ‘the journey as cultural critique, as exploration both of society and of self’.11 I appreciate this definition that goes beyond arid taxonomies, but as David Laderman argues in his exploration of the road movie, basic geography still promotes certain differences in the way people travel in European and American road movies. Travelling in European cinema tends to be an introspective act that explores the psychology of the protagonist within a society, since the European space does not offer the voids of the American continent. In patchwork Europe, the fact that escape from the social realm is hardly possible is acknowledged and used to scrutinize not only the Self, but also the Other. Unlike American road movies, European travel films rarely romanticize the freedom of the road or vest sympathy in rambling outlaws violently piercing their way through vast space in an action spectacle.12 In this chapter, focus is on the film products and their relation to the generic discourse. I thus label the films ‘road movies’, acknowledging that their audiences assumedly had limited experience with the ‘journey as cultural critique’ and therefore did not necessarily interpret the films within this generic discourse. Audience reception, however, plays a minor role in this chapter; what is more, the films have unequivocally been received and scrutinized as road movies in the existing literature.

Treading new paths 123 Dina Iordanova has observed a tendency in studies of German and East European cinema to mutually neglect each other.13 Trends apparently shared have been overlooked as the two bodies of literature have so far been clearly separated. This article attempts to bridge the gap by juxtaposing analyses of Czech and German postcommunist films. Two films are chosen for close scrutiny here: the Czech Jízda/The Ride (Jan Svˇerák 1994) and the German Go Trabi Go (Peter Timm 1991). In their respective national contexts, these films were the outcome of the first endeavours to produce road movies and both attracted a considerable domestic audience.

Go Trabi Go – East Germans go west In the early 1990s German cinema faced massive competition from Hollywood blockbusters, and just four German productions feature among the twenty most seen films released in 1991. The blatantly commercial family road movie Go Trabi Go came nineteenth in the overall statistics, but with 1.5 million tickets sold it was the third-best selling German film of the year.14 The film, produced and financed by West Germans, was the first to explore the unification comedy-genre and its success continued with yearly reruns on German TV and even in other Central European countries. Other films set out to explore the new Germany via the road movie genre, but none achieved the same commercial success. The political satire in Wir können auch anders/No More Mr Nice Guy (Detlev Buck 1993) was perhaps too subtle and the quaint characters perhaps too unlikable for the unification road movie to win a wider audience, but it still attracted 620,000 viewers.15 Burning Life (Peter Welz 1994) was another unification road movie. In Daniela Berghahn’s book about the East German film industry the author shows how Burning Life was basically a poor quality imitation of Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott 1991), which perhaps explains why, after uncomplimentary reviews, more than a third of the prints prepared were never distributed and in the end the film attracted just 30,000 viewers.16 Go Trabi Go tells the story of the Struutz family from Saxony travelling to Italy on their summer holiday. The family head, Udo, is a naïve but spirited man in his forties. We never learn if he or his wife Rita are employed, but clearly they have limited liquidity. Their vehicle is an eighteen-year-old Trabant and their nights are spent at ‘Pension Sachsenruh’, a euphemism for sleeping in the tiny car. Like Udo, Rita is an honest and goodhearted East German. She insists on returning a lost purse bulging with money to the police although the Struutzes could definitely do with a little extra. The teenage daughter, Jacqueline, is the only English speaker in the family. She listens to Western music and her room is decorated with posters of Western pop idols, but she nevertheless shares the characteristics of her parents. The family from the former GDR is portrayed as warm, helpful and determined to make the best of a critical situation without complaining. Go Trabi Go avoids any idealization of the East German surroundings from which the family hurriedly escapes. A shot of a rundown railway depot where a lonesome shunting steam engine operates without carriages opens the films. Here

124 Sune Bechmann Pedersen is no pre-modern idyllic landscape, but an inefficient aimless industry. Soon the Struutz family leaves their native Bitterfeld via gravel and cobblestone roads that flank huge quarry scars in the landscape. In the midst of the dust, a herd of disoriented sheep block the road. The Saxony presented in Go Trabi Go is a wretched industrial compound where the ‘blossoming landscapes’ promised by Chancellor Kohl have yet to materialize. Although the film gives an honest depiction of the former GDR landscape, the communist past is mostly glossed over and only vaguely referred to in the dialogue. When the Trabant is taken to a garage near Munich, rapport is immediately established between the mechanic and Udo once the former presents himself from Potsdam, in the former GDR. The car is fixed with an authentic Trabant spare part ‘from the good old days’. ‘Good?’, Udo promptly asks the mechanic. ‘Old’, he admits resignedly. The dialogue reveals no nostalgic longing for the state socialist system. The film was shot in 1990, while the ecstatic euphoria over unification was still widespread. The time was characterized by the wholesale discarding of everything Eastern. Symptomatically, East Germans produced three times more refuse than West Germans in 1990 as the old material culture was rapidly exchanged for a new Western one.17 Whereas the exchange between Udo and the mechanic does not reveal fond memories of the communist past visually, the film however represents the first cinematic articulation of the Ostalgie focus on East German material culture.18 The concept of Ostalgie was first used derogatorily to describe the positive feelings harboured for the past by East Germans; but according to Stefan Berger, ‘Western criticisms of GDR nostalgia ignore[d] what led to this curious

Figure 8.1 Udo (Wolfgang Stumph) fixing his car from ‘the old days’. Credit: Bavaria Film.

Treading new paths 125 phenomenon in the first place: the annulment of personal biographies of people who grew up and lived in the GDR’.19 Clearly, the process took the form of a negative spiral. The more resentment expressed by West Germans about the GDR, the warmer the memories East Germans fostered about the close human relations and social stability in the GDR, which again was misinterpreted as a longing to restore the defunct regime. Other scholars agree with Berger and interpret the apparent warm support for the socialist ideals as a way to guard the personal memories and the lived lives in the former state.20 In the case of Go Trabi Go, the car personifies the positive aspects of the communist past. In the GDR, cars were a scarce commodity. It was thus common to find very close relations between cars and their East German owners. Cars would often have a personal nickname and be considered an important family member.21 Udo embodies this special relationship. ‘Schorsch’ is the name his beloved Trabant has been given, and efforts are made to find original Trabant spare parts that will leave its authenticity intact. In the morning, Udo even washes the car before he takes care of himself afterwards with the same cloth. The experience with communism is not Udo’s only defining characteristic. He brings Goethe’s Italienische Reise (Italian Journey) as his guide book and happily exclaims to his travel partners: ‘Two hundred years old, but still relevant!’ The cultivated East German travelling in the footsteps of the great poet has a good memory and recites Goethe on several occasions. At first his wife and daughter ridicule Udo, but along the way they come to appreciate the spiritual nourishment. Towards the end, the women recite Goethe with a passion similar to Udo’s. The East Germans may lack material goods, but they cherish their rich German cultural heritage. Uncorrupted by American consumerism and familiar with German high culture, the family combines positive traits from both sides of the Wall. German–German relations are foregrounded on several occasions. In a most grotesque moment, the travellers visit Rita’s sister in Bavaria. Upon their arrival the sister sits with her repulsively obese husband and their voluminous son at a table groaning with fruit and cakes. The husband slightingly announces the approach of the ‘Turkish caravan’ and all the goods are quickly stowed away. Instead the guests are offered some shoddy pickings, to which Udo replies with Goethe’s words: ‘The fruit, however, is not particularly good, I am longing for grapes and figs’. The Westerners reply with silent bewilderment. In the encounter between East and West, communication consistently fails.22 Udo is indifferent to the Western husband’s insight into the intricacies of tax law; Jacqueline does not share her cousin’s obsession with computer technology; and Rita’s sister’s inappropriate remarks result in embarrassing silence that hampers any dialogue. After a night in the ‘doghouse’ – what is in fact a luxurious caravan that also provides a steady source of income as it is usually rented to Turkish asylum seekers – the travellers resume their itinerary to the relief of their fellow countrymen. Later encounters with West Germans further foreground the inherent differences. The corrupt morals of the Westerners are proven on an accidental visit to a nudist beach, and the arrogance of the decadent West towards the modest East is highlighted in a department store. Rita and Jacqueline consider buying a top, but a shop assistant swiftly takes it from them: ‘I’ll take that, it’s original silk from Paris’, she

126 Sune Bechmann Pedersen

Figure 8.2 Rita (Marie Gruber) shopping in the West. Credit: Bavaria Film.

says, assuming that her second class compatriots cannot afford it. The exotic status of the Easterners is further cemented in a ‘Trabi-peep-show’ staged to pay a costly repair. Westerners eagerly pay for a ride in the Trabant and soon the necessary amount has been raised. The natural solidarity between East Germans is stressed again. An old couple explains they too once had a Trabant. ‘A man who keeps his car so well must have a good heart’, they say and give a generous donation. Traversing the Brenner Pass in a Trabant would be daunting task. Luckily, a truck driver from Cologne offers to bring car and people safely over the Alps, in what at first appears to be a genuinely helpful act. However, the real motivation of the West German is questioned when the host begins to entertain with an endless torrent of jokes about Trabants. The loquacious driver is not interested in two-way communication and never ceases to ‘amuse’ the East Germans until they are let off in Italy. As was the case with the West German family, German–German dialogue is hampered by dominant Westerners and a lack of common interests. Notably, not before the party approaches the picturesque snow-covered Alps does the film contain the first panorama. This shot, typical of the American road movie, is emblematic for the freedom on the road. The Bavarian landscapes were diminutive, flat and dull. The Alps are impressive symbols of the greater vision and cultural depth found in Italy, or Arcadia, as Udo exclaims with great satisfaction. The Promised Land is found outside the national borders and their travel under the guidance of Goethe suggests cosmopolitan proclivity rather than a nationalist nature. Although the euphoria of Die Wende still outweighs the economic realities,

Treading new paths 127 the exploration of West Germany leaves the impression of a culture so foreign to the East Germans that real unity is an illusion. The film lauds the new mobility and shows the family happily entering ‘Freistaat Bayern’, but their illusions are shattered and the opportunity to cross the former German–German border does not cause rapprochement.

The Ride – A bohemian road trip The Ride is the first Czech road movie. It emerged out of director Jan Svˇerák’s personal ambition of making a quality film on the smallest budget possible. Shot in just three weeks during the summer of 1994 with a miniscule budget of US$30,000, it fared surprisingly well in the box office.23 The film’s delightful summer tone even resulted in a re-premiere the following summer, and since then it has enjoyed a sustained popularity at home.24 By using a location also used in Jiˇrí Menzel’s Postˇrižiny/Cutting it Short (1981) and by involving a local fire brigade in a scene like Miloš Forman did in Hoˇrí, má panenko/The Firemen’s Ball (1967), Svˇerák elegantly paid homage to his masters, which perhaps helped the film to consolidate its cult status. The Ride tells the simple story of two friends, Frank and Radek, who buy a car and set out to enjoy a Czech summer on the road. The new mobility is not used to explore the nearby national spaces and people, but is set solely in Bohemia. Following the conventions of the genre the buddies are joined by a third party. Anna, a young girl on the run from her violent boyfriend, accompanies them and starts to flirt excessively with the friends, at least one of whom is engaged in a stable relationship. Before Anna enters the scene, the friends discuss the advantages of sexually abusing Romanian and Hungarian girls. If the foreigners should complain to the authorities, their language barriers would impede understanding and save Frank and Radek. Yet the couple even imagines a worst-case scenario and morbidly discusses how to hide a corpse in the forest. Anna, however, does not fit their visions of a passive prostitute ready to be exploited. Her gorgeous looks and compelling independence stun the friends and soon they go to great lengths to ensure Anna is comfortable in their company. They buy her favourite food and alcohol, drive in careful silence so as not to disturb her sleep and, although almost ˇ out of money, they book a hotel room for her. Jan Culík has suggested in his brief account on The Ride that we see the friends as emasculated male children of the ‘normalization’.25 They were raised under communism and never learnt the ‘assertiveness’ and ‘aggression’ necessary in the new postcommunist reality. On the other hand, Anna’s adolescence began with the Velvet Revolution. She immediately sees the indecisiveness of the pair thinly disguised by pretentious masculinity. Helplessly unimaginative, they do not invite her on an adventurous trip, but of all places they offer to take her home. They have no idea how to court the attractive girl, and this amuses her. ‘You don’t have what it takes’, she bluntly tells Radek and he tacitly admits it. And, as Ewa Mazierska notes in her analysis of gender relations in The Ride, Anna has already stripped him of all masculine power in an earlier swimming scene.26 The cold water made Radek’s penis shrink,

128 Sune Bechmann Pedersen

Figure 8.3 Radek (Radek Pastrˇnák) struggles to court Anna (Anna Geislerová) in Jízda (The Ride) 1994. Credit: Courtesy of Director, Jan Svˇerák.

which Anna caustically told him. Her gaze at his naked body was not reciprocated; the friends never see her naked. Ewa Mazierska’s argument about the incapacity of the males can be supported by an excellent scene in which Anna asks where they are heading, and whether they are going to the sea. Here, she touches a soft Czech spot. Czechoslovakia and Hungary were the only landlocked communist countries, but whereas Hungarians could find consolation in the country’s Balaton sea surrogate, Czechoslovakia was claustrophobically surrounded by its communist brothers, with no seaside to aide respite. This Czech desire for a holiday by the sea is even a central theme in another popular postcommunist film, Pupendo (Jan Hˇrebejk 2003), and heavily satirized in the comedy Slunce, seno, erotica/Sun, Hay and Erotica (Zdenšk Troška 1991), in which Czech tourists in Italy desperately crave rooms with a view to the sea, and are absolutely terrified by the alien appearance of seafood in a restaurant. In The Ride however, Frank and Radek cannot offer Anna a trip to

Treading new paths 129

Figure 8.4 Adorable countryside in Jízda (The Ride) 1994. Credit: Courtesy of Director, Jan Svˇerák.

the sea. Short of money, they cannot afford licence plates, and crossing the border with their illegal French plates is impossible. This adds a curious ambiguity to the film. On the one hand it adheres to the American tradition of idolising nature. The countryside of southern Bohemia is presented in a delightful, picturesque, romanticized manner. The fields are lush, the water is fresh and the sunsets are charmingly warm. On the other hand, it is also a European travel film, with claustrophobia lurking underneath the pretty surface. Without papers for the vehicle, they have to hide from the police on tree-lined country roads, but the next village is always just round the corner. In the Wild East everything is smaller, and it almost makes the Bohemian road movie farcical that they repeatedly encounter Anna’s offended partner. The Czech Republic simply does not provide the space needed to escape former boyfriends or social norms. The escapist endeavour is reduced to a play staged to impress Anna. Radek and Frank pretend to rob a bank and they pretend to illegally enter an empty house in the countryside. Mazierska and Rascaroli claim that they actually do steal money and break into a summerhouse.27 A close reading of the film nevertheless allows for my different interpretation. The scene where Radek ostensibly robs a bank takes place in a square in a provincial town. Frank and Anna are waiting in the car in front of a bank into which Radek has gone. Anna wonders what keeps him so long. Finally he comes running out, Frank starts the car and Radek throws himself into the accelerating vehicle. Two facts indicate that Frank

130 Sune Bechmann Pedersen did not break the law. First, he spends a long time inside the bank, considering that the outcome is just a thousand crown note. Second, immediately after their flight from the town the camera catches Radek secretly handing Frank a passbook. Concerning their ‘illegal’ stay in an empty house, a shot of Radek quickly hiding a photo indicates that it might well be their own cottage in which they squat. ˇ Jan Culík assumes that Radek was in the picture and wanted to hide it before Anna would realize their hoax.28 This only strengthens the image of Frank and Radek as law-abiding citizens lacking the reckless drive to assert themselves during the transition. In Czech, a small cottage is called a ‘chata’ and it had a special role during the final decades of communism. As Paulina Bren has demonstrated, the Czechs used it as a private retreat beyond the disciplining powers of society in the ‘normalization’ period that followed after the Soviet invasion in 1968.29 During the evening spent at the chata, however, the genre-typical soul-searching campfire conversation is disturbed twice. First, the electric light is accidentally turned on, revealing that, far from being in the wilderness, they are in the electrically powered civilization; and soon after the phone rings. Anna is puzzled, but the friends are painfully aware. Some days have passed since they set out on their journey, and most likely Frank’s wife in Prague is eager to hear from her adventurous man and his friend. The difference between the helpless children of communism and the new postcommunist generation of entrepreneurs is foregrounded on several occasions. The first used car dealer carries his mobile phone as if it was the most natural thing (remember the film was made in 1994) and instructs them that the car of their interest will run on petrol or diesel, depending on ‘what you teach it to use’. Clearly this rhetoric of assertive dominance is foreign to the protagonists. At the next dealer their inferiority is again visualized. He stands a full head taller than them and his flashy necklace situates him firmly among the new successful generation, unlike his poor customers. The difference between the protagonists and the new generation is further elaborated when Radek reads a newspaper. A journalist measures the size of a shrew with the length of a credit card. ‘We used to use match boxes to measure the scale of things’, Radek ponders, nostalgically. In the end, Anna has enough of the literal and symbolic impotence of the pair and leaves them for the man who has hunted her so desperately. His modern sedan and stylish outfit are diametrical opposites of the friends’ dilapidated self-made convertible and sloppy clothes. The Ride remains in line with a Czech tradition to never show business entrepreneurs in a positive light.30 No sympathy is felt for the possessive boyfriend or the arrogant car dealers. The two protagonists are, however, also endowed with negative characteristics, such as violent illusions and a defeatist approach to the postcommunist society. The eventual death of Anna and her boyfriend in a car crash leaves Radek devastated, as his ride with Frank continues towards the unknown. Although Frank demonstratively discards a ‘made in Czechoslovakia’ matchbox, there is no indication that the protagonists will return to embrace the dominant capitalist values. As they

Treading new paths 131 steadily cruise towards the horizon, their escapist ride on the margins of society is inconclusive.

Treading new paths in a new Europe Both the Czech and the German postcommunist road movie analysed in this chapter thematize aspects of the transformation process. Entrepreneurs are exclusively shown in a negative light. Rita’s grotesque family in Bavaria earns good money from their ‘doghouse’, and the well-off car salesmen in The Ride are haughty. What exactly Anna’s ferocious boyfriend does for a living we never learn, but he is definitely financially successful. In contrast, all the protagonists are penniless and rely more or less on what they find as they go along. The Struutz family hesitantly spends the money found in a purse that the Italian police do not want to take, and in The Ride Frank steals ice cream from a petrol station while Anna steals vegetables for breakfast. The theme of stealing to survive is recurrent in German postcommunist cinema,31 but less frequent in Czech postcommunist cinema. In both The Ride and Go Trabi Go the women are better at adapting to life under postcommunism. It is Jacqueline who independently leaves to purchase new tyres for the Trabant when the old ones are stolen, just as it is Anna who sets off to find help when the car is stuck in a field. Meanwhile, the Czech and German men passively moan. The women not only work actively to improve their situation, they also feel at home in the capitalists’ spaces par excellence. When Udo goes to the scrap yard to find an authentic bumper replacement, Rita and Jacqueline go shopping in a department store in Munich. Later, Udo is lost in the narrow streets of Rome while the women unashamedly enjoy the comfort of a luxurious hotel suite. Anna is also familiar with luxury. Her boyfriend habitually buys her new clothes and takes her on journeys whenever they feel bored. In both films the problem of belonging is thematized. The East German family enjoy warm relations with their neighbours in Bitterfeld, and although East Germany is unmistakably dilapidated it is still preferable to the consumerist Others in West Germany. Genuine pleasure is, however, found in the picturesque Italy extolled by Goethe. Where Go Trabi Go suggests irreconcilable differences between East and West, the relation to the surrounding world in The Ride is more opaque. Czechoslovakia is referred to on the matchbox, but it mediates the characters’ ambiguous nostalgic longing for the slower pace of their simple lives under ‘normalization’.32 Similar to the German case, there is no expression of nostalgia for the state socialist system. Anna’s unfulfillable wish of going to the sea foregrounds the unease at home in the Czech Republic, but this discomfort is related to Frank and Radek’s marginal position in the new economy and not to a profound problem of national belonging. As a matter of fact, the protagonists feel at home in the uncorrupted Bohemian countryside, where the rhythm is simply slower and old women still rake the fields by hand. The unabashedly beautiful shots of the summer landscape allow the sentimental feeling of an authentically idyllic season to predominate. They are at home in the Czech Republic, to which they nevertheless remain confined. The Struutz family, on the other hand, cruise easily from

132 Sune Bechmann Pedersen Saxony to Bavaria. The passage through Austria is never shown, so all of a sudden they have arrived in Italy without ever using their passports. The image rendered of the East Germans is that of optimistic travellers traversing the new post-Cold War Europe without worries. For the Czechs, however, crossing borders is impossible. Isolated on the margins, there is still a long way to travel before they can complete their ‘return’ to the European family.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22



Daniela Berghahn (2005: 231). Mette Hjort (2000: 103–17); Maria Rovisco (2008: 142–3). Mette Hjort and Scott MacKenzie (2000) (eds). Ewa Mazierska and Laura Rascaroli (2006: 2–3). Steve Neale (1990: 45–66). Andrew Nestingen (2005: 280–6). Norbert Grob and Thomas Klein (2006) (eds). Rick Altman (1999). Mazierska and Rascaroli, op. cit.; and Ron Eyerman and Orvar Löfgren (1995: 68–77). Mazierska and Rascaroli, op. cit., p. 4. Ibid. David Laderman (2002: 248–80). Dina Iordanova (2003: 15). Filmförderungsanstalt. Filmhitliste: Jahresliste 1991. =1999&page=filmhitlisten&titelsuche=&typ=14 (accessed 26 February 2009). Filmförderungsanstalt. Filmhitliste: Jahresliste 1993. =1999&page=filmhitlisten&titelsuche=&typ=14 (accessed 1 March 2010). Berghahn, op. cit., pp. 229–35. Thomas Ahbe (2005: 6). Roger Cook (2007: 213); and Gareth Dale (2007: 161–2). Stefan Berger (1997: 159). Detlef Pollack (2000). Daphne Berdahl (2001: 133). A meticulous blogger has noted a curious discrepancy here between Udo’s Goethe citation and the original text ( (accessed 10 Jan 2011). Udo says ‘Das Obst ist nicht sonderlich, ich sehne mich nach Trauben und Feigen’, but Goethe wrote ‘Das Obst ist nicht sonderlich. Gute Birnen hab’ ich gespeist; aber ich sehne mich nach Trauben und Feigen’ (the fruit is not particularly good. I ate some nice pears, but I am longing for grapes and figs [author’s translation, accessed 10 Jan 2011]). Udo’s omission of the tasty pears is perhaps meant as a very subtle critique of East Germans’ purported inability to be satisfied despite the substantial West German financial support, but it is a point lost on audiences who do not know their Goethe as well as the Struutz family. Jason Wood (2007: 78–9). Unfortunately no exact figures are available. The European Audiovisual Observatory’s Lumiere database on admissions of films released in Europe does not contain information on Czech films produced before 1996 and the Czech audiovisual producer’s association only lists the top five best selling films on annual basis. Released in mid-October 1994, The Ride did not reach the top five that year. Http:// and Czech Films 1991–2001 http://www.filmcenter. cz/uploaded/1197-katalog-1991-2001.pdf (both accessed 26 March 2009). Andrej Halada (1997: 127).

Treading new paths 133 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

ˇ Jan Culík (2007: 199). Ewa Mazierska (2008: 174). Mazierska and Rascaroli, op. cit., p. 168. ˇ Culík, op. cit., p. 201. Paulina Bren (2002: 123–40). Petra Dominková (2008: 236–7). Leonie Naughton (2002: 130). Svetlana Boym (2001).

9 The crime that changed Serbia Representations of New Belgrade Nevena Dakovi´c

Since the mid-1990s, the analysis of the cinematic cityscape has been a rich, popular interdisciplinary topic with an increasing number of works dedicated to it. In a few essays, I have analysed the cinematic cityscape of Belgrade as the field of the construction of transcultural identity;1 through the innovated spectre of the genre texts;2 or by comparison between ex-Yugoslav metropolises.3 Bearing in mind the notion of postcommunism in the title of this book, in this chapter I analyse the changing cinematic cityscape of New Belgrade as the site of the projection of the changes brought about by socialist/postsocialist transition. The era of transition embraces a complex socioeconomic dynamic, mapped through chains of transformation. The social system has changed from a socialist federal state to its decay, via the fractured Republic of Yugoslavia in the nationalist frenzy of the 1990s to the Republic of Serbia in the democratic transition; and the economy moved from the blooming consumerism of Tito’s socialism through the hyperinflation and collapse of 1993 to variable attempts at recovery after 2000. Images of New Belgrade in cinema that visibly rearticulate the series of conversions are confirmed as the point of intersection of aesthetics, history, ideology and cinema. Reading of the cinematic cityscape as decoding the traces of the socioeconomic dynamic is based upon the system of interdependence between space, and urban and social formation established by the theories of Henri Lefebvre. The French theoretician offers the theory of the construction of urban society as based broadly upon concepts of urbanism and architecture. He proves that society not only defines and structures economy and culture but also constructs physical space. The capitalist, or in this case democratic, society in transition not only defines and arranges working hours and salaries, and the way we dress and behave, but society and instances of power also construct parks, squares, markets and highways, i.e. they model physical space according to their own measure. The reading and decoding of the modelled space is rendered more relevant and important due to the indexical nature of film media. The cinema’s indexical dimension has an important role in the way a particular film engages with its contemporaneity,4 the way it codes, constructs and represents it. The cinematic images of New Belgrade that will be analysed here are an index of the socialist/postsocialist transition and of the work of the state’s will and ideology.

The crime that changed Serbia 135 The position of the in many ways transitional place is underlined in the short history of New Belgrade that is offered in the excellent work of Ljiljana Blagojevic.5 Consistently planned and constructed as a functional city (New Belgrade), it represents a unique example of a modern city, which performed as an integrative structure to the two independently developed historical centres of Zemun and Belgrade. [. . .] The site of New Belgrade, on the opposite side of the historical city of Belgrade across the river Sava, served for centuries solely as a military territory, or rather a no-one’s-land between the shifting borders of divided and conflicting empires [my italics]. The river Sava marked a geographical and political border line from the 4th century division of the Roman Empire to the Eastern and Western Empires, until the mid-20th century Third Reich remapping of Europe. The aim of this analysis is to map out successive cinematic representations of New Belgrade, ranging from the prosperous new city to the project of social housing in decay and gangland culture to the recovering reurbanising territory, as the indexes of the real transformations brought about and imposed by history, the state, economy, social context and ideology.

The socialistic idyll Visual representation of New Belgrade and its semantization as the thriving space of the new, socialist state are coded in the cult 1974 TV series Grlom u jagode/The Unpicked Strawberries (1974) and the film Jagode u grlu/Handful of Strawberries (1984), made 10 years later as the last episode, or epilogue, of the series.6 The ten episodes of the television series narrate the growing up of Bane Bumbar (Branko Cveji´c) and his friends in 1960s Belgrade, and follow the city’s evolution from hard post-war socialism to the early days of flourishing consumerism. The combination of recognizable facts, such as the real/existent city topography and appearances of famous 1960s figures playing themselves, appearing alongside fictional material, made the series remarkably popular. Broadly identified as a text of nostalgia, and accepted and adored by large numbers of Belgrade viewers, it has become an example of, and important actor in, the construction of urban myths and their inclusion into the collective memory of the city. Spatial (different banks of the river) and temporal (pre-/post-war) oppositions of Old and New Belgrade that stand for a range of cultural binaries (old and new generations, pre- and post-war eras, classicism versus modernism, tradition versus consumerism, classical versus popular etc.) are most clearly rearticulated in the contrast of the opening and final credits. The opening credits, accompanied by the main musical theme, show sepia images of Bane with a baby in his arms standing among people walking along Knez Mihajlova Street, in the heart of the old city. This is a moment of ‘still’ life surrounded by permanent flow. The final credits show Bane on the bridge leading to New Belgrade. He finally becomes a modern

136 Nevena Dakovi´c man as he moves from under the cloudy skies and rain of the old city, and the traditional, communal life of generations in the crowded apartment in the old town, into to the sunny patch of the newly built quarters. The film sequel depicts life in the early 1980s after the death of Josip Broz Tito as the moment of ‘the beginning of the end’ of Second Yugoslavia (1943–91). The typical apartments are shown as modern, properly furnished and equipped with many home appliances. The up-todate ambience testifies to the progress from the 1960s project of socialist housing to the modern city, with its own dynamics and life. The inhabitants belong to the generation of socialistic yuppies, dramatically different from the traditional people of Belgrade who stay in the old city across the bridge.7

Ghetto of the 1990s A number of films about the decay of the 1990s use the same city scenery – the one initially portrayed in the documentary Vidimo se u citulji/The Crime That Changed Serbia (Janko Baljak 1994). It is the first film that attempted to analyse the emerging underworld, painting Belgrade as the town that ‘unites Chicago of 1920s, the depression of the 1930s, spy plots and games of Casablanca in the 1940s and disastrous hedonism of Vietnam in the 1960s’.8 In the fictional feature films, the moral decline, economic collapse and political oppression of the Miloševi´c years are mainly, though not exclusively, projected onto New Belgrade. The vertiginous fall of the 1990s is cinematically visible in the life of the unfortunate characters, their physical existence and spirit, as well as on the depilating façades, physical decay and spontaneous de-urbanization of New Belgrade. The part of the town on the other bank of the Sava becomes the stage of ‘gangland culture’, giving birth to a range of genres, such as ghetto film and neo-gangster or crime stories. In a wider sense, the qualification of ghetto describes the position of the capital of the ghettoized Serbs or Serbia; in a narrow sense it refers to the part of town where inhabitants are differentiated not by ethnicity but rather by economic status. Built on the empty marshlands as the project of socialist urbanization in a circular way, it turns into the wasteland of the stories/histories of deurbanization, organized crime and new culture. This is in particular seen in – Dragojevi´c 1998), Apsolutnih sto/Absolute films such as Rane/The Wounds (Sr dan – Hundred (Sr dan Golubovi´c 2001), Jedan na jedan/1:1 (Mladen Matiˇcevi´c 2002) or Ledina/Bare Ground (Ljubiša Samardži´c 2003). The portrayal of the overall changes is aptly diagnosed by Igor Krsti´c in the term ‘wound culture’, a notion borrowed from Mark Seltzer.9 Wound culture is ‘a metaphor for a culture that is traumatized by endless war and everyday violence, and morbidly obsessed with it’.10 The wounds of culture and city caused by, among other things, progressive urbicide, are literally shown in the cinematicscape of New Belgrade. In the structure of multiple flashbacks, The Wounds11 depicts teenagers growing up in Belgrade’s slums during tumultuous years. Surrounded by general downfall, three boys – Kraut/Svaba (Milan Maric), Pinki (Dusan Pekic) and Diabola (Andreja Jovanovic) – follow the path of crime, reaching to the top of the hierarchy and then dying of the wounds inflicted both by society and their mutual duel.

The crime that changed Serbia 137 The ugly concrete, mass-produced apartment blocks are both visible and invisible, physical and psychic scars on the face of the city: visible because the houses are in decay, but invisible because the reason for decay is not automatically identified as war or ghettoization. Furthermore, the rest of Belgrade is practically invisible in the film, presented as the darkness surrounding the jeep in which the characters are driving around. From the darkness, occasional flashes show grotesquely distorted figures, like dancing macabre shapes. The impression is supported by the shouts and screams of the protest as well as by the crucifix hanging around the rearview mirror in the car. Belgrade is reduced to darkness, and the New Belgrade’s limina is similar to one mapped out in Goran Paskaljevic’s award-winning film Bure baruta/Cabaret Balkan (1998). In this film, Belgrade on the eve of NATO bombing is the Cloaca Maxima of the world, an eternal ‘outskirt’ best portrayed through images of its own fringes. The film outlines various edges of the depersonalized city almost without any recognizable or emblematic elements. Real and moral darkness reign at the edge of the world. The spatial inscription of urbicide as decay, death or betrayal in the recognizable and defined space of New Belgrade in the film Wounds is threefold. Pinki and his family live in one of the ugliest social housing buildings near another edifice that is a strange landmark of New Belgrade. The terraces of Pinki’s building are mostly turned into the rooms or kitchens by adding windows to the terrace walls. The dirty and stained glass windows have multiple symbolic values.12 They close and diminish the space of the apartment, emphasising the impression of people squeezed and constrained within. Eventually, Pinki’s father completely stops coming out to the terrace, becoming more and more confined within the rigid world construed by ideology and media. Podgy women watering the flowers or leaning through the windows look comically squeezed and compressed. The blurred view through dirty glass is a metaphorical equivalent of the worldview clouded by ideology and nationalism. From the higher floors, parents look down/over the kids, Kure’s (Dragan Bjelogrlic) house and the surrounding area. Kure, a glamorous criminal with a reputation earned in Munich’s underworld, and a wealth and influence acquired in the recent war, becomes a symbolic father for the kids. In reality, the kids look up at Kure due to being on the ground with him and recognising him as their idol and role model. Kure, ironically, has to look up to see the parents of his fans, but he rarely, if ever, does that. He answers their shouts and calls with his back turned. The uneven gaze exchange effectively subverts and rewrites the social relations where Kure is on his way up to the top and the parents are on their way down. Downhill of the buildings, which always stay visible on the horizon, is dusty and windy open space that serves as both cemetery and scrapyard. It is the edge of New Belgrade, itself the margin of the city. It is the eroding and vanishing boundary where New Belgrade gradually melts into the wasteland. It is the vague edge of the unfinished and denied project of modernism from Blagojevic’s book. Surrounded by discoloured and torn panels with advertisements, old cars and papers blowing in the wind, the kids play Serbs versus Croats instead of the traditional Germans versus partisans, or cowboys and Indians.13 The faded billboard

138 Nevena Dakovi´c advertises cigarettes called, tongue-in-cheek, ‘Democracy Light’;14 it is the sign of the washed-out socialism and the residual mark of economic prosperity. Finally, the opening scene, ‘hail the conquering heroes’ to be, endorses the impression of the multifold borderline position of New Belgrade. The scene takes place in front of the building, where people lined up along the highway hail the Serbian army going to Croatia. New Belgrade draws the thin line between war and peace, soldiers and civilians, old settlers and newcomers and refugees (officers and soldiers from the ex-Yugoslav Army, like Pinki’s father), between the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and the independent states that will follow. The flood of war and nationalism came and swept over Belgrade through that gate of buildings along the highway. The break-up of family structures, once the stronghold of the socialist patriarchy, parallel the decay of New Belgrade. The individual confronting social crises disturbs and affects family relations, especially those with a dominant father figure. The patriarch,15 no longer the pillar of the family, is weak (The Wounds), brutish or mentally disturbed, or dead (Nataša/Natasha, Ljubiša Samardži´c 2001) or absent for complicated political reasons, and the child copes with this lack by going down the path of crime, crisis or emigration. The impact of history on the innocent, blissfully unaware and victimized families, and the surfacing of hidden frustrations and fractures, is treated with customary nostalgia (The Unpicked Strawberries), humour (Tito i ja/Tito and I, Goran Markovic 1992) or through magical realism (Otac na sluzbenom putu/When father Was Away on a Business Trip, Emir Kusturica, 1985 or Secas li se Doli Bel/Do You Remember Dolly Bell?, Emir Kusturica 1982). The Freudian-Lacanian father-son relation is easily read as a small-scale model for the Yugoslav political case. The family break-up parallels the disintegration of the state after the death of Tito, as the strong father figure of all Yugoslavs, left the country and its population orphaned losers. The shattered individual and collective identity is confirmed by the disappearance of the ‘name of the Father’. Kids are not presented as having family names but only nicknames, while the SFRY, after the loss of its name, plunges into a search for various other names that could ensure the continuity of the former country. Revenge and betrayal as the motives of the damaged family are also explored in Srdan Golubovic’s Absolute Hundred, also set in New Belgrade. This film introduced the notion of ghetto film, being an overt tribute to Kassovitz’s La Haine (1995) – the film itself was made in homage to Scarface and other American gangster films. With the flavour of a family melodrama, Absolute Hundred is the story of two brothers caught in the spreading world of organized crime. Igor (Srdjan Todorovic) is both a former Olympic-hero marksman and a veteran of the Bosnian war. Younger brother Sasa (Vuk Kostic) is a junior champion who goes to the World Championship in Paris. Returning to Belgrade, Igor is haunted by war memories and PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), and sinks into heroin addiction. Eventually he has to sell the shooting gallery (left to them by their father) to gangster Runda (Milorad Mandic). The new owner limits Sasa’s access to the gallery and obstructs his preparations for the Championship. Sasa takes both the law and the gun into his own hands.16 The interior of the shooting

The crime that changed Serbia 139 gallery and the internal machinery is used as the leitmotif of this very MTV-style directed film, emphasising the closeness of the bullseye of the shooting gallery and the view from the apartment windows. The shabby interior of the apartment gets an extra symbolical dimension due to scenery seen through the windows – the silhouettes of the rising skyscrapers, with the space at the top that the characters long for in different manners. The panoramic views of New Belgrade from the rooftops allow the inscription of personal triumph and the position of surveying and controlling the situation. Grey concrete surfaces and vertical tracking shots up and down the shabby façades underline the lifespan and trajectory of the buildings, from the top and to the bottom of the slum very much like in Kassovitz’s seminal film and others’ texts. The slow emergence of the post October 2000 visage of New Belgrade began with the works of Stefan Arsenijevic, who always acknowledged a special relationship to the part of the town in which he grew up. Together with Srdan Golubovic and Miroslav Momcilovic, the trio could be labelled as new kids on the block. Arsenijevi´c (nominated for a short film Oscar in 2002) directs the Serbian story Fabulous Vera – in the omnibus Lost and Found (2007) – about a runaway tram and the adventures of the passengers on board, in what is an effective metaphor for Serbia’s long and uncertain road toward a European future. The lead female role is played by Milena Dravi´c, one of the most famous of the regional actresses known – c, Hladnik and Petrovi´c. The from the films of Makavejev, Žilnik, Puriša –Dor devi´ generation of the 1960s promoted modernism – denied in architecture but lingering in cinema. The filmmakers have often explored the same problems of modern society evident in Lost and Found: tense social relationships, unemployment, political unrest, earnest attempts at reform, and social instability in the style of European cinematic modernism. The runaway tram becomes a meeting spot of various socially paradigmatic generational types. The old grandfather (Nikola Simic) still lives in the 1940s – ironically not so different from the 1990s; the mother (Milena Dravic) is the air hostess obliged to become the tram controller after the introduction of the international sanctions; for the daughter (Milica Mihajlovic), the tram is the last chance to talk with her mother before leaving for Australia and a promised better future. The background is wastelands trimmed with indiscernible buildings situated on both sides of the wide empty streets. It resembles a scene in Arsenijevi´c’s next film – Ljubav i drugi zloˇcini/Love and Other Crimes (2008) – an unusual love story in the guise of a bittersweet comedy and a touching narrative about ordinary people lost in a post-transitional time. The dull scenery, emotionally enriched by the unexpected romance, is visually enlivened by the warm colours of various ads and billboards. However, their warmth is ironically undercut by Spanish soap operas on TV screens, the sentimental song Besame Mucho, and occasionally heard blues and jazz music. The continuing re-semantization of New Belgrade further develops through decriminalization of the area and its transformation into a mellower, more melancholic romantic setting. Narratives remain overshadowed by loss, partings and only fleeting moments of happiness. The housing estates have turned into the

140 Nevena Dakovi´c backdrop of sad comedies, such as 7 1/2 (Miroslav Momˇcilovi´c 2006), or generational melodramas, such as Sutra ujtru/Tomorrow Morning (Oleg Novkovi´c ˇ 2006) and Cekaj me, ja sigurno ne´cu do´ci/Wait for Me and I will not come (Miroslav Momˇcilovi´c 2009). Tomorrow Morning, shot in the manner of Dogma 95 (restrained acting, heightened naturalism, powerful camerawork and scenography borrowed from the documentary genre), narrates the story of an unsuccessful homecoming. Coming home to get married, Nele (Bekim Fehmiu) tries to settle the past and somehow live through the nights until the coming morning that should be the beginning of something new. ‘A credible portrait in miniature of a lost generation and a culture shaped by a civil war which is never directly mentioned here’17 is set in a housing project, with a view of the crossroads and wide, ugly boulevards that symbolize the turning point in the life of the character as well as the melodrama genre convention of the place we all return to. Tomorrow Morning in the end provides hope, through the morning light that falls onto the drab façades, as the sign of the social dawn that might happen. The redesigning of the area continues in the oeuvre of Miroslav Momcilovic. His fidelity to this part of the town, as his favourite setting, brought this scriptwriter-turned-director18 the flattering title of Woody Allen of New Belgrade. Two films he signs as director are set amongst well-known apartment blocks, the banks of the river Sava, and numerous coffee shops or playgrounds. The film 7 1/2 is an obvious dedication to Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963) and Fincher’s 7 (1995), and even more allusive toward Kieslowski’s Decalogue (1989/90). Each of the seven episodes that make up this film is dedicated to one of the mortal sins. New Belgrade, although portrayed as the same ugly, now old, part of town, starts to function as a biblical microcosm, with ordinary people in an extraordinary time of transition driven by weaknesses and passions. The reframing of biblical motives by local chronotope has twofold consequences. It initiates the debate about the diminished universality of the story – if compared with the work of Kieslowski – due to local tones. The opposite claim, that the biblical plot(s) turns New Belgrade into Deleuzian any-space–whatever, is thoroughly argued in Momcilovic’s next film. Wait for Me and I will Not Come is a grim romantic comedy of love, passion, suffering and unfulfilled desires that remain as lasting frustrations. Conceptualized as a web of confessions witnessed by one central character (Milos Samolov), the film’s narrative draws an equally complex web in space. The characters live and work in apartments in the same block or building, and all go to the nearby coffee shop. The coffee shop as the central place is conveniently symbolically situated on the river – water that purifies, while its inaccessible flow gives hope that their lives can change. The changes of the genre portrayal of New Belgrade include the relegation of its narrative role. In the decay stories of the 1990s, the setting was almost the third actor in the conflict, as is understood in Lefebvre’s conceptualization of city as the reflection of the society in space. The collapse of society is the spiritus movens of the characters’ life stories; it is their faith. In the generically rewritten narratives the space becomes a mere symbolic setting and not an active player in the drama. However, in both modes the discrete but permanent and developing process

The crime that changed Serbia 141 of depersonalization is visible. New Belgrade gradually loses its recognizable emblemacy, becoming a sort of global space that accommodates global stories. Contingent terms such as First World and Third World might no longer signify the same valence of economic and political power that they did until very recently. Sky rocking of unemployment, drug trafficking, children labour, prostitution and sexual tours in the tropics are just a few symptoms that depicted on a screen lend authenticity to the represented of social ills and other forms of violence in contemporary international cinema.19 The diagnosed closeness and similarities between previously highly contrasted worlds make New Belgrade the same as banlieu or Favela – the sore spot that heals and opens according to social dynamics. The shared iconography brings with it global mythology and popular world culture.

Pure locus of possible In his work Le Cinema, Gilles Deleuze defines any-space-whatever as: an abstract universal, in all times, in all places. It is a perfectly singular space, which has merely lost its homogeneity, that is, the principle of its metric relations or the connection of its own parts, so that the linkages can be made in an infinite number of ways. It is a space of virtual conjunction, grasped as pure locus of the possible.20 The strive toward any-space-whatever is opposed to the noted depersonalization and creation of universal space. So simultaneously the transformation of New Belgrade bifurcates toward universal, global and any-space-whatever – the pure locus of diverse possible, which linkages are constantly redefined. The rhythm of re-organization of any-space-whatever is also seen as a constant vacillation between striated and smooth space. Striated space is characterized by order, as the forms organize everything, while smooth space is characterized by lack of order, randomness and disorienting chaos. Striated turning into smooth space reveals its own tendency toward disorder. Striated space and the impulse of territorialization characterize the image of New Belgrade as the space of socialist yuppies in the years of prosperity. A disintegrating society deconstructs its own space and de-territorializes its own city, as seen in the wandering trajectories of the characters of the 1990s. Territorialization is made possible due to the repression of the wish, the taming and limiting of its productive energy by social forces. Fulfilled wishes of the prosperous middle class materialize in New Belgrade’s apartments, and the status of consumerists is tightly controlled by society. The opposite process, de-territorialization, refers to the decoding of the repressive social codes that allow the desire to move beyond restrictive psychic and spatial coordinates. Through the 1990s de-territorialization of New Belgrade, inhabitants are forced to become nomads without a place in a society that itself nomadically trespasses the borders of time and space, or from socialism to postcommunism.

142 Nevena Dakovi´c

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14 15


17 18 19 20

Nevena Dakovi´c (2008). Nevena Dakovi´c (2007: 173–85). Nevena Dakovi´c (2010: 61–77). Index as a Derridian trace, as the proof of the physical existence and being. Ljiljana Blagojevi´c (2009: 38). In the whole of his oeuvre, Karanovic follows the same model of popular representation of Belgrade, stressing its urban, universal and cosmopolitan spirit through a dense intertextuality of his films. On the latter, see Nevena Dakovi´c op. cit. Press material of the film, p. 12. Mark Seltzer (1998). It is conceived as ‘the amalgamation of traditional Eastern European folklore with popular culture which fills the void left from the severed familial link to the original beliefs and practices of the culture’. The cultural heritage is replaced by a ‘trash culture which is ‘replete the signs, commodities and symbols of kitsch, camp and trash’. See Igor Krsti´c (2000: 98). The analysis of the film was initially presented at BASEES (2000). in a paper entitled ‘The Historical Wounds and The Wounded History’. These are the buildings alongside the highway with characteristic and ugly looking windows literally shaped and framed as TV sets (thus the buildings’ nickname of ‘TV set buildings’) that supports the media criticizing and satirizing strain of the film. Echoing the Mad Max scenes of the post apocalyptic world. The leitmotif of ‘Democracy Light’ as a cigarette brand appears several times: as the washed-out panel or in the lascivious publicity ‘Democracy Light – Take Care What Are you Putting Your Mouth’, for example. The sons and heirs grow up to replace father figures and dismiss traditional authority. On the way up, the real father discovered to be impotent and unable to cope with the changing times is replaced by a surrogate/symbolic father – a new role model. Coming to maturity and authority is confirmed both in social and emotional realms. In Dragojevicev’s film Pinki’s father commits suicide, becoming fully aware of own fall and inability; Kure efficiently fills the void left by the lack of a father figure in a professional and emotional way. He is the tutor for the boys’ path to the top in the criminal world as well for their sexual initiation. Furthermore, the final step of a boy’s coming to maturity is full awareness that ‘the final exam is to kill your mentor’. Thus they actively participate in Kure’s self-destruction, humiliate him and in the end diabolically kill him. Not unlike Lepa sela lepo gore/Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (Srdjan Dragojevic 1996) where the fork travels from the fresco in monastery Studenica to become the deadly weapon for killing a Muslim soldier in the hospital, symbolically mapping the historical trajectory of the country. In Absolute Hundred the rifle passes through a chain of changed significations. The sniper rifle is the emblem of Igor’s Olympic triumph during Tito’s Yugoslavia; in the 1990s it becomes a deadly weapon in the Sarajevo sniper alley. In Sasa’s hands, it is the weapon of revenge used against the underworld. Leslie Felperin (2006). Even in his script the story of When I grow up I want to be a Kangaroo/Kad porastem bicu kengur by Rasa Andric is set in New Belgrade. Because of personal reasons (being from another part of the town), the producer displaced the film to Vozdovac. Joao Luiz Vieira (2010: 226). Gilles Deleuze (1992: 109).

10 Projected nation and projected self Interplay between the virtual and the actual in Calendar Yun-Hua Chen

Calendar is the fifth film by Atom Egoyan, a filmmaker who straddles Canadian cinema and Armenian cinema thanks to the director’s background, which integrates Egyptian, Armenian and Canadian identities. It was made in 1993, right after Armenia restored its independence after the disintegration of the USSR in 1991. In this immediate postcommunist time, the drastic political transition from a command economy to a market economy, from authoritarianism to democracy, and from fixed singularism to fluid pluralism, proceeded to different degrees and at various speeds in different post-USSR countries, with an unclear destination.1 Instead of abiding by a clearly defined black-and-white dual system, systems and organizations become fluctuous, multifaceted and polyphonic, with the emergence of new nation-states. The old model of communism was discarded; the communist power system was rejected, as well as what was perceived to be external domination. The bi- and multilateral international relationships between newly independent small nation states thus became more pluralistic, unstable, complex and in some aspects egalitarian. Yet a large amount of baggage from the past remained, such as vibrant private networks, distrust of political institutions, weak civil society and high expectations of leaders. As new values were not yet established, it was impossible to straightforwardly adopt an alternative system. This resulted in dynamism, contradiction and instability, which included redrawing of geopolitical boundaries and questioning of national identities.2 Thus, the societies of postcommunism, after the immediate optimistic, euphoric stage, plunged into fluctuation, where a consensus over identity and social contract needed to be reformed. This can be observed in Egoyan’s film whereby crystals are formed by the juxtaposition between present and past, the actual and the virtual, the national and the individual, and Canada and Armenia. These crystals can be seen as being embedded in the any-space-whatever of Gilles Deleuze, whose original context is post Second World War Europe, whose inhabitants, in the face of ruins and shanty towns, become the ‘seers’ and are unable to react.3 In any-space-whatever, time ceases to be the subordinate of movement in cinema; images form a crystal where past is preserved and present keeps passing. The context of Calendar is not post Second World War Europe but rather postcommunist Armenia. Although the Second World War and the breakdown of the USSR had very different impacts on the world, both marked

144 Yun-Hua Chen a transitional stage in which different systems, habits, mentalities and time frames coexist and work in parallel. Time frames coexist; communist thoughts remain in postcommunist practices. At the time that Armenian national identity underwent a period of redefinition, Egoyan went through the process of negotiating his role as an assimilated Canadian director of Armenian descent, and the protagonists inside the film world also strive to come to terms with their Canadian background and Armenian origin. As postcommunist Armenia is in the process of becoming once again a fully-fledged nation, the photographer in Calendar is becoming an individual whose marriage bond is newly dissolved. As a consequence, the contextual postcommunist crystal juxtaposed with the facets of communist and postcommunist practices is mapped with the cinematic crystal of time, which forks in the labyrinth of multiple circuits and projections, linking the already mentioned juxtaposition of past and the present, the actual and the virtual, and the national and the individual. By blurring present and past, video images and memories, and the off-screen couple of Egoyan and Khanjian in the extradiegetic world and the onscreen couple of the photographer and Arsinée inside the diegesis, Calendar investigates the relationship between individuals and space, and the inside and outside of images of different natures. This chapter examines these intertwined crystals within the undetermined and fluctuous postcommunist condition. Armenia and Canada, the two spaces from which Egoyan draws inspiration, and the virtual and the actual, form a crystal; a postcommunist crystal, in which one relies on and complements the other. The photographer and Arsinée, physically occupying the striated Canada and the smooth Armenia, with their rigid and fluid bodies respectively, are splitting images of the actual and the virtual, which project their relationship with space and nation on various planes of virtuality. The photographer and Arsinée, and the actual and the virtual, are each other’s double in the way that Canada and Armenia are different facets of the crystal in Egoyan’s identity-construction.

Atom Egoyan: the filmmaker with multiple identities Born in Egypt to Armenian parents who were also born in Egypt, Egoyan was brought up in a small town on the West Coast of Canada. At first he was recognized as a Canadian filmmaker, credited as a key figure in The Ontario New Wave and grouped together with David Cronenberg, Peter Mettler and Bruce McDonald. Later on in his career, through his constant transnational attempts to bring Canadian and Armenian elements together in his subject matter and formal aspects, his double identities as both a Canadian and a diasporic Armenian director gradually began to be taken into account.4 He has established his filmmaking milieu and cooperates frequently with a team of film professionals such as Michael Danna, Maury Chaykin, Gabrielle Rose, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, David Hemblen, Don McKellar and, most importantly, his wife Arsinée Khanjian. The recognizable look and structure of his films are maintained collectively in his filmmaking milieu. His bringing together of two distinctive geopolitical spaces is pertinent to Mette Hjort’s nuanced differentiation of

Projected nation and projected self 145 cosmopolitan transnationalism in The Cinema of Small Nations,5 and Hamid Naficy’s theorization of accented cinema.6 He has ‘a lived experience of the limits of national belonging and citizenship’ in different contexts and consciously ‘decides to embrace a particular kind of collaboration beyond national borders.’7 He straddles the spaces of residence and the spaces of origin, but his movement is back and forth, whose displacement entails emplacement and vice versa. He is a crystal of both the insider and the outsider, both the actual and the virtual. As his career progresses, he incorporates Armenian and Canadian elements in a more explicit manner. Through these constant displacements and emplacements he questions the nature of nation and authorship itself. In his first feature, Next of Kin (1984), the Armenian elements lurk in the background through the mise-enscène of the Deryans’ family dwelling and carpet shop. Calendar is Egoyan’s first feature film in which he explicitly and reflexively manifests his Armenian origin, and reconsiders the journey between the space of residence and the space of origin, and the emplacements and displacements. His manifestation of his Armenian origin was later intensified in Ararat (2002), where he audaciously looks back at the most painful historical event in Armenia. These myriad identities and awareness of identities as constructed entities are reflected in the subject matter of his films at the narrative level, portraying construction of identities by means of mimicry, doubling, mediation and transgression.

Calendar: text and context Atom Egoyan’s Calendar, a film about a photographer’s search for identity/identities at both national and personal levels, demonstrates exactly these multilayered facets of nationhood and selfhood. It was filmed in the transitional phase when Armenia became an independent nation after the disintegration of the USSR, which enabled the realization of the film on location but also posed difficulties regarding his funding source. When Egoyan’s previous feature film The Adjuster (1991) won the Grand Prize at the 1991 Moscow Film Festival, he was given a million roubles to film his next film in the Soviet Union, which included Armenia at that time. Yet this funding was significantly reduced after the dissection of USSR and devaluation of the rouble. It was only thanks to additional funding offered by the German television channel ZDF and Franco-German channel Arte that Egoyan was able to continue with a budget of US$100,000.8 Although the disintegration of the USSR and the restoration of The Republic of Armenia almost made Calendar an impossible film project in terms of budget, it enabled Egoyan to go to the country for the first time and shoot on location. This makes Calendar an interesting postcommunist film production, which incorporates global flows and disjunctures, and which was made possible in Armenia in the early transition period by working with the financial possibilities and spatial flexibility that the global space provided. The transnational aspect of this film, through funding and changes brought about by postcommunism, integrating the materials and resources of France, Germany, the former USSR, Armenia and Canada, thus reaches beyond the scope of diasporic filmmaking and the film narrative’s bifocal settings.

146 Yun-Hua Chen Given the particular geopolitical filmmaking context, Calendar interweaves the main character’s search for a sense of belonging both nationally and in his private life against the backdrop of postcommunist Armenia. At the moment that Armenia detaches itself from the USSR, the photographer is separated from Arsinée and his ancestors’ land. The photographer’s negotiation of identity through his desperate efforts to reach his wife is also Egoyan’s reflection on his personal relationship with self and nation. At the moment that Armenia goes through a redefinition of its nationhood and revival of a national identity, Egoyan looks back at his journey of identity searching and negotiates various routes and relationships to a territory. As Armenia asks what a nation is, how to construct a national identity and how to reinvent national symbols and memories, the photographer is torn between his innate lack of Armenian identity and his desire to re-approach his wife and their shared heritage. The social, political and economic quest of Armenia after the fall of the Soviet Union is mapped through the photographer’s personal and intimate quest. While the photographer cannot help falling into the bitter memories of his marriage breakdown, the spectator witnesses the photographer’s lack of control despite his being an image-controller in his profession. No matter how much control he has over photographs’ composition, he is unable to prohibit the growing attraction between his wife and the driver. Despite his power to manipulate the camera angle in Armenia, he has no control over the movement of the protagonists, Arsinée and Ashot, whose mutual affection flows beyond the images. His memories are trapped in the images with which he does not actively engage. On his return to Canada, he strives to regain a sense of control, which he loses through his failure to reconnect with his origin and wife, by staging the detailed scenario of communication breakdown between the couple. These rigorously calculated, controlled situations become the photographer’s only tool to rebel against the fluidity of the images and the postcommunist nation. The switching or zapping between the actual communication breakdown in Armenia and the role-play of communication breakdown in Canada is weaved into the carefully executed structure of Calendar.

Identity, space and Deleuze: the actual, the virtual and any-space-whatever Calendar is structured around twelve images of twelve churches, which appear on each month’s page in a calendar. The shooting of twelve churches for the calendar is edited together with snippets that capture the photographer back in Toronto having dinner with twelve escort girls. The still photos for the calendar are the images that represent projections of national imagery for people in diaspora. They are produced in the Third World on a topic of the lost Second World, and consumed in the First World. As Appadurai engages with Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and talks about the increasingly disjointed spatial and virtual neighbourhoods, ‘the global flow of images, news, and opinion now provides part of the engaged cultural and political literacy that diasporic persons bring to their spatial neighbourhoods’.9 Production of calendars in the home country of the diasporic

Projected nation and projected self 147 population, which are then sold to diverse diasporic groups in different parts of the First World, adds to the production of locality and creates a disjunct sense of spatial neighbourhoods through the forces of image mediation. This is especially important in the immediate transition period, when the national image needed to be emphasized. In the first shot we see an immobile frame of Gabdavapk on the hill with a car driving up the zigzagging path. This initial actual image later appears as a still photo for the month of January in a calendar hanging on a wall next to a phone, which is on a water cooler. Several sequences later, the image of the February church on the same calendar leads to a moving image shot from exactly the same angle with a static camera. As Egoyan said in his essay included in the special features of the Calendar DVD distributed in the UK, the idea of nation is less a physical and geographical land with borders and more a projection of collective psychology. With the invention of recording media, the concept of nation can be consolidated through mechanical processes of media reproduction and is largely founded on the “Imagined Communities” theorized by Benedict Anderson. Nation has been constructed and reconstructed through the process of locating geographical national landmarks, which are then easily reproduced and spread for intensifying national ideology. This resonates even more in the context of postcommunist Armenia, when the physical land needs to be redefined and re-approached. In this film a calendar with photos of Armenian churches carries national symbols, which are at the same time religious symbols marking the inception of Christianity. These images of churches are collectively remembered through projections for Armenians in diaspora, geographically distant from the physical presence of national symbols. They are careful reconstructions of national spirit, transmitting fantasy of a nation to the displaced population. For the photographer, the calendar carries his painful memories of the shooting process, which further underscores his deterritorialization from his ancestors’ land, and from his wife. Unlike his wife, he fails to reterritorialize himself in the postcommunist Armenia and is thus distanced from his wife’s physical and emotional territory. He sees the landscape unfolding through the viewfinder, along with his wife’s distanciation from him and reterritorialization into Armenian soil. His concerns of national and emotional belonging thus melt into the crystals in any-space-whatever. Armenia, like post Second World War Europe and other post-Soviet countries, is a space with identity issues at that time, becoming, as identified in the previous chapter an anyspace-whatever which is ‘deserted but inhabited’ with ‘waste ground [and] cities in the course of demolition or reconstruction’.10 In this situation the photographer sees behind the camera and does not act. At the same time that Armenia becomes any-space-whatever, which the photographer does not know how to react to or describe, the statically framed images, replicating the camera angle of still photos on a pre-existing calendar, become undetermined. The becoming of a nation and the becoming of an individual are intertwined. These images shot in Armenia become thus impossible to discern between ‘real’ recollected images and mechanical memories; that is, between the virtual images seen by the brain as if on a screen and the virtual images recorded by a camera. They are neither recollection

148 Yun-Hua Chen images nor mechanical memories. Unlike free-flowing recollection images, the frame is fixed and one-directional. Unlike mechanical memories, the footage does not seem to have been recorded using the equipment they brought along, a camera and V-8 camcorder. The images are thus indiscernible images that imitate the photographer’s camera angle and imply the director Egoyan behind the photographer. There are thus several cross-overs between the actual and the virtual because both of them fail to define these images, which are on the borderline in-between. The calendar on the wall is at the same time the calendar of twelve months and the process of filming these twelve images. The audience, in turn, is immersed in the indiscernibility between the virtual and the actual to the extent that some wrote to Egoyan feeling sorry for his separation from his wife, which happened on screen but was taken as reality. Throughout Calendar, virtual sheets of the past keep intruding in de-actualized peaks of present.11 The actual object is mapped to its virtual double, which brings the virtual quality to the actual. The actual is in the process of becoming virtual, and the virtual becoming actual. Through this process the time frame in Calendar is split into past memories, which are unwillingly being recalled, and the present actual, which keeps passing by.

The crystals of the photographer and Arsinée, and Canada and Armenia In the film, Atom Egoyan himself plays the main character, a Canadian photographer of Armenian descent who is entrusted with the task of photographing twelve churches in Armenia for a calendar. As the endeavours of the Canadian photographer to reconcile with his roots in Armenia fail, the Armenian bond, which he shares with his wife, played by his real-life spouse Arsinée Khanjian, breaks down. His relationship with Arsinée, who acts as his translator, gradually falls apart in front of the camera lens as their approaches to their ancestors’ land diverge and a mutual attraction between the wife and their Armenian driver, Ashot, grows. His initial intention to reconstruct national history and personal bonds through framing calendar appropriate images forces him to compromise when it becomes clearer that images speak on their own (sexual affections also flow on their own), and are beyond his control. With the progression of the film it becomes obvious that the photographer and his wife Arsinée represent two different degrees of assimilation and two different approaches to their ancestors’ land. Acknowledging the progressing history and the transitional present of Armenia, Arsinée is keen on discovering both its pre-communist and postcommunist facets along with the locals. The character, like Arsinée Khanjian herself in extradiegetic life, was brought up bilingually and biculturally in the minority community in Canada. She feels at once at ease with her Armenian origin, her image in Armenia captured by the camera lens, and her people, who are also eager to reconnect her to the land by sharing folklore stories and songs. The photographer, however, according to the special features included in the DVD released by Zeitgeist Films, is like Egoyan himself before he left home to attend university in Toronto. He is fully assimilated into the host culture

Projected nation and projected self 149 and holds lukewarm attitudes towards his ancestors’ land, where he has never resided and whose language he does not speak. Armenia, for the photographer, who refuses to be seen in the landscape through the camera, implies nothing more than a remote family linkage and a professional opportunity. As a photographer of still images, he views the newly-established nation in a stable, calm yet unaffectionate and cold manner, always through the fixed viewfinder, and he never freely explores the surrounding space. He refuses to walk in the landscape under the excuse of having to stay with the heavy camera and tripod, and is uninterested in the history and background stories offered by Ashot. The churches and landscapes only exist as two-dimensional façades, which he has no intention to emotionally engage with. The film is composed of camcorder video footage shot by Egoyan himself and 16 mm film sequences, photographed by Norayr Kasper. The former images are the director Egoyan’s personal images and memories, transcending the boundaries between the film world and the production world. As snapshots of film footage shot in Armenia and Canada – and bluish, grainy video footage within the film diegesis shot in Armenia – are interwoven throughout the film, snippets of different time, spaces and virtualities permeate into each other into an undecipherable net of images which are about both a projected person and relationship and also about a projected nation. The newly restored nation Armenia, having broken from previous bipolar, rigidly-defined doctrines but not yet anchored to a new model, is waiting to be reformed and redefined. Without exploring in detail (verbally or visually) the complexity embedded in the image of Armenia, the virtual represented and reproduced image of the nation is projected on the calendar on the wall in Canada as well as in the calendar-making process. The photographer, like the newly formed Armenia, has in-between status, existing fluidly between two nations, two kinds of marital status, and the actual and the virtual. Cinematically, both the nation Armenia and the couple, the photographer and Arsinée, are placed one layer away from the reframed representation of Armenia on paper and on screen, and the projected double of Egoyan and Khanjian. The photographer and Arsinée re-embody Egoyan and Khanjian and some of their biographical details in a fluid and indeterminate manner. The images of the photographer’s personal memories on video, emboding the collective memories of a nation, flow from one snippet to the next without being summoned or organized logically. These fluid video images appear in-between the fixed frames in the bipolar settings of Armenia and Canada, and demarcate the boundaries between these two segments. The bitter memories of marriage breakdown are stored on mediated video, which is subject to rewinding and fastforwarding, as if these images are on the photographer’s brain screen, where he can examine the details of the past minutely. Apart from being preserved in video within the film diegesis, they are also stored on film footage that is shot with a static camera on a tripod, imitating a calendar photo perspective. The backdrop of the pre-Soviet churches symbolizes Armenia’s religious heritage. They are images that preserve Armenia’s past and refer to the present, and images which document personal drama on the first plane, and probe the difficulties of a fixed national identity in the depth of field.

150 Yun-Hua Chen As the settings and images wander in and out of virtuality and time frames, Armenia and Canada have become two distinct spaces, the former fluid, smooth and virtual, and the latter formulaic, striated and actual. In these two spaces the photographer and Arsinée have completely reversed presences and their growing alienation is reflected in their crisscrossing auditory and visual presence. During their photo-shooting trip the photographer, always behind the viewfinder of his camera, is visually absent from the landscape of Armenia, apart from his finger, which occasionally points at certain objects. His bodyless voices, penetrating the images, can only be understood and acquire meanings through Arsinée’s translation. Yet in Canada he regains his agency; medium shots of the photographer, either his front or his back, occupy a visible presence in the fragments. Arsinée, on the other hand, is visually present in Armenia but only audially present in Canada, her voice transmitted by an answering machine. In fact, their physical and auditory presences, instead of being synchronized and integrated, are dislocated and disjointed; images and sound work as separate planes of virtuality and criss-cross each other. The photographer and Arsinée’s physical occupation of different spatial planes is an indication of their relationship to territories. Whereas the photographer is an outsider in his supposed homeland, who only occupies space vocally, Arsinée becomes an outsider in their home in Canada. Conversely, the photographer is well-anchored in the space in Canada and Arsinée is deterritorialized from it. In Deleuzian terms from A Thousand Plateaus,12 the postcommunist Armenia seems to be a smooth space in Egoyan’s representation, with continuous variation where one occupies without counting and where the points are subordinated to the trajectory. Points are not yet determined at this transitional stage, so people wander in an undrawn land. Canada, on the other hand, is a developed Western country where rules have been distinctively fixed and space has been striated. It is a demarcated space where one counts in order to occupy and where lines and trajectories tend to be subordinated to points. The former is a nomadic space where people and objects remain in a flux and undetermined state, while the latter is a sedentary space and an organism where things are organized and in place.13 While the fragments shot in Canada are indoors and are confined within solely three camera angles, Armenia is shot exclusively outdoors and in the open air. Arsinée and the driver stand in knee-high grass, sit on random rocks, or stand and walk on the ruins of ancient dwellings. From video footage we see Arsinée chasing flocks of sheep, and dancing with the singer in an errant band. Bodies are free to wander and occupy any corner of the screen frame. The video footage shot from a free-moving camera and inserted between fragments of static frames is also shot in Armenia. In video images the camera tracks, wanders and meanders. It collects bits and pieces of memory-images and records crystalline images of time, and does not subordinate time to movement. The video footage with Arsinée chasing sheep flocks is subject to rewinding and rewatching by the photographer, who clings to memory-images of the process of the breakdown of their relationship. On the other hand, the only setting in Canada is the dining room and the room with a calendar on the wall and a phone on a water cooler in Egoyan and Arsinée

Projected nation and projected self 151 Khanjian’s real-life house. The physical body of the photographer is always shown sitting at the dining table and his escort girls are either at the table or standing by the phone on the wall. The camera either faces the wall and frames the calendar and the phone on the water cooler, or captures the photographer with or without escort girls in front of the dining room table, or focuses on the escort girls holding the phone with their backs towards the back of the photographer. In the striated space of Canada, Egoyan and his escort girls’ bodies are puppet-like and formulaic as if on a theatre stage, their movements having been rehearsed and contrived. Their bodies are confined and restricted. Their lines of dialogues and action are predetermined and fixed. If the movement of bodies in Armenia is like the game ‘Go’ where circularity overrides duality, the Canadian scenario is chess, where Egoyan and the escort girls’ trajectories and movements are limited and predictable.

The crystal of the actual and the virtual The interplays and mutual transformations between small-sized still photos on a calendar and full-screen moving images shot on film compose the whole film. For demarcation of each month, on-location shooting of churches (apart from one pagan temple Garpi in June) in Armenia framed by the static camera is repetitively fossilized into a calendar image of a month. In return, the still image on the calendar is animated into actual film footage, which is essentially a virtual recollection-image. Still images, hung on the wall of the photographer’s house in Canada, and the moving images, which are at once recollection-images and recorded film footage, are neither identical replicas of one another nor separate entities. They are framed in exactly the same way. Yet the colours on the calendar images are slightly more sombre and the camera angle is slightly different from the film footage. This shows that Egoyan might be replicating the camera angle of the already existing calendar. Each pair of images leaks into each other’s presence and thus the spectators travel in and out of the photographer’s passing present in his Canadian house and the preserved past in film or video images. The images that carry memories of a newly-reborn nation, which the photographer did not grow up with and never gets a chance to know, and of a person, with whom his intimate relationship collapses abruptly, form crystals. The progressing present and recollection-images fuse together into something distinct and yet indiscernible. In the merge between real and unreal, the actual material of the calendar becomes the only link between the photographer and Armenia, whereas the virtual video footage is the only place of ‘encounter’ with his separated wife. In the seemingly linear structure of time divided by twelve months’ worth of images, images jump back and forth between: Armenia and Canada, the face of Arsinée and that of Egoyan; the past in Armenian open space that is preserved, and the present in the enclosed Canadian house that is passing; the handheld shaky grainy video images and carefully-framed stable film images. The images are between the actual and the virtual. The present in Canada keeps progressing, whereas the photographer’s past keeps being recalled. The images of Calendar thus form crystals of past and

152 Yun-Hua Chen present, and actual and virtual, the immediate and simultaneous doubles at the point of indiscernibility, whereas the relationship between past and present in postcommunism is complex and intertwining like a crystal. Images resurface from the past and are regenerated from the present at the same time, hence the past coexists with the present. Neither is necessarily true, for the tone of the narrator and the images seem dreamy and fluid. The images of the past are preserved and doubled in memory, which forks in the labyrinth of multiple circuits, linking the past and the present. Simultaneously and inexplicably, the photographer is about to be distanced from his wife; he is distanced from his wife and he has been distanced from his wife. In terms of the relationship between the individual and the postcommunist nation, he is about to be deterritorialized from his ancestors’ land; he is deterritorialized and he has been deterritorialized. Unlike the one-directional deterritorialization of the migrant women in a certain genre of Turkish cinema discussed in Chapter 12, the photographer’s deterritorialization is multiplied without being confined to a certain time frame or movement in a certain direction. The narrative unfolds in the coexistence of different sheets of the past and ceases to be truthful. Narration becomes fundamentally falsifying, branching out to a myriad of possibilities, and does not claim to be true.14 The story itself is based on irrational and discontinuous linkages that diverge and disperse. We do not know for sure if the photographer indeed writes to the sponsored Armenian child to spy on Arsinée or not. The bluish image of Arsinée and Ashot’s holding hands in the car is at the same time real and dreamy. With the progression of the film, the truthfulness and time frames of the images become unimportant and irrelevant. The merging of past and present, actual and virtual, the three sides of diegesis, the video within diegesis and the extradiegetic world, all form crystals which rise up to the screen surface of Calendar and become visualized onscreen. Inside the crystal, one image chases, replaces, complements and recalls the other. It is exactly when the director Egoyan’s attention to ethnic minorities is manifestly embodied in his Armenian origins, and when he moves away from his implicit and hidden Armenianness, like in Next of Kin and Family Viewing (1988), and fully recognizes his family history and the contextual postcommunist crystal, that Calendar also reaches the summit of a cinematic crystal, mingling the virtual and the actual into a mosaic about territory, memory and loss in life. The crystals formed by multiplying doubles of past and present, actual and virtual, and the smooth and the striated, correspond to Gilles Deleuze’s theorization of the crystal-image in Cinema 2. Deleuze describes time as being in the constant process of splitting into the present that passes and the past that is preserved. No objective recording of the past is possible as the past is preserved among various virtual images that exist simultaneously and confront each other. Deleuze’s ‘Time-Image’ is defined as the continual exchange of actual and virtual images, which are constituted around the splitting of time. As Laura U. Marks asserts, ‘[t]he original point at which actual and virtual image reflect each other produces, in turn, a widening circuit of actual and virtual images like a hall of mirrors’.15 In Calendar, Armenia, seemingly the virtual image reflecting the preserved past, does not stop being actualized in the postcommunist crystal. Seemingly, actual

Projected nation and projected self 153 Canada is constantly being virtualized. The circuit between past and present, and actual and virtual, is further coupled with deterritorialization; individuals distancing from a land, and reterritorialization, individuals resettling in a land. This process of mapping contains a mutual process of becoming, as people become attached to the land, and the land to people. Sounds, above all these sheets of the past, flow in-between different facets of the crystals and constantly leak into neighbouring images that come from a different space and time frame. They serve as a linking element travelling between fragments of images. Visual and auditory elements of the film thus seem to create simultaneously coordinating and opposing layers of virtuality. Images alternate between the splitting of time, and the virtual and the actual; sound travels in-between fragments of images. Arsinée’s voice translating back and forth in English and Armenian between the driver and the photographer continues across edited fragments when the static shot in front of a church is replaced by bluish video footage, and later by an image of the photographer with an escort girl in Canada. The photographer’s voice, too, travels across fragments from different camera angles in the Canadian house and his fast forwarding and rewinding of the video images.

Notes 1 Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (2010: 120–7) and Leslie Holmes (1997: 337). 2 Holmes, op. cit., pp. 13–14, 16, 20, 305; Marc Morjé Howard (1994: 18–30). ‘The Weakness of Postcommunist Civil Society’, Journal of Democracy 13(1); Richard Rose (1994: 18–30). 3 Gilles Deleuze (1989). 4 André Lavoie (2006: 195–203). ‘I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing: Patricia Rozema, 1987’, in Jerry White (ed.), The Cinema of Canada, London: Wallflower Press. 5 Mette Hjort and Duncan Petrie (2007) (eds). 6 Hamid Naficy (2001: 34). 7 Hjort and Petrie op. cit., p. 23. 8 Jonathan Romney (2003: 97). 9 Arjun Appadurai (1996: 197). 10 Deleuze, op. cit., p. xi. 11 Deleuze, op. cit., p. 126. 12 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987). 13 Ibid., pp. 525–8. 14 Deleuze, op. cit., pp. 96, 101 and 127. 15 Laura U. Marks (2000: 65).

11 Truancy, or thought from the provinces On Jia Zhangke’s Platform Yün Peng

There is a sequence in Shijie/The World (Jia Zhangke 2005), in which two newly arrived migrant workers are given a tour of Beijing’s World Park by old hometown friends who now work at the Park. As they wander off the screen, the camera lingers on a family posing for a picture in front of a replica of St. Peter’s Square. We notice something eerily familiar: they pose exactly like millions of Chinese have once posed – in Tiananmen Square. As long as they stand there, they have about them a phantom Tiananmen, superimposed on the reproduction St. Peter’s. Any lingering illusion that the screen is a homogeneous time-space is instantaneously shattered. It is said about Jia Zhangke that he has discovered the Chinese provincial town or xiancheng, and that this discovery marks a significant departure from both the Fifth Generation’s rural imperative and the early independent filmmakers’ focus on urban life.1 To appreciate the significance of this ‘discovery’, we must set it against the provincial anxiety that has plagued Chinese cultural discourses in the 1980s.2 What makes the provinces, so often associated with boredom and backwardness, suddenly ‘discoverable’? The market certainly has a powerful role to play. But the discovery cannot be solely explained by the demand of the market or the filmmaker’s desire to cater to it, as developed in Chapter 5 with regard to Beijing Bicycle. In this chapter, I propose instead to understand the discovery as no less than a reconfiguration of the relationship among the ‘local’, the ‘global’ and the ‘national’. The discovery of the provinces coincides with the discovery of the transnational. Jia’s characters live in a world where cultural identities are inconceivable without incorporating other geopolitical fragments (‘Hong Kong’, ‘Mongolia’, etc.). In the above scene in The World, a provincial fragment and a global fragment directly confront each other, apparently without the mediation of either the ‘national’ or the ‘universal’. In this new scenario, the interstitial pairing has replaced the universal, and the provincial is someone who, without ever ceasing to be provincial, has left home to see the world. ‘Province’ thus no longer designates a place and an identity, but has become a threshold that destabilizes terms such as ‘local’, ‘global’, and ‘national’. As such, it provides an alternative to existing paradigms within which their relationships are understood.

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 155 The provincial is someone whose ‘here’ already bears the marks of a ‘there’, and whose particularity is already historical. As the subject of non-identity, the provincial is first and foremost a figure of relationship. This is already apparent in the ‘St. Peter’s Square’ scene, where the family’s presence calls attention to the relationship between the two distinct ‘worlds’. The significance of such juxtapositions should be understood in light of the Deleuzian-Althusserian ‘absent cause’ that has replaced the classical Marxist notion of mode of production as the determining instance of historical causality. In this new configuration, mode of production (now conceived as the absent cause) is no longer the base alone, but consists of ‘the entire system of relationships’, including that between the base and the superstructure as previously defined.3 The stress on absence means that this relationship pertains to the ‘political unconscious’, and can no longer be conceived as dialectical.4 A more appropriate model is Gilles Deleuze’s ‘crystal image’, in which the ‘smallest circuit’ that defines the interstitial correspondence of the actual image to its virtual image replaces the Hegelian totality as the cause or the ‘social whole’. With the crystal image, history – the absolute outside – is drawn into the interior as the ‘internal limit’, the irreducible kernel of distance that is farther than the crystal that forms around it.5 This is the model that I propose to use to understand Jia Zhangke’s discovery of the provinces. The discovery first reposes the question of history as that of the relationship between the provinces and the outside. The superimposition of St. Peter’s and Tiananmen forms precisely a crystal image, in which the replica and the phantom haunt each other, producing in the exchange the (non)relationship between the two worlds. Similarly, when characters in The World are repeatedly shown traversing the space between the basement, where they live, and the stage, where they perform for tourists, the apparent seamlessness of such movements reminds us that the glitzy spectacle of globalization depends on our willingness to dissociate the show from the basement. For Freud, such dissociation – the severing of the relationship between a particular element and its surrounding elements – is the central mechanism of repression. The coming and going of provincial characters, on the other hand, breaks the spell of amnesia, as their not-at-home-ness acts as a threshold relaying every location (to borrow a phrase from Freud) to a ‘different locality.’ ‘Province’ thus no longer refers to particular localities but has become a verb: as nomadic ‘capsules’ of provinciality, Jia’s characters act on whatever place they happen to inhabit, and turn it into a deterritorialized space. Second, the discovery of the provinces reverses the conventional framing of historical narratives. It is important to distinguish between two kinds of outsides, the absolute and the relative. By relative outside, I mean ‘the world beyond the provinces’ in the colloquial sense. In The World, this is represented by the monuments of the World Park, which, for provincial visitors, evoke desired global destinations that are unreachable without proxies. In this arriving-but-not-arriving scenario lies the other, absolute, outside – the non-relation between the globalizing provincial and the provincialized global. As I shall elaborate below, this nonrelation marks the place where history as the real cause enters the scene. Whereas conventional narratives treat history as the contexts in which the provincial

156 Yün Peng experience may be framed, the opposite happens in Jia’s films: not only is history given the place as an absolute outside, but it is simultaneously drawn into the interior of provincial scenes as something fundamentally elliptical – the missing cause. Third, provincials are key to Jia’s strategy of de-centering the ‘national’. This is brought home by the very first scene of Zhantai/Platform (Jia Zhangke 2000). It opens with a shot of the stage where a Mao-style performance is anticipated. But instead of showing the performance next, the camera pans away to a group of villagers chatting on the side. When it finally begins, the performance is already reframed by the mundane context of which it now becomes a part. This, in a nutshell, illustrates Jia’s strategy of historical critique: his emphasis is not so much exposing the show as propaganda as restoring the forgotten relationship between the ‘show’ – ideological discourses – and its prosaic ‘offstage’ context. Such reframing announces Platform’s departure from other narratives of the 1980s that center on intellectual debates. On the one hand, the stress on intra-cultural fracture between the ‘show’ and ‘chatter’ is a clear rejection of any discourse hinging on national or cultural identity; on the other hand, the phantom national lends scenes like this a historical specificity that saves them from being reduced to consumable bits of postmodern irony (more on that later). The provincial is thus already transnational, because it reopens the ‘national’ to the question of the ‘world’, and because, from the provincial point of view, not only is the nation not ‘one’, but the ‘world’ is also different from the global system. Thus, by looking to the side, at those who are present at the event but whose voices are reduced to chatter, the film suggests that noise and gossip may constitute a more ‘sensitive’ registration of an event’s impact than intellectual discourses, even though, and precisely because, they are unconscious and inarticulate. As Proust famously claims, ‘one learns of a victory either after the event, when the war is over, or at once, from the hilarious joy of one’s hall porter’.6 Jia’s sensitivity to atmospheric shifts – evidenced in the recurrent references to weather – may have reflected a similar take on history. It is hard to imagine a more powerful expression of the decade’s lost dream than the scene of the characters’ running and screaming after a passing train in Platform. Such a scene is imaginable only in the provinces, with a cast of runaways who play truant while others sit discoursing about history.

Siren song for the truant Platform is the second feature film by Jia Zhangke. It is set in Fenyang, the director’s hometown in Shanxi Province, and follows the lives of several young people during a ten-year period between 1979–90.7 The characters are members of the county Cultural Work Troop – a propaganda unit charged with the mission of bringing performances to factories and villages – which, by the mid-80s, is transformed into a privately owned itinerant song-and-dance company. Platform is a story of longing told through the intertwining themes of romantic love and wanderlust. The four main characters are two pairs of lovers. The relationship between

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 157 Zhong Ping and Zhang Jun falls apart after an abortion, followed by police harassment (in the 1980s, sex without a marriage license was a crime). Cui Mingliang and Yin Ruijuan are eventually married after a tortuous courtship; but if the film’s last scene is any indication, their domestic ‘arrival’ is better understood as the betrayal of the longing. The film’s greater romance is with faraway places. The characters are what I call ‘truants’, subjects who are not so much defined by their marginalized status as by their active search for an outside. Truants are runaways who have made something out of their not-being-in-school. The 1980s saw the emergence of populations that were no longer contained within the bounds of established institutions such as schools and work units. The group most affected by the change were the youths, a large number of whom became the so-called shehui qingnian, ‘society youths’, a dubious figure somewhere between an outcast and a liumang, ‘hooligan’. Liumang is a distinct social type native to the milieu of 1980s China. It embodies the anxiety over the collapsed order, while simultaneously signals the arrival of a new subject who inhabits the new social landscape.8 On television, which, in mid-80s, was entering Chinese homes for the first time, Hong Kong and American shows featuring gangsters and outlaws enjoyed immense popularity. Liumangs also populated the novels of Wang Shuo, whose phenomenal success forced the cultural establishment to countenance the arrival of the new anti-hero. While the characters in Platform are not exactly liumangs, the film’s numerous intertextual references to outlaw figures underscore a clear affinity in spirit.9 Elsewhere I have detailed the career of liumang figures in Jia’s films, and suggested that these references be understood in light of the characters’ persistent search for an alternative social space outside the grid of the state. This outside, it must be emphasized, is not the capital, nor the global metropolis. Indeed, one of the most provocative questions posed by the film concerns what precisely is the relationship between the ‘world’ as an ontological opening and the ‘globe’ as a capitalist system. In Platform, two basic types of sound correspond to two principles of spacetime: the all-encompassing space-time suggested by the ever-present loudspeaker and the space-time associated with fragmented sounds ‘pilfered’ (touting) from elsewhere. The first stands for ideological control, the second concerns desire. Beyond these, there is noise, which signals the opening of space-time. The film begins with a screech and ends with a whistle. The relationship among the three is key to the film’s conception of history. All three come from the outside. The loudspeaker enforces the history of public events; from the provincial characters’ point of view, this history is experienced as an imposition from outside, arbitrary yet inescapable. In contrast, a ‘pilfered’ sound – typically a fragment of a popular song – stands for the characters’ longing for the ‘elsewhere’ encapsulated in the fragment. Finally, the outside signaled by noise (e.g. variations of a train whistle) is no longer a concrete place (as it is with the pilfered sound) but has become the pulsational opening of the ‘here’ to a ‘different locality’, the intermittent intertwining of the farthest and the nearest. Consider the scene in which the three friends listen to ‘enemy radio’ in Zhang Jun’s house. Before the dial on the radio finds Teresa Teng’s song ‘Wine Plus

158 Yün Peng Coffee’, it passes a static zone, from which emerges the tremulous voice of a weather forecaster: ‘near Ulaanbaatar’.10 The song continues while Cui lights a cigarette, and Eryong starts whistling. A conversation on geography ensues: Where is Ulaanbaatar? Capital of Outer Mongolia. Where is Outer Mongolia? Go north, pass Inner Mongolia. Go still north? USSR. Still north? The sea. Still north from the sea? Cui replies: Here! Fenyang, 18 Wujia Lane, Zhang Jun’s home! The moment the radio tunes into the other side, the cluttered room is instantaneously altered: it is still ‘here’, but the ‘here’ is now also far away, ‘overseas’. Jia explains that popular songs are important for this decade not only because they are ‘impregnated with’ people’s dreams and longings, but more importantly because they ‘crystallize their time’: Each song is a particular age, a particular phase of life. Through the songs I can even think of skin, my own skin, a smile on a friend’s face, or a certain expression seen in a flash on a certain day.11 What happens in the rather extraordinary leap from song to skin, I suggest, is the sudden (re)surfacing of a certain skin from beneath the skin of the present. What the song does is to make one suddenly aware, in the way Jacques Lacan defines awareness, which is ‘like daylight that startles one on awakening in a strange bed’.12 For Lacan, the ‘startling daylight’ is the gaze, the evanescent infusing of light into darkness: it is not a constant light, but a vanishing light characterized by a transient temporality. Upon awakening in a strange bed, the question that arises concerns not just ‘who I am’ but more importantly ‘who I am in relation to the world’. In the film, the song-fragment takes the place of the gaze as objet a, in relation to which the subject ‘I’ rises to the surface, exposed to the world: the pressure of something pushing out from inside, the awareness of being seen and the desire to be seen. No wonder that questions concerning ‘geography’ appear at this precise juncture. Through the song-fragment, the characters are awakened to the question of the world. While geography may seem a non sequitur to a love song, the juxtaposition of personal memory and public history exemplified in this conjunction is an essential feature of the film’s overall strategy. The sound texture of the scene suggests spatial layers. ‘Ulaanbaatar’ lies on the edge of noise, conjuring up the dark space through which the radio wave travels. The song’s soft melodic quality suggests intimacy; yet its exotic title and the fact that it is ‘pilfered’ from the enemy side (Taiwan) makes it strange. The whistle, again, borders on noise, and evokes the train and the beckoning of the outside. Cigarette smoke rises like the longing that fills the atmosphere. But like the Inner and Outer Mongolias, there are two regions of the outside: one has a particular content and belongs to a particular place; the other has no particular content and belongs to no particular space. In the latter’s case, it is rather the noise that creates the space, making it available for desire. Enveloped between radio static ‘near Ulaanbaatar’ and the answering whistle, ‘Wine Plus Coffee’ arrives as a siren song. Later, when it is heard again in the salon run by a family from the South, it becomes familiar, with none of the

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 159 original aura. To use the film’s geopolitical metaphor, with the shift in geographic context (from North to South), ‘Wine Plus Coffee’ has completed the metamorphosis from an ‘Outer Mongolia’ song to an ‘Inner Mongolia’ song. The longing associated with the latter is more personal and more realizable; but like the desire to possess a pair of blue jeans, such ‘Inner Mongolia’ dreams of the outside are prone to being looped back inside and made familiar. ‘Ulaanbaatar’, on the hand, is more resistant, because it signals the opening of space rather than a particular destination. ‘Ulaanbaatar’ stands for the continued braiding of public chronology (‘a certain day’) and private memory (‘a certain expression’), through which the day is wrested away from the linear order of time, while the expression becomes faceless. The result is the crystallized expression-day. Popular songs are often said to be time capsules. On one level, this is indeed the way songs work in Platform. ‘Wine Plus Coffee’ opens a trap door to our own memories of the era. But because of the film’s built-in memory, when we hear it for a second time, we also recall, superimposed on our own memories, the scene in the little room where the song rises from the foam of noise for the first time. If we wish to ensconce ourselves in nostalgic enclosure, we will have to turn a deaf ear to the echoes of the original song, which coincides with the moment when the home is radically exteriorized and exposed to the vast open space of the North. This other song, as it marks a specific moment in the public chronology, is not so much an expression of interiority as an affective signpost in the exteriority of collective history. ‘A certain expression’ is coupled with ‘a certain day’ precisely because the one has nothing to do with the other. The skin now comes between items in the series (my skin/the smile on my friend’s face/a certain expression/a certain day) and becomes the connective tissue, the procurement of the relationship – or rather, non-relationship – between them. In the film, the intrusion of the outside is frequently signaled by the sound of loudspeaker and news broadcast, which, in provincial towns, are often centrally controlled and cannot be switched on or off by oneself. These sounds occasionally serve as chronological markers; more often, however, the temporal coincidence should not be taken literally. For instance, in the abortion scene, when Zhong Ping slaps her boyfriend Zhang Jun and disappears into the operating room, we hear the sound of troops being reviewed by Deng Xiaoping in the 1984 Tiananmen parade. Instead of a literal off-screen space (i.e. an off-screen TV), the juxtaposition here suggests another kind of exteriority, namely, the outside where causality lies. To put it differently, if we feel compelled to question the relationship between the two events, it is because the scene poses the historicity of history as a question. The real of history intrudes at the exact point where the provincial abortion diverges from the parade in Tiananmen Square. In calling attention to the absence of causality – an empty link nonetheless preserved as a relationship – the film posits causality as something profoundly missing from the scene. The absence explains the sense we have that the characters are caught in a field of intangible forces originating from the outside. Why do Cui and Yin break up and then get married? Had Zhang Jun been a more intrepid soul, Zhong Ping might not have to suffer the pain of the abortion. But such variations are irrelevant to the historical

160 Yün Peng reality of the scene. Zhong Ping’s pain is treated as an historical fact, not because it is universal or inevitable, but because the particular way it is experienced bears the marks of the particular era. We may or may not be able to trace these marks to particular causes, but such gaps in causality are themselves the effect of history and the way its real forces affect lives in the provinces. At its most remote, the outside is drawn into the interior of the image. The moment the TV is heard, the scene bristles with a sudden awareness of being looked at. Everything about the sound suggests clarity and visibility, whereas the image is obscure and already receding. It is as if we see the scene twice. The second time we no longer look for dramatic conflicts; instead, what suddenly surfaces, given to be seen, is the scene itself as something irreducibly distant. The remoteness released through the mutual framing of sound and image may be compared to what Maurice Blanchot calls the ‘absolute distance’, which ‘enters into the very sphere of the work in the guise of an irreducible strangeness’. It is ‘absolute’ because it disorganizes our very sense of distance; the outermost limit – farther than any measurable distance – is drawn into the innermost interior as a limit or threshold.13 The cinematic equivalent of this is what Gilles Deleuze calls an irrational cut, a key example of which is the ‘interstice’ between sound framing and image framing.14 Understood as irrational cut, ‘in the meantime’ must be interpreted as having disjunctive and not conjunctive value.15 This is what the skin does when it comes between ‘a certain expression’ and ‘a certain day’: it is the ‘interval’ or ‘interstice’ that is ‘set free’, and ‘becomes irreducible and stands on its own’.16 Platform thus reverses the conventional framing of historical narratives: instead of situating the provinces in a larger context of the outside world, it draws the outside in and relocates it as a limit interior to the provincial scene. The problem with ‘context’ is that it has not gone far enough. The exteriority it posits is still measured by the provinces’ distance to an imaginary ‘capital’ or metropolis, as if it is something one can hope to master (i.e. the relative outside). But to think from the provinces means to realize that we are all, when it comes to our relationship to history, inescapably in the provinces – the exteriority of causality is what marks our experience historical. With the reversal, the film turns its own surface into the surfacing of the relationship between the provinces and an outside where historical causality lies. ∗

Allusions to the 1989 Tiananmen movement, or June Fourth, as it is called in China, can be found throughout the second half of Platform.17 But it is in a most elliptical moment that it comes closest to a direct reference. The sequence, which takes place between Jiaxian and Inner Mongolia, begins with a panoramic shot of a desert-like landscape under a sunless sky.18 A truck appears as a blue speck on the horizon, raising dust as it inches forward. As it comes closer, the noise of radio static is replaced by stuttering announcement: ‘near Ulaanbaatar . . . high pressure zone . . . Forecast for cities: Taiyuan. . .’. The truck moves on. Then, inexplicably,

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 161 it stops. After a silent pause, it moves forward some more, then makes a U-turn and drives away. Only when the truck is receding towards the horizon do we see the characters emerge from the back of the truck, to look in the opposite direction. A woman’s voice is heard on a loudspeaker announcing an arrest order: ‘Inner Mongolia police. . .’.19 This is June Fourth. Not that this is, literally, the same day on the calendar. But neither is the scene merely a metaphor. The realization comes only after we have heard the loudspeaker; the ‘forecast’ becomes a description of a different kind of weather in retrospect. Before this moment of realization, only a sense of foreboding permeates. Once again, the weather forecast signals an outside that cannot be imagined otherwise. Now, in the amorphous landscape, the blue truck replaces the radio dial. As the sound becomes louder and clearer, the coming-forward of the truck creates an intensification, as if the emptiness itself is surging up. But as soon as the loudspeaker intervenes, the weather forecast gains a new dimension. The timing of these two sound events turns the latter into a temporal marker. Whether this is the weather forecast for June Fourth 1989 is irrelevant, because it functions as though it were. What is retroactively produced is the simultaneity of the present time – the time in which we listen to the forecast – and a more condensed period of time – the moment right before the aftermath. The event, which is unrepresented and unrepresentable, passes between the two superimposed moments, between the before and the after. The film gives us the day directly, as a fragment, in the weather forecast. Like the date, the weather forecast’s relationship to the event is arbitrary, yet this very arbitrariness is made necessary by history. ‘June Fourth’ is an empty link onto which are displaced all the things that cannot be said; yet the emptiness marks the place where memory is the memory that something has been forgotten.

‘Genghis Khan’ The U-turn describes the decade’s trajectory as it is traced in the film: it first ventures out, then turns back. But the turning point is not 1989. By the time we reach the second episode of outing, all signs are there that the reversal has already taken place. If the characters’ running after the train sums up the first outing, the second symbolically rides the tide of capitalism and moves from the coast to the inland. Between the chase and the arrival, something has disappeared. What has literally disappeared, of course, is Zhong Ping. The film devotes two long sequences to the aftermath of the elliptical event. It is here that it most directly engages the contemporary intellectual discourses. The key references are Heshang/River Elegy (1988) and Genghis Khan. Heshang appears in the scene at Zhong Ping’s home after she has disappeared, where Cui and Zhang are paying her father a visit. The older man is seen sitting under the ghostly light of a florescent tube, weary and forlorn. When asked where his daughter has gone, he rocks back and forth and insists that he doesn’t care. A nondiegetic voice is heard in the background, sometimes over the silence, discoursing about civilizations. This voice belongs to Heshang, a controversial

162 Yün Peng six-part TV ‘essay’ aired in June 1988 on CCTV.20 Heshang pits two civilization against each other: the ‘yellow’ civilization is agrarian-feudal, conservative, closed, earth-bound; the ‘blue’ civilization is industrial-capitalist, aggressive, open, seafaring and planetary. The former is stagnant and volatile, the latter progressive. It is the historical destiny of the Yellow River to leave the yellow hinterland to embrace the planetary blue of the open sea. In Platform, Heshang appears as a synecdochical stand-in for the intellectual debates that were raging in the 1980s. While the show’s impact justifies the choice, there is a further intersection that connects the two texts, namely, Mongolia. Nomads occupy an anomalous place in Heshang. The Mongols posses qualities such as outgoingness and aggression that should have made them a double of the West; instead, Heshang compares the threat they pose to that of the ‘yellow’ peasants. They are like a ‘flood’ cascading from the steppes, whereas the West, also a water threat, is likened to a ‘tidal wave’. This allows Heshang to conflate the Great Wall with the flood wall that keeps the Yellow River in its channel. Here, then, is a different explanation as to why a centralized power structure has developed and persisted in China: it is a response to the nomadic threat. Heshang launches a scathing attack on the Great Wall: if it could speak, it would call itself a ‘gigantic monument’ of isolation, conservatism, impotence, and cowardliness, and that its ‘massiveness and endurance. . . branded self-glorification, arrogance, self-deception onto our national psyche’.21 This moment, while highly ambivalent, has an unmistakably critical potential, which was picked up on by contemporary viewers who interpreted it as an allegorical critique of the state. For ears thus attuned, even the bold call for the market has a different resonance: since economic reform is already on the table, maybe political reform could ride on the same ‘tidal wave’.22 While today it seems difficult not to see Heshang as a program with a nationalistic, market-oriented agenda, an attentive reading reveals a turn midcourse: the glimmer of its anti-statist moment slips away when it confounds one wall with the other, and freedom with free trade. One telltale sign of this is when, having made the point that Chinese history is profoundly shaped by the nomads, it immediately dismisses the latter as ephemeral: unlike ‘the tidal wave’ from the sea, which can no longer be ‘assimilated’, nomads ‘flood’ the plains only temporarily, before it ‘retreats without a trace’.23 Oddly, the nomads now occupy the same position as their agrarian antithesis, the peasants. But ‘impotence’ monumentalized is in reality ‘our’ impotence vis-à-vis the state. Through their metonymic relation to the Wall, the nomads mark the place of ‘our’ missed confrontation with the state. Is this why they are dismissed so quickly, ‘assimilated’ without a trace? But the vehemence against the Wall betrays this claim: what is the gigantic defensive monument if not precisely that trace? The moment it un-couples the steppes and the sea, Heshang goes South, literally, and turns its back on its own allegorical insight. Is this why the characters in the film keep asking what lies further North? In Platform’s geopolitical imagination, South and North come together when Hong Kong meets Ulaanbaatar in George Lam’s ‘Genghis Khan’. The space associated with this song happens to be Zhong Ping’s home. When the song is

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 163 first introduced, the characters are seen dancing to it in the very room where, later, we find Zhong’s dejected father. After Zhong’s disappearance, Cui and Zhang stand outside her house, both drunk, howling the same song. But careful listening reveals that the song in the second scene is no longer George Lam’s Cantonese version, but the Mandarin version made popular by the mainland singer Zhang Die.24 Between the two versions, the empire has assimilated its most powerful challenger, as unbridled sexual energy is channeled into proper marriage.25 Such a reversal is by now no longer unfamiliar. It is the same trajectory that the film has been charting, a trajectory that, moreover, parallels the midcourse turn we find in Heshang. The Mandarin ‘Genghis Khan’ is ambiguous: playing it one way, it is a brand new song with no memory of the past that it has replaced in a sleight of hand; playing it another way, it becomes a corrupted version of its ‘Outer Mongolia’ double, whose faded echo one strains to hear through the clamor of the new. The film clearly plays it the second way, by letting the song appear, as a repetition, in a scene whose main theme is loss. Its replacement of the Cantonese version doubles the disappearance, as it demonstrates that even while we grieve the loss of the past, our memory of it is already slightly altered – such is, as Jia puts it, the eroding power of time. Perhaps this is why, while howling the new song, Zhang Jun is piling bricks to block a door: for the song is itself a blockage that needs to be made porous before we can re-access its original inspiration. Similarly, in Zhang’s nostalgic repeating – with a difference – of the song associated with the first flush of love, we find both a desire to remember and the beginning of forgetting. Such lapses and relapses, the film seems to suggest, are inevitable. We would be kidding ourselves to think that we have reached the destination of our dream; but how can we help it, since it is called by the same name, ‘Genghis Khan’? The film ends with a scene showing Cui slumped on a sofa in the very apartment from which he used to be barred by Yin’s father, but which has now become his own home. He has arrived; but there is nothing like fulfillment that kills a dream. Another connection between Hong Kong and Ulaanbaatar: they are both places of loss. The ‘weather in Ulaanbaatar’ appears again as one of the most beautiful moments in The World. Anna, who is Russian, and Tao both work at the World Park. They are having a drink together, even though neither speaks the other’s language. Anna overhears the weather forecast on TV and understands the word Ulaanbaatar. She tells Tao that her sister got married in Ulaanbaatar and has not been heard from since. Tao understands none of it, but she finds a way to respond. Anna then teaches Tao a song about Ulaanbaatar. Once again, Ulaanbaatar is associated with disappearance. And is it coincidental that it is two collapsed socialist systems that are sitting at this table? This is not the world that Jia Zhangke’s characters have dreamed of – or is it? What makes the view from the provinces so relevant is that it reveals with poignant clarity the radical heterogeneity, but also the inevitable connectedness of the ‘world’ as an ontological precondition and the ‘globe’ as an actual system. Ulaanbaatar stands for a missed encounter: it is because something has vanished under this name that the World is closing in on us.

164 Yün Peng Such post-relapse moments leave us latecomers with nothing but cover-ups; but as cover-ups – here we see the originality of the film’s historical vision – they are more reliable than, say, nostalgia, because they cannot help but retain traces of the encounters that have been missed. When framed as part of a repetition series, the second ‘Genghis Khan’ ‘remembers’ the first, on the other side of the U-turn, even as it simultaneously disarticulates and disfigures the very memory that it evokes. It is perhaps no coincidence that almost every time the song is heard someone is building a wall.26 When Cui finally falls asleep, through the open door the camera catches a glimpse of the wall in the distance, where he used to linger and look in the direction of his beloved’s home. The truant has come home, but the wall retains the memory of his wandering truancy – just as the Great Wall, while monumentalizing the empire, also stands witness to the power of its nemesis, the nomadic war machine. Thus in the film’s treatment, the wall becomes a muted image of truancy, muted because it marks both the site of the memory and its erasure. If the wall remembers, this memory is also by necessity invisible, but only in such a way that it haunts the visible image. In such convolutions lies the key to understanding the film’s approach to memory, which takes into account the fundamental contradiction between the desire to restore historical memory and the realization that the history in question is precisely the history of its disfigurement. For to pretend that one can re-present the original vision is to pretend that the U-turn has never really happened, and that history and image are exterior to each other. But with such elements as the wall that stands for both truancy and blockage, and the song that contains the history of its own revision, Platform is composed of images that have taken the contradiction into their very core: thus, in each single image, is superimposed the ‘before’ and the ‘after’, with the line of history passing between.27 These are images that have been affected by history – hence their ability to serve memory. In what follows, I shall turn to yet another type of memory figure that function in this vein, namely, characters who hover on the margin of both the social and the visual fields. Through these background characters, I argue, the film not only brings to light social contradictions that they embody, but also raises questions about the paradoxical condition of making something visible.

The rim Platform offers itself as the space for melancholic remembering. In ‘Recollection, Repetition, and Working Through’, Freud argues that the past cannot be recollected but only repeated as the present. What is repeated in the analytic situation is precisely what has vanished, but vanished in the active sense that it has permeated the present: the past has become the virtual that subtends the actual of the present. Remembering as repetition does not happen in memory, but is entirely manifested as behaviors and actions in the present. The exteriority of repetition makes Freud’s theory particularly relevant to a film that relies on reconstructed gestures, physical settings, and predominantly static long takes (Jia claims that he prefers the long take because ‘it preserves real time’). The present, permeated by

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 165 the vanishing of the scene as a scene of the past, gives the impression that things are often seen from behind. In one literal instance, the tenor performing a propaganda number on the stage has his back to the camera, so that we are forced to focus on his body in its physical exertion. We may take this as a metaphor for the way the film portrays the decade: in presenting the figure on the center stage from behind, it simultaneously bypasses the face in the mirror – the face that the decade sees itself in its narcissistic imagination – and reveals, for the first time, the other face, which is simultaneously the back (as in a René Magritte paining). But revealing the behind is not just a matter of exposing the falseness of the ideological ‘front’, especially not an occasion for bolstering our own superiority vis-à-vis the past. In the same essay, Freud makes the more important point that forgetting is a matter of ‘dissociation’; it ‘consists mostly of a falling away of the links between various ideas, a failure to draw conclusions, an isolation of certain memories’. What has been ‘forgotten’ is something that has been there all along and yet has never been noticed.28 ‘Remembering’, then, has less to do with recovering a specific content than with restoring the severed relationship between the content and its surrounding elements. What Platform remembers, or un-forgets – what has been there all along but has never been noticed – is the relationship between the center and the periphery, the show and chatter, the foreground and the background, the visible and the invisible. Furthermore, the film grounds this relationship in the simultaneous coming into view and disappearance of characters who are on the fringe of the visual field. We have already seen how the film remembers significant historical moments by framing them in the mundane context in which they are experienced, thus (re)establishing the always already there but never recognized link between the capital and the provinces, between ‘eventful’ events and everyday reality. Faced with such questionable juxtapositions, critics often respond by calling them ironic. But Platform’s sense of irony, if that is indeed what it is, is certainly not the simple kind that lends the viewer the moral and epistemological higher ground. This, I suggest, distinguishes it from what critic Zhu Dake calls the liumang (hooligan) discourse – notwithstanding the truant’s kinship to liumang. The latter is a type of discourse that takes an ironic stance against the state discourse and aims at subverting it through ‘cultural coups’.29 What it lacks in real power, the hooligan discourse makes up for with dazzling displays of discursive virtuosity. Wang Shuo’s immensely popular pizi (Beijing hooligan) novels brilliantly demonstrate what mischief a hooligan can do when he wields irony and cynicism, as an errant knight his sword.30 But, as Zhu points out, the hooligan strategy vis-à-vis the state is ultimately ambiguous. Not only do hooligans often harbor secret yearnings for power, using their ironic stance as a compensatory strategy for social powerlessness, but the state also frequently operates with a hooligan logic.31 The dialectical reversibility suggests that the hooligan opposition to the state has never really left Inner Mongolia behind. In Outer Mongolian the outlook is different. Maybe because we are in the provinces, Platform’s sense of irony, though greater, no longer feels punchy. For example, one potent hooligan strategy is to profane the state discourse with the

166 Yün Peng language of pornography and obscenity.32 Elsewhere I offer a fuller account of the film’s persistent superimposition of political and pornographic discourses. In one scene, the characters are in a ‘porn’ video parlor, paying to watch a sex education video. A woman’s voice is heard on the diegetic soundtrack talking about sexual positions; the tone and language she uses, however, make it sound as though it were a coded discourse on politics. For instance, zhudao quan, or ‘the power/right to lead’, is as good a reference to what the Party is entitled to as it is to what a man naturally enjoys. Wang Shuo’s characters would have had a field day with this, but the film handles the scene without any sense of glee. No-one in that room seems to be aware of the absurdity of the situation; all look completely absorbed in what they are watching. This unknowing absorption strikes me as a truer image of history as it actually happens. For to call the juxtaposition of sex and politics ironic is to assume that we have a grasp over the relationship between the two, whereas the real of history is precisely what eludes us, what ‘hurts’.33 In an earlier scene, Yin is on the stage rehearsing a poem that sounds like a double-entendre. It opens with this line: ‘Fengliu O fengliu, what is fengliu?’ Indeed, what is fengliu? Made of two characters that mean, respectively, ‘wind’ and ‘flow’, the word can be translated as either ‘glorious deeds or virtues that are the stuff of legend (propagated as if by the wind)’, or ‘behaviors or attitudes that are frivolous and unfettered by law and ritual’.34 In colloquial usage, to describe someone as fengliu usually means that he or she is sexually promiscuous. Thus, the opening line wavers between asking ‘what constitutes the socialist sublime?’ and ‘what is a womanizer?’ Given the numerous instances where the film reveals the obscene side of authority figures (e.g. the fake station master), ‘what is fengliu?’ is no idle question. The point, however, goes beyond using the womanizing father to undercut the socialist-hero father, even though such is indeed the career of Cui Mingliang’s father.35 The film’s double-talk rather undoes the dissociation between this fengliu and that fengliu, or, in other words, remembers the repressed relationship between the serious discourse of politics and the frivolous discourse of pornography. If this is ironic, it is not localized irony, but the kind Paul de Man speaks of in ‘The Concept of Irony’, namely, irony that happens all at once, everywhere. In Schlegel’s Lucinde, for example, irony pertains precisely to the inability to distinguish the philosophical discourse from its ‘pornographic’ double; as the result of this unreadability, ‘the philosophical argument at all times is brutally interrupted’ as the ‘inner mood [is] completely disrupted by the exterior form’.36 This is critical, because the father who, with his voice and devices (e.g the loudspeaker), polices the boundary between proper, stage-worthy speech and mere chatter, is the figure of compulsory readability. His authority lies precisely in setting the tone, which, as we know from as far back as the Book of Odes, is an act of interpretation: the tone with which the poem on fengliu ought to be recited is already an interpretation that is meant to suppress other fengliu ramifications. When we recognize the irony in the contrast between the authoritarian and the adulterous father, our recognition is implicitly grounded in the authority of the proper father who can tell the difference. But this ground is destabilized when the two fathers turn out to be one and the same – the fengliu father. We may find a

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 167 way out of this dizzying situation by letting the father be the one who has changed; we may also attribute the characters’ straight-faced reaction to their being trapped in a historical past vis-à-vis which we have the advantage of hindsight. But then we are automatically doing what the father asks us to do, which is to separate the one from the other by projecting the (unstable) distinction onto history itself. But the film, I argue, resists this conceit of the present. In insisting on the relationship between the front and the back, between fengliu and fengliu, it invites us to entertain the possibility that the characters’ apparent lack of reaction is a sign that they are immersed in the fullness of an irony that has become ‘secret’ – expressionless and unreadable.37 The film, moreover, grounds this unreadability in what maybe called figures on the fringe, by which I mean a series of characters who come to the fore from the background. The father’s mistress is the subject of gossip in the very first scene, even though a detail like this would almost certainly go unnoticed. Song is the most dramatic example. Everyone is shocked when he offers to ‘contract’ the newly privatized Troop. What we fail to ‘remember’ is that he has been there all along: when Yin is on the stage reciting the poem, Song is glimpsed through a window, working backstage. Such minor characters serve a framing function much like the way the rim of the television set frames the luminous vision of love in the sex video scene. Whereas the performance on the stage is subject to reversals (the faithful Party member becomes an unfaithful husband, the sublime simultaneously insinuates sex, etc.), the fringe figures are not, because they are, in themselves, the relationship between the two terms involved. As it already contains the relationship between the image and its own off-screen space, its own outside, such a figure can neither be repudiated nor transcended. Instead, it brings into the very interior of the image a different temporality: as its movement from invisibility to visibility coincides with remembering, the figure undoes the dissociation between the centre and the margin, the show and chatter, and between the two fighting meanings of fengliu, by re-posing the link in its own, already vanishing, aspect. Song’s rise to the foreground is not a simple overturning or reversal; rather, it is the dramatization of this process of coming into view. In the fringe figure, we find Platform’s critique of the ideological coming onto stage of the ‘good people’, or commoners, marked by the reference to the popular TV show Kewang/Yearning (1990).38 As evidenced by such influential works as the painting Fuqin/Father (Luo Zhongli 1980) and the film Huang tudi/Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige 1984), the reconfiguration of the ‘people’ is a central, unfinished project of the 1980s. The staging of the ‘commoners’ in the immediate aftermath of 1989 marks another arrival that is simultaneously a betrayal. Platform’s take on the ‘good people’ is seen most clearly in the figure of the miner. Sanming, Cui’s rural cousin, has a clear kinship to the peasant figures in Yellow Earth.39 But significantly, even though fringe figures arise from the region of chatter, they are not native to it the way the peasants are native to the landscape in Yellow Earth. Instead of being part of the chorus, they are alone and have nothing to say. In fact, they are spat out from the region of chatter, utterly without a place. In this, the fringe figure finds a double in the man digging a ditch in the dark street.40 The anonymous figure disarticulates

168 Yün Peng the miner, or rather, brings out the disarticulating effect of a figure like the miner. He has become strange: a stranger, yet right in the midst of the everyday. While engaged in mundane work, he also seems an agent of unknown forces. In Platform, in other words, it is no longer a question of discovering the people; instead, the everyday public world is given as one that cannot be shown in its totality, but must be re-membered– in the sense of being re-peopled, one by one – in a vanishing vision. Perhaps it is as this vanishing vision that we must grasp the relationship between thought and the space I call the provinces. Near the end of the film Cui asks Yin, ‘What are they digging?’ Yin replies: ‘This is Fenyang: dig and cover, cover and dig’. Dig and cover, cover and dig: isn’t this what mining, remembering and cinema all have in common?

Notes 1 Jin Liu (2006: 166). 2 In the film Zuotian/Quitting (Zhang Yang 2001), for example, the generational conflict between Jia Hongsheng and his parents pivots on his contempt for their ‘peasant’ habits. This is all the more striking because they are actually not peasants. They are provincials, and provincial angst is at the heart of the son’s own struggle as a Chinese artist vis-à-vis the West. Jia’s ‘psychotic’ insistence on being John Lennon’s son is radical repudiation of his own provincial origin. His drug addiction may similarly be interpreted as a craving for an authentic experience guaranteed by the substantive sameness of heroine. While these measures seem extreme, the angsts that they are meant to alleviate are representative of the cultural ethos. Heshang/River Elegy (1988), for example, expresses a similar desire to rid one’s own blood of the ‘yellow’ of the Yellow River when it proposes to embrace the oceanic blue of the capitalist West. 3 Fredric Jameson (1982: 36). 4 Ibid., p. 35. 5 Gilles Deleuze (1997: 68). 6 Marcel Proust (1988: 28–9). 7 A province known for coal production, Shanxi is tucked between the agrarian yellow earth of Shaanxi to the west and the nomadic steppes of Inner Mongolia to its northwest. Elements of local significance, such as Mongolia and coal, are recurrent themes in Jia’s films. 8 Newspapers of this period featured cartoon images of liumangs sporting bell-bottom jeans, sun-glasses and Elvis-style hairdos, carrying the indispensable accessory of a boom box with pop songs blasting at top volume. The term liumang first appeared in late nineteenth-century Shanghai, where it was used to describe ‘the rootless rowdies and petty criminals who plagued the growing port city’. See Geremie Barmé (1992: 29). By the 1980s, the word had expanded its semantic range, covering a broad spectrum of offenses, ranging from rape to premarital sex to behaviors or attitudes deemed threatening to the social order. 9 These include the ‘killer with a dream’ in Diexue shuangxiong/The Killer (John Woo 1989; starring Chow Yun-fat), the vagabond in Awara/The Vagabond (Raj Kapoor 1951), and the petty criminals in the American TV series Garrison’s Gorillas (ABC, 1967–8). There are also passing references to the legendary rebels of Water Margin, and their revolutionary reincarnations in Railroad Guerillas. The title of the film derives from a song made popular by Zhang Xing, one of China’s first pop stars, whose career ended when he was convicted of liumangzui, or sexual offense, which included consensual sex without a marriage license.

Truancy, or thought from the provinces 169 10 Teresa Teng (Deng Lijun) was a Taiwanese singer popular throughout East Asia. In the early 1980s her songs were targeted in several campaigns against ‘spiritual pollutions’. 11 Jia Zhangke, Interview, Paris, January 20, 2003. 12 Ellie Ragland (1995: 190). 13 Maurice Blanchot (1999: 459–64). 14 Deleuze, op. cit., pp. 277–8. In classical cinema, images are ‘linked by rational cuts, and formed under this condition an extendable world: between two images or two sequences of images, the limit as interval is included as the end of the one or as the beginning of the other’. In contrast, an irrational cut ‘no longer forms part of the one or the other image, of one or the other sequence that it separates and divides’. 15 Ibid., p. 248. 16 Ibid, pp. 277–8. What is released in the interval is thought: as ‘power which has not always existed’ and ‘does not yet exist’, thought is born when ‘an outside more distant than any external world. . . confronts an inside, an unthinkable or unthought, deeper than any internal world’. 17 In the scene in the video parlor, the white bandage on Cui’s forehead unmistakably recalls the Tiananmen hunger strikers. The impression is reinforced by the characters’ postures, as well as the group portrait-like framing. The encounter with the fake stationmaster takes place in Jiaxian, a place symbolically connected to both the Yellow River and the legendary birth of the song “The East Is Red.” Chairman Mao’s image, now a talisman, adorns the rearview mirror of the long-distance bus going from Wubao to Jiaxian. Then there is the explicit reference to the arrests right after June Fourth, followed by more elliptical references such as the red light, the screams, and the popping disco beats in the orgiastic dance sequence, and the sound of bottles being smashed – morphed from the disco beats – that accompanies the final journey home. 18 See note 17. 19 The weather ‘near Ulaanbaatar’ recalls its first appearance in the ‘enemy radio’ scene. The pause of the truck reminds us of an earlier episode when a similar truck gets stuck in a similarly barren landscape – right before the characters discover the train. The memory of these first encounters is what now burdens the truck when it makes the U-turn. 20 Heshang was a major television event. It is created by a group of young scholars and journalists, many of whom were among the first group of intellectuals to initiate a series of political petitions before and during the June Fourth Movement. For details about the show’s production see Shu-Yun Ma (1996: 45). 21 Part 2, ‘Destiny’, Heshang. 22 It should be said that Chinese intellectuals are not alone in having indulged in such wishful thinking. 23 Part 2, ‘Destiny’, Heshang. 24 Zhang Die’s version appeared in a hit album entitled ‘Ice and Fire’, of which ‘Genghis Khan’ is the most popular track. 25 To add to the twists, even though Lam’s 1979 Cantonese version is widely considered by Chinese fans as the original, it is actually adapted from an original song of the same name (‘Dschinghis Khan’) by the German band Dschinghis Khan, created for the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest. The music is the same; other than that, the three versions are very different. The German original paints a picture of unbridled energy, sexual prowess, and brotherhood forged in hard drinking. In the Cantonese version, Genghis Khan becomes a heroic loner, a knight-errant with a touch of idealism. In the Mandarin version, however, Genghis Khan becomes a ‘great Chinese emperor of ancient times’, an ‘ancient Eastern legend’ and an ‘icon in people’s hearts’. 26 For example, in the sequence that immediately follows the dance, the characters are seen at work, adding theft-deterrent glass shards to a fence wall.

170 Yün Peng 27 The film ends in a sequence that consists of two scenes connected by the same snippet of dialogue between Jeff and Jenny from The Killer. Chow Yun-Fat’s voice – speaking of the sea – is juxtaposed first with the image of Cui standing outside Yin’s apartment, looking into the distance at the wall. This cuts to an interior scene of the apartment – with Chow Yun-Fat’s voice continuing without interruption – that shows Cui dozing off on the sofa and Yin holding a baby in her arms. Significantly, in this scene, Cui wears a suit instead of the sweater he has on in the previous shot. The difference in costume reveals that the continuity suggested by Chow Yun-Fat’s voice is false: instead of seeing the second shot as the temporal and causal extension of the first, we should interpret them as two forking paths, or better, the two sides of a U-turn, with the voice evoking the sea situated at the point of its farthest reach. 28 Sigmund Freud (1963: 158–9). 29 Dake Zhu (2006: 68). 30 Wang Shuo’s pizi characters are typically fast-talking con-artists who, through clever parodies, mock official discourses and push to the extreme the latter’s inherent absurdity. Barmé points out a ‘generic relationship’ between this figure and the knight-errant (Barmé, op. cit., p. 44). In contrast, a certain awkwardness distinguishes provincial liumangs from their more worldly counterpart in the capital. Parody assumes a certain command of the target discourse; such a vantage point is only possible in the capital. For detailed discussions of the ‘Wang Shuo phenomenon’, see Geremie Barmé (1996). 31 Zhu, op. cit., p. 68 and p. 55. 32 Ibid. 33 Jameson, op. cit., p. 102. 34 See Hanyu da cidian, Shanghai: Hanyu da cidian Press, Vol. 3, 1997, p. 7375. 35 In the ‘bell-bottoms’ sequence, we hear on the radio in the background that he is praised for his party member’s ‘pioneer modeling function’: he is said to have spent two weeks straight at the forefront of production, refusing to go home even when he had a fever. (These are, of course, thousand-year-old clichés.) By the end of the film, the father’s notcoming-home acquires an entirely different interpretation: his affair, which is hinted at here and there, has become a permanent state of affairs. 36 ‘The philosophical argument at all times is brutally interrupted when you see that it corresponds to something completely different, to an event which has nothing to do with the philosophical argument. This interrupts, disrupts, profoundly the inner mood (the Stimmung), in the same way that in [Lyceum Fragment 42] the inner mood being described is completely disrupted by the exterior form, which is that of the buffo, that of the parabasis, that of the interruption, that of the undoing of the narrative line’. Paul de Man (1996: 178–9). 37 Even though Zhu Dake has never explicitly distinguished the ‘full’ irony from the ‘localized’ variety, he seems to hint at it when he cites Chen Kaige’s Big Parade as a rare specimen of a deeper, ‘secret’ irony (because on the surface the film is not ironic). See Zhu op. cit., p. 237. Another example is Wu Wenguang’s documentary Jianghu, in which the tone remains transparent, in stark contrast to the violence and obscenity of the recorded reality. Ibid., p. 311. 38 A fifty-episode soap opera (China’s first) aired in January 1990. 39 The actor who plays the miner is Jia’s real-life cousin, and Sanming is his real name. Sanming is introduced in the film as someone who is invisible even when one comes face to face with him, and despite one’s kinship with him. 40 The private life of Erbao’s wife is fuel to gossip; similarly, Sanming’s silence is contrasted with his chatty mother, who callously passes the verdict that he is fated for hardship. We encounter the digger in the scene right after Cui and Yin’s first meeting under the wall. Cui lingers in front of a photo studio to look at a photo of Yin on display in the window. We see him walk down a dark street. In the foreground (now that Cui is disappearing) is the man digging in a ditch.

12 Representations of former USSR and Eastern European identity in Turkish cinema Serazer Pekerman

Since the 1990s, following the fall of communism, women from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have increasingly started to populate Turkish films. The last few years especially have seen a considerable increase in the number of these films, which typically portray migrant women as sex workers. This has changed the image of the conventional fallen woman to the extent that it has become very rare to find an ordinary Turkish (or Muslim) street-walker in Turkish films, especially in Istanbul and in city and town centres in the Black Sea region. ‘Natashas’ or ‘Russians,’ both of which currently mean rather expensive prostitutes in Turkish slang, became a sine qua non for Turkish nightlife in the storyworlds. In some films these beautiful girls, mostly played by alluring female actresses from the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, are no more than mere props in revealing costumes – the sex interest or comedic element of the film. In other films, however, they are the main protagonists and the story revolves around these migrant sex workers. In the latter type of film, which I shall call ‘postcommunist fallen woman films’, even though the woman has no power, she controls the filmic space in interesting ways and changes how the whole storyworld, which stands for Turkey, is perceived by the other characters in the film. This chapter analyses the recent popularity of ‘Natashas’ in Turkish cinema. I shall argue that in these films the female character construction and spatial iconography has its roots in both fallen woman films and exile films. This combination manifests itself as an anti-nationalist discourse. Immigration and human trafficking are sensitive and controversial subjects that demand extreme delicacy. When illegal immigration overlaps with illegal sex work the law leaves no room for migrants other than as victims of human rights violations or as criminals. The problem is still largely under-researched, mainly due to a lack of evidence resulting from the illegal nature of the activities concerned. The elusiveness of the topic is discussed in existing work.1 Although it seems impossible to be certain, approximately ‘half a million women are trafficked into/across Europe every year’.2 This frightening number obliges authorities to create and execute new rules to regulate border agencies and in the meantime unfortunately reduces millions of individual stories to points on statistical charts. Meanwhile, these stories have started to be reproduced through non-fictional as

172 Serazer Pekerman well as fictional narratives, from published testimonies to internationally circulated films and artworks. The most popular examples come from European cinema’s widely distributed films, such as Lilya 4-ever (Lukas Moodysson 2002), Promised Land (Gitai Amos 2004), Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella 2006) and Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg 2007), to name a few. Despite their controversial representations hidden under the clichés of conventional fallen woman stories, these films, by reaching a larger audience, constitute an indispensable part of the discussion, sometimes even more important than all other fictional and non-fictional material. By providing spectatorial relief, rather than extremely disturbing testimonies, the films might allow us to begin to discuss unspeakable issues, such as the question of whether we can ‘distinguish between voluntary and coerced sexual exchange, a distinction as salient and problematic as that between consensual sex and rape’3 or the issue of ‘decriminalizing undocumented sex work’.4 Unfortunately, the law does not always recognize the possibility of voluntary prostitution, and in order not to be prosecuted the migrant sex worker has to claim that she was coerced.5 Contemporary Turkish films, unlike most of the widely circulated media about the subject, portray many migrant girls who voluntarily work in the sex industry. In these films, Turkish cinema revisits the old ambivalence about female sexual agency: these girls prove how indecent ‘they’ are compared to ‘us’ in national discourse narratives, or they prove how independent and strong they are in antinational narratives of postcommunist fallen women. It would be surprising not to find any illegal or involuntary border-crossing and sexual exchange in recent Turkish films since ‘[t]he most extensive migration flows run through Istanbul, one of the major international hubs for irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking’.6 During the last couple of decades Istanbul has become a temporary stop for former Soviet Union and Eastern European citizens who are planning to go to Western Europe as soon as possible. To a certain extent this explains the increasing number of ‘Natashas’ on screen, but fails to clarify the reason behind the total disappearance of Turkish streetwalkers from the films. Although unrealistically reflected on the screen, the stories make a highly interesting case study for discussion of the postcommunist identity of these fallen women in connection to the strongly nationalistic and patriarchal Turkish context. Women coming from postcommunist countries create an additional challenge for the Turkish national identity since the fall of communism represents the collapse of an unfulfilled dream for some, and God’s revenge for others, in a country that never even got close to socialism. This contradiction becomes visible in various contexts in the films. Gülçür and ˙Ilkkaracan explain how hearsay evidence and imagination blend to create a ‘hot passionate blonde’ named Natasha, who came to ‘destroy the family structure and spread AIDS’. They explain, ‘the migration of women from the former Soviet Union has become a major national discourse, especially in the Black Sea region and in Istanbul’.7 Gülçür and ˙Ilkkaracan state that all migrant women, especially if they are blonde, are treated as sex workers; in other words they are harassed, abused and insulted, not only by locals but also by the police,

Turkish cinema 173 who are after bribery. ‘In Trabzon, disaffected women formed the ‘Association for the Struggle against Natashas’ devoted solely to banning migrant women from the city’.8 This is also a familiar pattern across Europe.9 The popularity of a genre or a cycle is related to both reception and production.10 In the Turkish case, in addition to being the sex interest of the film, the recent popularity of migrant fallen woman stories is strongly related to this xenophobia and misogyny (as seen in the above case from Trabzon). A considerable number of films merely reproduce this nationalist discourse. However, depending on the agenda of the filmmaker, some films use the story to produce reactionary narratives. For Turkey, though, these migrants constitute an interesting reciprocity as well because, even though Turkey has always been host to many non-Europeans, it is more known as a ‘sending’ country in Europe. However, it has now become a major destination for migrant sex workers. While Turkey has traditionally been a sending country, with 3 million Turks having migrated to Western Europe alone, it has now become a major destination country, especially for women from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe entering the sex industry.11 In the films that reproduce the nationalist discourse, the female characters are treated as if their presence will delete the fact that many Turkish people still choose to live outside the country for economic and political reasons. These films also portray prostitutes as essentially non-Turkish as a part of this discourse. These girls stay within conventional limits because the obscenity of the image does not harm the decency of Turkish and Muslim women and therefore does not harm, in fact even reinstates, religious, national and traditional values. In several films, such as Muro (Zübeyr Sa¸ ¸ smaz 2008) and Hem¸so (Ömer Uˇgur 2001), the migrant girls are portrayed as rather happy despite the alleged indecency and hardship of their line of work, not only because they are ‘different than us’ but also because, being in Turkey, even in a brothel is ‘far better than being in their country’. Russian Bride (Zeki Alasya 2003) is a good example that reproduces the nationalist discourse. In this film, even though the migrant woman (Tatsyana Tsikeviç) is a female athlete and not a sex worker, all the male characters have high hopes of becoming sexually intimate with her since ‘this is normal for them, they don’t have a religion or decency! They are not like us’. She is constantly touched, kissed and harassed by men and does not seem to complain about it. In order for her to represent Turkey in an international tournament, she enters into an arranged marriage with an ageing wrestler (Metin Akpınar). Her husband, a very religious man and former national champion, is the only man who does not see her as an object of pleasure and instead treats her like his daughter. She gets pregnant outside the marriage after having sexual intercourse with her foreign lover, who remains offscreen. Finally, just as she is about to be banned from the Turkish archery team because, apparently, ‘for us, a girl’s decency is far more important than all the

174 Serazer Pekerman gold medals’, the old wrestler saves her, claiming the child as his own after a very nationalist speech praising traditional and religious values that order ‘us Turks’ to protect these lost souls. Nonetheless, the eponymous salvation of the ‘Russian Bride’ does not conform to previously established fallen woman clichés, which I will be dealing with in the section that follows. Instead of penitence and the prospect of a bright future with a desirable young man, she finds refuge in the father figure as her best option. Even though she is still presented as an innocent victim, she cannot accomplish total purification. She is seduced, deceived and abandoned by someone off-screen, ‘someone she knew from her old country’. Here, in the new story, a bright future for the girl is not an option because the villain of the film is her homeland, the former USSR and Eastern Europe, a ghost presence of all the perceived evils such as communism and atheism lingering in the Turkish nationalists’ perception of these countries.

The re-emergence of fallen woman: from Greenpine to Postcommunist films The broad genre of fallen woman films was first discussed in the context of the ‘kept woman stories’ that were produced in considerable numbers in Hollywood in the 1930s.12 There was a similar increase in the 50s and the 60s in Turkish cinema, namely in Ye¸silçam (Greenpine) films. The connections between historical, social, economical or political contexts and the popularity of a certain genre are not always straightforward. However, even if indirectly, the popularity of a genre gives us some clues about its social context.13 In American history, the decade in which fallen woman films emerged in the discussions of film critics and the film industry roughly coincides with the poverty-stricken years of the Great Depression. Similarly, the increasing popularity of fallen woman films in Turkish cinema coincides with an equally painful transition period, the partial destruction of rural livelihoods followed by a severe increase in rural-urban migration for economic reasons. Despite cultural variations and flavours, the fallen characters in the films from 30s Hollywood and 50s and 60s Ye¸silçam usually follow a similar path in the storyworld, ‘a progressive abasement and decline’ for the female character.14 These stories usually include the process of the fall of the innocent girl and the reasons behind it. Her involvement in sexual exchange is always involuntary and her situation is perceived as a misery by all the characters in the storyworld. From her point of view it might even be worse than death. Typically, the male protagonist, after making sure that she is punished adequately and has learned her lesson well, heroically saves the girl along with the whole nation embodied in her character. These films mostly embrace national, religious and traditional values in an exemplary ordinary good man, and construct a heroic national identity via the young and desirable male protagonist. He is the only hope for a bright future in the miserable decline into the deeper layers of the allegedly hell-like world of the sex industry.

Turkish cinema 175 This progression usually takes the form of a spatial displacement – a movement from the domestic space of the family to the public space of the street.15 These films usually reinstate the gendered identity of conventional filmic space, the domestic private sphere to which the woman belongs. Her entering into the public space, which is gendered male, becomes the cause of all the misfortunes that follow. The streets and all the public places only make her more and more uncomfortable. Peace is reinstated either by her death or by the man providing her a home, to save her from this misery. This salvation, of course, only becomes an option after she is punished for her sins. In these films not only do none of the girls want to exchange sexual labour but also none of them can earn enough to solve their financial problems. Although these stories have never been entirely forgotten, the fallen woman narrative ceases to be a predominant theme until the recent increase in the number of films that deal with postcommunist fallen women. Their recent re-emergence in popular circulation was mainly triggered by Lilya 4-ever, which very successfully revisited all these clichés, ending in the salvation of the main character through suicide. These stories unfortunately have a lot in common with the true stories of many migrant sex workers from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The recent rebirth of fallen woman stories mainly results from the hardships of the former communist countries becoming newly independent and thrown into the unknowns of the postcommunist world, especially in the current climate of worldwide economic collapse, where there seems to be no one to save these women/countries. However, in some contemporary Turkish films it is still possible to find a saviour, or at least an attempted saviour, who eventually has to face the fact that he is the one who needs to be saved from his misery. In recent postcommunist fallen woman films, the generic conventions and character typology show resemblances to the conventional fallen woman narrative with an antinationalist twist. The filmic configuration shows resemblances with the exile narratives of films made by filmmakers exiled from Turkey, making parallels between Turkish citizens in diaspora or exile in Europe and migrant women from former communist countries. Hamid Naficy conducts a thorough analysis of the marginal characters and traumatic configuration of filmic space in exilic auteur cinema via Turkish and Iranian films in his article on independent transnational films.16 Naficy claims that the claustrophobic or agoraphobic representations of the storyworld posit a metaphor for the traumatic connection with homeland or adopted homeland or both. The instability and insecurity of space, ‘worse than death’ or ‘worse than being in an actual prison’, in films such as Otobüs/The Bus (Tunç Okan 1976) or 40 quadratmeter Deutchland/40 Square Meter Germany (Tevfik Ba¸ser 1986), in other words, the trauma of the exiled Turkish man and woman, is transferred to the migrant sex workers’ stories, establishing strong parallels between the Turkish exile narrative and recent postcommunist fallen woman films beyond their separate national identities and temporal time frames.

176 Serazer Pekerman

Filming the postcommunist fallen woman In these recent films, traumatic filmic space dominates the whole film, since the fall is omitted from the story; there is no habitable place in the plot in any of these stories. Evidently they no longer have a home to go back to and instead the story takes place in a traumatic setting that stands for Turkey. However, in addition to the trauma of the exile, the storyworld fails to provide a home for the Turkish man as well as the migrant woman. In these films there are no Turkish women and no men from the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, with only one exception in the film Balalayka (Ali Özgentürk 2000), which I will focus on later. In these postcommunist films, the migrant women have mystical or magical powers and/or some sort of disability, creating an exotic Other, a mysterious vagueness and mist around the fallen female character. These characteristics make them more fragile and vulnerable, albeit wise, strong, brave, benevolent and capable of the seemingly impossible. The fall is almost always omitted from the plot in recent Turkish examples, but, in the rare cases in which it is revealed verbally, it closely resembles the conventional story structure: The girl is forced to work in the sex industry in order to take care of an ill mother, to bring up a child, or not to starve to death. In other words, they are simply forced into sex work by an offscreen force that is invisible and therefore invincible. Thus the stories of these recent films seem to have evolved from the clichés of the old fallen woman films. The twist this time is that the male protagonist understands that he is living in the same misery and there is no salvation for anybody in the storyworld. For exilic transnationals the descent relations with the homeland and the consent relations with the host society are continually tested. Freed from old and new constraints, they are ‘deterritorialized’.17 Here Naficy refers to a negative meaning of ‘deterritorialization’, that is, feeling lost because of being deprived of any means of communication and production. In these films, there is no habitable space; the whole story takes place in insecure public places, dirty hotel rooms, nightclubs, old and hardly-working vehicles, and mostly at night, surrounded by untrustworthy and sad people. Thus there is no spatial decline from the safe private place to the disturbing public places, as found in the conventional fallen woman story. Also, there is no hope of finding a home for a happy ending, contrary to the ‘Russian Bride’ narrative. The films end in this uncertainty and homelessness with no hope for the future. The migrant woman’s impossibility of developing any familiarity with the space, either homeland or adopted homeland, becomes contagious and affects the locals as well. Deterritorialization pervades the screen via never-ending travels, border crossing, and suffocating claustrophobic or agoraphobic places. Neither homeland nor adopted homeland provides an inhabitable space. A similar situation occurs in the female character as well because of the ‘ambivalent and contradictory visual strategies’. As Áine O’Healy argues, ‘the woman is configured as both innocent victim and alluring erotic object’.18 In another chapter in this book, Yun-hua Chen focuses on the concept of deterritorialization as developed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix

Turkish cinema 177 Guattari in the film Calendar (Atom Egoyan 1993), in which the main protagonist (Egoyan) does not feel at home in Armenia or in Canada. In the rest of the chapter, I shall briefly introduce some examples of these films, and analyse some of their key moments in order to create a general idea about the character construction and spatial configuration of the genre. I shall begin my analyses with the film Balalayka. Even though, like other examples, Balalayka does not portray the fall, this road movie narrates the arrival of sex workers in Turkey. After this film, I will look at an example of the worst-case scenario for the next phase of the story: a Romanian prostitute’s story in the twin films Gemide/On Board (Serdar Akar 1998) and Laleli’de Bir Azize/A Saint in Laleli (Kudret Sabancı 1999). These two films, adapted from a tale written by Akar, tell the story of a sex worker who is kidnapped, knocked unconscious, raped, tied, imprisoned in a ship for several days, stabbed and left on a street. For a less disturbing example I shall look at the film Sonbahar/Autumn (Özcan Alper 2008) in which a Georgian girl works voluntarily in the sex industry and makes money in order to take care of her family back in Georgia. Despite her somewhat less uncomfortable situation, she understands that she is not meant for this and goes back home to poverty and unemployment. Although it is the earliest example, I shall conclude, on a brighter note, with the film Gölge Oyunu/Shadow Play (Yavuz Turgul 1992). Shadow Play turns the whole story of the film into a surreal tale as a result of which the Russian girl actually finds what she is looking for in the dirty streets of Istanbul and also manages to save the Turkish men who help her.

The Bus and Balalayka In Balalayka, the whole story takes place in a bus travelling from a small town in Russia to Istanbul via the Black Sea. The film portrays the fallen women from a very respectful perspective by implying parallels between the sex workers from the former Soviet Union and one of the most esteemed Turkish poets, Nazım Hikmet, who died in exile in Russia because of his communist ideals. The film tells the story of three brothers who do not know each other well and who carry their father’s coffin from Russia. Reminiscent of Hikmet’s own life, their father apparently wished to be buried in his homeland after living a life in prison and exile. They travel on an old bus together with a lot of Russian women who are going to Turkey to work in the sex industry. All the migrant women and Turkish men find opportunities to get to know each other better and better during their travel. They all start seeing more similarities in each other’s lives, in contrast to what they expected at the beginning of the film. As I mentioned before, Balalayka is an exceptional film for having a male character from the former Soviet Union. This is a drunken man who stops the bus with a rifle with the intention of killing his girlfriend, who is travelling to Turkey in order to be a sex worker. Ultimately he can do nothing but whine and cry. He is poor, powerless, and obviously has neither the means nor hope of taking care of his woman. This portrayal might have been used to create a strong nationalist discourse if one of the Turkish men

178 Serazer Pekerman could provide the security and comfort the Russian fails to provide. However, none of the men in the storyworld are capable of saving these girls, even if they really wanted to. On the other hand, the girls are portrayed as invincible, heroic sages with their strong personalities, courage and potential. The oldest of them, Tanya (Yekaterina Rednikova), sacrifices her life to save the Turkish man who tries to stand up to a group of cruel pimps. Approximately halfway through their journey they stop in one of the big cities in the Black Sea region. In a symbolic scene that takes place around some ancient ruins, the girls change their outfits to get ready for prostitution in the city. They all put on heavy make up and revealing costumes. From the darkness they magically appear one by one from behind the ruins of a stone wall, which obviously fails to provide necessary equipment for the change, such as light, a mirror and other materials. They are very brightly lit, creating a high contrast with the totally dark background they appear from. The change in the quality of the image turns the new clothing into a masquerade. After becoming very familiar with their everyday appearance, these outfits and make up do not suit them. They all look alluring but unreal with the help of the light and the surreal quality of the mise-en-scène. The scene turns the prostitution into a kind of roleplay as a way of seeing, accepting and tolerating the harsh, cruel reality of life. In the meantime the brothers understand that there is something wrong with the whole land, which is totally insecure and un-homely. Throughout the film the old bus serves as the most peaceful space and the only familiar space of the storyworld. This bus also constructs parallels between the destiny of these women and the Turkish migrant men in another old but famous bus in Okan’s film The Bus. Balalayka ends with the beginning of a new journey, this time to Russia to deliver the body of Tanya; this turns out to be a more important mission than going back home, which clearly fails to provide peace and security, and also puts Tanya in an equal position with the legendary public intellectual Hikmet.

Akar, Laleli and the Bosphorus Strait A nightmarish possibility for the continuation of the story of these women might be found in the twin films On Board and A Saint in Laleli. These films are two faces of the same story: A Romanian prostitute, whose vagina is sewn in order for her pimps to sell her as a virgin, is kidnapped by the four members of a ship’s crew. A Saint in Laleli tells the story of the pimps in the Laleli district of Istanbul. Her pimps try to sell her as a virgin for a large sum of money, which they believe will allow them, and her, to escape from their unhappy lives, only for her to be kidnapped by the ship’s crew. On Board tells the story of the same ship’s crew starting from the night that they kidnap her, in order to save her from her misery. The spatial configuration of Laleli and the ship have many common characteristics, the most important of which is their suffocating claustrophobia. The ship, which digs out sea sand in the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, is constructed as an immobile island prison that mostly stays still in the middle of the Bosphorus Strait. After

Turkish cinema 179 she barely survives the hymen reconstruction surgery, performed by a quack doctor, the ship’s crew then tie her hands and mouth and rape her several times. Both films portray a seemingly passive woman (Ella Manea) albeit with great strength, potential and the ability to survive. In each film, although she is either unconscious or gagged she somehow manages to ruin the order between a group of men – by her mere existence in On Board, and by her disappearance (when kidnapped) in A Saint in Laleli. Even though she is the one who is tied, imprisoned and harassed all the time, both films show the imprisonment and hopelessness of the men around her as more tragic and permanent. Whether in the dark claustrophobic rooms of a ship or dirty cheap hotel rooms in Laleli, there is not much difference for the girl since there is nothing but harassment and torture for her in both worlds. The fact that she does not speak the Turkish language gives her a mysterious power in both films. She rarely tries to communicate. She seems as if she is able to understand what is going on, appearing more cool and confident than the men around her most of the time. Despite not understanding a word the men say, she seems ready for whatever might come. Here, the acting and performance of the female protagonist is worth mentioning. Ella Manea is very successful in a very demanding and challenging role; with almost no words and very limited movement she manages to portray a strong survivor. Her face never expresses insecurity; she never begs for help. On the contrary, the men around her whine, cry and appear petrified most of the time: The ship’s crew is in trouble and panicking because they have brought her on board, whereas her pimps are in trouble for losing her. The way she feels comfortable in highly uncomfortable public places creates fear and insecurity in the men. Insofar as she feels at home in these traumatic filmic locations, the men feel more and more threatened. They understand that they can neither help her nor themselves, and the only option for both groups of men is to hide.

Autumn and the lost paradise In contrast, the film Autumn depicts voluntary sexual exchanges in more acceptable environments for migrant sex workers. Moreover, a Georgian woman (Megi Kobaladze) has a romantic involvement with a nice and friendly Turkish man who has been a political prisoner because of his communist ideals. The film, an art house drama that won many awards, tells the last days of this terminally ill leftist ex-convict. The film begins with the prisoner’s release from jail due to his illness and his return to his home town in north east Anatolia, one of the most visually spectacular parts of the country. The relationship with the sex worker starts as a prostitute-client relationship and turns into a romantic involvement. During his relationship with the girl, the main protagonist’s communist dreams crumble. The girl does not believe in communism and is amazed that he took the risk of going to prison and being tortured for it. The film portrays the impossibility of saving both her and his communist ideals. In Autumn, the fog, the mountains and the giant waves of the wild Black Sea create insurmountable walls around the main protagonists, despite the beauty of the scenery. Nature attracts and frightens at the

180 Serazer Pekerman same time. However, they both manage to help each other to understand the situation they are in from the other’s angle. She comforts him in his last days and he gives her courage to try the hard way to go back and reintegrate with her son and mother, since there is hard work and no mercy on both sides of the border. In a scene where he is depicted alone at the edge of the pier, the waves are far bigger than the pier and him, and in a long take in an extremely long shot he disappears for a few seconds each time a wave explodes on the pier. It looks as though it is a miracle to repeatedly find him there after every wave recedes and goes back to the wild Black sea. In the extreme long shot, he appears to be very small, helpless and alone. Instead of showing how the girl entered Turkey, the film shows how hard it is for the ex-convict to get a passport in order to go to Georgia. He is asked for quite a large sum of money for the paperwork and it actually comes too late, after the girl leaves town to go back to her own country. She walks across the border from Turkey to Georgia. The last time the audience sees her, she is behind a wire that covers the frame totally, suggesting the pattern extends indefinitely beyond the screen. She looks back towards the camera, knowing that both sides of the wire are prisons, neither particularly better than the other. The forms and forces of nature are used to create a spectacular agoraphobia in all extreme long shots, emphasizing how small man is compared to the scale of the land, and how inadequate his efforts might be.

Divine sainthood and Shadow Play A very early example, Shadow Play, made in 1992 by Yavuz Turgul, constitutes a metaphorical approach to the story of the fallen woman in the form of a somewhat gloomy fairy tale. The film tells the story of two Turkish men (Sener ¸ Sen ¸ and Sevket ¸ Altuˇg) and a Russian woman (Larissa Litichevskaya) who coincidently meet and inexplicably help each other to find peace in the middle of the hellish back streets of Istanbul nightlife. The migrant woman, in this case an angel-faced and mute Russian girl, searches for her lost mother, whose picture she carries with her. This nostalgic image, her only belonging and also the only thing she brought from her homeland, posits a metaphor for mother Russia – and moreover the Soviet Union that lost all her children, who are looking for her everywhere. The film constructs a mysterious female character in the lost, fallen and disabled migrant girl enriched with mystical and spiritual powers. She turns out to be an angel who is sent to help the men, who were unaware that they were lost, to find peace. Throughout the film the only habitable space, just like the bus in Balalayka, is a worn and torn vehicle. In Shadow Play a motorbike serves as the most peaceful and familiar space of the storyworld. The two shadow players help the Russian girl without knowing why they have been looking for a lost or dead Russian mother in Istanbul. She changes the lives of the two shadow players before disappearing mysteriously. The film begins with a quarrel between the smugglers and the boss of the nightclub where she is brought to host and please male customers. The boss feels cheated since she turns out to be mute and he assumes that she is also deaf and

Turkish cinema 181 retarded as well. Without knowing what to do with her, the boss puts her in charge of the toilet money. When she is seen at the desk outside the toilet she creates a very striking contrast to the typical image of the old, fallen woman who used to occupy the post in mainstream Turkish fallen women stories. Conventionally this desk belongs to the oldest and most experienced fallen woman in the storyworld as the highest post one can achieve in this line of work, if one can manage to survive that long. She fails to prove herself at the toilet desk, the bottom of hell and yet the brightest possible future, and she finds herself on the street. One of the two shadow players who take the stage at the same nightclub cannot resist taking her home, despite the insistent refusal of his show partner and best friend. They start their mystical journey together on their old motorbike. Instead of verbal explanations, Turgul chooses to focus on her facial expressions to tell of her mystical powers via close-ups and extreme close-ups, framing her peaceful, angelic face and her hands. When she finally touches one of the shadow players the peace and comfort is transferred at once, as if it were contagious. At the end of the film, after her disappearance, no one else remembers her; but the two players decide to hold on to their memories of the girl who cured the cowardice of one and the meanness of the other. The female character here posits a metaphor for the communist ideal that might cure the dark faith but is unfortunately nowhere to be found anymore. In conclusion, the recent cycle of postcommunist fallen woman films combines the conventions of fallen woman and exile films, creating an antinationalist discourse, establishing spatial and visual parallels between the Turkish man and the migrant woman. In all these films the storyworld that is configured as homeland or adopted homeland is configured as dark, un-homely and dangerous. Neither Turkey nor any of the former Soviet Union or Eastern European countries can provide a stable, peaceful location. The characters are disconnected from a habitable place; they are imprisoned, isolated and restricted. They are either forced to travel or forced to stay. The trauma is mostly constructed by the claustrophobic interiors or darkness of night; however, despite their picturesque quality, nature, earth and sea are also portrayed as symbols of the traumatic disconnection from home. With the introduction of the migrant sex worker, the Turkish hero proves that he still wants to stick to the old ideals, but finally understands that a miracle is needed not only to save the fallen woman but also to save himself from his misery.

Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Caren Kaplan (1996) and Claudia Aradau (2008). William Brown, Dina Iordanova and Leshu Torchin (2010). Jill Nagle (1997: 2). Leyla Gülçür and Pınar ˙Ilkkaracan (2002: 411). Aradau, op.cit. Ursula Biemann (2007: 142). Gülçür and ˙Ilkkaracan, op. cit., p. 414. Ibid. quotes Günçıkan: 1995. See for example Yosefa Loshitzky (2010: 33–5). Lea Jacobs (1987: 110).

182 Serazer Pekerman 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Gülçür and ˙Ilkkaracan, op. cit. Jacobs, op. cit., p. 100. Ibid., p. 110. Ibid., p. 101. Ibid. Hamid Naficy (2003). Ibid., p. 208. Áine O’Healy (2007: 41).


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1:1 (Mladen Matiˇcevi´c 2002) 136 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu 2006) xi 25 (Celso/Luccas 1975) 59–60 40 Square Meter Germany (Tevfik Ba¸sr 1986) 175 7 1/2 (Miroslav Momˇcilovi´c 2006) 140 9th Company (Fyodr Bondarchuk 2005) 13–22 A Luta Continua (Robert Van Lierop 1971) 58 A Saint in Laleli (Kudret Sabancı 1999) 177–9 Absolute Hundred (Srdan Golubovi´c 2001) 136, 138, 142 Alternative cinema 4 Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001) 30 Americanization 36, 42, 46–7 Anderson, Benedict 35, 146–7 Ararat (Atom Egoyan 2002) 145 Architecture 29, 34, 114, 118, 134, 139 Art Cinema 4, 42, 81; Auteur Cinema/Films 42, 81, 175; the auteur 5, 51n51, 83, 91 At the Height of Summer (Tran Anh-Hung 2000) 76 Audience 5, 8, 16, 25–8, 30–2, 65, 69, 72n2, 77, 83, 88n50, 89, 92, 95–6, 98, 122, 148, 172; global and transnational 3, 7, 25, 76, 112, 123; Western 4, 16, 19, 75, 89 Autumn (Özcan Alper 2008) 177, 179 Autumn Ball (Veiko Õunpuu 2007) 29 Bakhtin, Mikhail 6; chronotope 6, 28, 140 Balalayka (Ali Özgentürk 2000) 176–8, 180 Bar Girls (Le Hoang 2002) 77

Bare Ground (Ljubiša Samardži´c 2003) 136 Barefoot in the Park (Gene Saks 1967) 93, 94 Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein 1925) 64 Behind the Lines (Margaret Dickinson 1971) 58 Beijing Bicycle (Wang Xiaoshuai 2001) 75–6, 81, 83–6 Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica 1948) 75, 78, 79 Black Flowers (Mevlan Shanaj 2002) 90, 96, 100 Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott 2001) 16, 18 Blockbuster films 13, 15–16, 22, 80, 123 Borom Sarret (Ousmane Sembène 1966) 72n4 Box Office 21, 25, 27, 30, 32, 127 Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella 2006) 172 Brother (Alexei Balabanov 1997) 23n30 Burning Life (Peter Welz 1994) 123 Cabaret Balkan (Goran Paskaljevic 1998) 137 Calendar (Atom Egoyan 1993) 9, 77, 143–53, 177 Casualities of War (Brian DePalma 1989) 17 Censorship 73n24, 77, 78, 100 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton 2005) 16 Cinema komunisto (Mila Turajli´c 2010) 50n22 Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore 1988) 30 Cityscape 134

Index 195 Civilization 96, 130, 162 Classical Narrative 5, 10n7, 30, 41, 169n14 Co-production and Cooperation 3, 5, 16, 25–6, 30–1, 33, 50n22, 56, 63, 65, 82, 97, 101 Cocteau, Jean 48 Colonel Bunker (Kujtim Çashku 1996) 89, 95, 100–1 Colonialism 54, 59, 61, 63, 70; anti- 6, 60, 67, 76; colony 57, 77, 87, 190; regimes of knowledge 55, 58, 73, 81 Colonization 87, 109; colonizer/colonized 48, 57, 60, 64, 67, 77, 81, 109; reverse-cultural 109 Communication 4, 7, 109, 126, 179; miscommunication 26, 125, 146, 163 Communism 1, 3, 24, 29, 38, 89, 95, 97, 108, 119, 125, 127, 130, 143, 174; anti-communism 41, 108; end of x, 1–4, 9, 76, 89, 90, 93, 107, 111, 112, 115, 117, 119, 171, 172; unfulfilled dream 179; victims of 112, 119 Communist ideals 177, 179, 181 Communist Party; British 58 Communist past xi, 6, 96, 107–8, 124–5 Community 3, 7, 9, 40, 64, 66, 76, 117, 148; affective 53; peasant 61 Consumerism 1, 29, 77, 86, 125, 131, 134, 135, 141 Courtyard (Valdas Navasaitis 1999) 26 Cross-culturalism 1, 4–5, 8, 25, 26, 32, 77–8, 81, 86, 88n50, 90–1 Cuba! Africa! Revolution! (Jihan el-Tahri 2007) 72n6 Cultural strategies 7, 8, 36, 41, 48 Cultural studies 55–6 Cutting it Short (Jiˇrí Menzel 1981) 127 Cycling the Frame (Cynthia Beatt 1988) 1 Cyclo (Tran Anh-Hung 1995) 75–80, 83, 86 Czech Dream (Vít Klusák, Filip Remunda 2004) xi Day Watch (Timur Bekmambetov 2006) 27 Death as a Slice of Bread (Kazimierz Kutz 1994) 116 Death Denied (Flora Gomes 1988) 67 Decalogue (Krzysztof Kieslowski 1989/90) 140 Defenders of Riga (Aigars Grauba 2007) 28 Defiance (Edward Zwick 2008) 32 Deleuze, Gilles 6–7, 9, 146, 155; any-space-whatever 140–1, 143,

146–7; crystals 143–53, 152, 155, 158–9; deterritorialization 141, 147, 150, 152–3, 155, 176–7, 179; irrational cut 160; smooth/striated space (see also space) 141, 144, 150, 152 Diaspora 7, 29, 75, 76, 146, 147, 175 Dickinson, Margaret 58, 63, 65, 73n17 Distribution 26, 31–2, 33, 57, 58, 66, 69, 82, 98, 102n3, 122; systems 61–2 Do You Remember Dolly Bell? (Emir Kusturica 1982) 138 Doctor Ray and the Devils (Dinko Tucakovi´c 2012) 50n22 Documentary 19, 28, 47, 50n22, 53, 55, 58, 61, 70, 72n6, 74n39; mode 65, 71, 83, 140; non-fiction 171 Double occupancy (Thomas Elsasser) 32, 79, 80 East-West (Regis Wargnier 1999) 86n6 Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg 2007) 172 Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper 1969) 122 Empire 30, 57, 80, 135, 163, 164; Soviet/Evil 99, 109 Exhibition 13, 14, 15, 25–6, 57, 61–2; cinema theatre 27, 59, 69–70; mobile cinemas 60–1, 64–5 Exoticism 77, 92–3, 96, 101, 118–19, 126, 158, 176 Fabulous Vera (Stefan Arsenijevi´c 2007) 139 Family Viewing (Atom Egoyan 1988) 152 Farewell DDR (Licínio Azevedo 1992) 70 Father (Luo Zhongli 1980) 167 Fed Up (Peeter Simm 2005) 26 Film festival 5, 31–2, 39, 62, 89, 95, 96, 101, 102n1; audience 25, 81; circuit, 30, 31, 41, 50n34 Film industry xi, 1, 3, 5, 7–8, 24–7, 32–3, 35–7, 41, 49n12, 57, 61–2, 75, 77–8, 80–1, 82, 89, 96–7, 121, 123, 174; export of film, 38–9, 69, 81; film funding 8, 16, 24–8, 32–3, 67, 123, 145; infrastructure 24, 34n43 Film school 41–7; Baltic Film and Media School 31; FAMU (Prague) 41, 43; FDU (Belgrade) 43–7, 51, 51n42, 52n57; ICAIC (Cuba) 55, 63; Louis Lumière College (Paris) 77; Marubi Film and Multimedia Academy

196 Index (Tirana) 100, 101, 103n40; VGIK (Moscow) 43, 47, 53 Five Shots from a Mauser (Camillo de Sousa, João Costa and Licínio Azevedo 1981) Freud, Sigmund 138, 155, 164, 165 From Romuva to Maputo (Dragustin Popovitch 1975) 59–60 Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick 1987) 17, 18 Gaze (see also Tourism) 137, 158 Genghis Khan 161–4 Genre 3, 4, 7, 8, 14, 17, 42, 43, 62, 75, 78, 136, 173, 174, 177; cinema/films 3, 42, 43, 45–7, 51n42, 134, 140; codes 41, 45; comedies 41, 42, 45, 123, 128, 139, 140, 171; horror films 42, 46; melodramas 78, 112, 138, 140; partisan films 41; road movie 121–2, 123, 127, 130 Geopolitics 3, 76, 143, 146; in Platform 154, 159, 162 Germany Year 90 nine zero (Jean-Luc Godard 1991) 2 Global 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 15, 22, 24, 29, 35, 41, 48, 55, 60, 65, 76, 78, 81–2, 89, 141, 145–6, 154–6; phenomenon 5; space 141, 145; viewers 3, 7, 76 Globalization 76, 80, 155 Go Trabi Go (Peter Timm 1991) 123–7, 131 Godard, Jean-Luc 2, 63–4, 98 Good bye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker 2004) xi Good Hands (Peeter Sim 2002) 31 Goodbye Bafana (Bille August 2007) 10n12 Groys, Boris 55–6 Hamburger Hill (John Irvin 1987) 17 Handful of Strawberries (Srdjan Karanovi´c 1984) 50n31, 135 Hemso (Ömer U˘gur 2001) 173 Heritage 25, 146, 149; cultural 109, 125, 142n10 Higson, Andrew 13, 76 History 1, 4, 6–8, 9, 15, 27–8, 30, 34n43, 36–8, 44, 46, 49n9, 59, 71, 79, 90, 96, 99, 114, 118–19, 121, 134–5, 138, 148, 152, 155–6, 157, 159, 162, 164, 166, 167, 174; collective 159; contested site 28; effect of 160; public 158

Hollywood 5, 16, 21, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 41–7, 91–2, 121–3, 174; New 44 Homeland 3, 20, 150, 174, 175, 176–7, 178, 180, 181; as villain 174 I Even Met Happy Gypsies (Aleksandar Petrovi´c 1967) 49n17 Identity (see also national identity) xii, 6, 7, 8, 14, 16, 28, 29, 32, 47, 55–6, 64, 121, 138, 143, 145, 146, 154, 172; as gendered 175; collective xi, 138; cultural 10n11, 25, 56, 154, 156; ethnocultural 14, 20; memory 28; negotiation of 146; queer 46, 77; transcultural 134 Ideology 3, 6, 10n12, 62, 80, 134–5, 137; and control 157; and discourses 156; and nationalism 137, 147 Imperialism 6, 14, 20–2, 26, 30, 53, 57–8, 62, 80; capitalist 56, 69; cultural 26, 81; dynamics of 69; fascist 60 Independence 14, 25, 28, 33, 37, 53, 55, 57–61, 63, 66, 73n16, 86n12, 88n51, 110, 127, 143 Indochine (Regis Wargnier 1992) 86n6 Inferiority (see also superiority) xi, 112, 130 Internationalism 35, 55, 60, 65 Jameson, Fredric 29 Kiler (Juliusz Machulski 1997) 107 Kusturica, Emir 42, 43, 138 La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Godard 1967) 98 La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz 1995) 138 Lacan, Jacques 35, 138, 158 Lamerica (Gianni d’Amelio 1994) 94, 99 Lefebvre, Henri 134, 140 Lilya 4-ever (Lukas Moodysson 2002) 172, 175 Little Moscow (Jerzy Krzystek 2008) 107–14, 119 Loners (David Ondˇriˇcek 2000) 118 Long-Legged Girls (Vu Ngoc Dang 2004) 77 Loss 3, 115, 138, 139, 152; of social status 115; of the past 163; place/space of 29, 163 Lotte from Gadgetville (Heiki Ernits, Janno Poldma 2006) 27 Love and Other Crimes (Stefan Arsenijevi´c 2008) 139 Lyotard, Jean-François 5

Index 197 Magic Eye (Kujtim Çashku 2005) 90–1, 97, 100–1, 103n48 Man of Marble (Andrzej Wajda 1977) 48 Manon of the Spring (Claude Berri 1986) 30 Marker, Chris 47, 67n52 Memory xi, 19, 29, 69, 100, 107, 108, 112–14, 118, 119, 124–5, 138, 144, 146, 147–8, 149, 152, 158–9, 161, 164, 181; amnesia 70, 155; collective 69, 135, 149, 151; constructs/built-in 113, 159; forgetting xi, 161, 164, 165; historical 9, 19, 163, 164; images 150, 152; mechanical 147–8; remembering 34, 164–5, 167, 168 Migration x, 29, 77, 78, 90, 97–8, 138, 171, 172, 174; displacement 76, 145, 147, 175; refugee/asylum seekers 97–8, 125, 138; women xi, 171–81; workers 75, 83–6, 88n50, 154 Monuments and buildings 6, 9, 46, 80, 85, 107, 112, 118, 119, 137–41, 155, 162, 164 Mozambique Advances under the Leadership of President Samora Moisés Machel (1981) 63 Multiculturalism 77, 111 Mulvey, Laura 93, 103n15 Muro (Zübeyr Sa¸ ¸ smaz 2008) 173 Nachingwea (Dragustin Popovitch 1975) 59 Naficy, Hamid 76, 145, 175 Names in Marble (Elmo Nüganen 2002) 28 Natasha (Ljubiša Samardži’c 2001) 138 Nation 5, 7, 14–15, 20, 22, 30, 32, 33n27, 36, 62–5, 76, 80, 82, 89, 98, 108, 112, 144–5, 147, 149, 151, 156, 174; de-centering 156; national belonging 131, 145; national borders 13, 20, 31, 57, 59, 111, 126, 127, 129, 132, 147, 180; national culture 35, 59, 121; postcommunist 80, 146, 152; small 34n43, 143; state x, 5, 8, 38, 53, 57, 62, 64, 66; thematization of 121 National Cinema 13, 25, 31, 32, 36, 41, 67, 78 National Identity 13–22, 29, 32, 58, 64, 66, 67, 121, 144, 146, 149, 172, 174; as fixed 13, 22, 149 Nationalism 14, 17, 19–21, 22, 35, 41, 45, 64, 76, 83, 134, 137, 138, 162, 172, 174; anti- or neo-colonialism 67, 76;

national ideology 147; national(ist) discourse 78, 172–3, 178; supra-regionalism 20, 22 Negritude 55, 62 Next of Kin (Atom Egoyan 1984) 145, 152 Night Watch (Timur Bekmambetov 2004) 16, 23n35 No More Mr Nice Guy (Detlev Buck 1993) 123 Nomads 141, 162; nomadic space 150, 155, 168 Nora, Pierre 112 Nostalgia 2, 7, 19, 29, 84–5, 119, 131, 135, 138, 159, 163–4, 180; condemnation of 119; Ostalgie 124 October (Abderrahmane Sissako 1993) 71 Ode to Joy (Anna Kazejak-Dawid 2005) 107–8, 114–16 Offensive (Camillo de Sousa 1980) 65 On Board (Serdar Akar 1998) 177–9 On Saturday Evening (Vladimir Pogaˇci´c 1957) 49n15 Our Own (Dmitri Meskhiev 2004) 18 Pedersen High School Teacher (Hans Petter Moland 2006) 98 Penal Battalion (Nikolai Dostal 2004) 18 Place (see also space) 8, 44–5, 59, 77, 107–8, 112, 115, 117, 121, 129, 135, 140, 141, 150, 154, 155–6, 157, 158, 160, 161, 162, 167, 169n17, 176, 178, 181; anomalous 162; transitional 135 Platform (Jia Zhangke 2000) 9, 154–68 Platoon (Oliver Stone 1986) 17 Pornography 166 Postcolonialism (see also colonialism) 6, 8, 54, 55–6, 76; anti- 76; decolonization 54, 59, 63, 69; filmmaking 4; neo-colonialism 57, 61 Postcommunism x–xii, 1–9, 25, 53, 55–6, 76, 82, 86, 107, 131, 134, 143, 145, 152; and the postcolonial 6, 54; anxieties of xi, 154, 157; chronotope 6, 28, 140; decay/ruins 80, 107–8, 112, 134–40, 143, 150; demolition/reconstruction xii, 82, 107–19, 147; victim 112, 119, 174; wasteland/waste ground 12, 136, 137, 139, 147 Postcommunist cinema 1, 3, 5, 70, 77, 79, 80–1, 83, 86, 107, 131, 145 Postcommunist condition xii, 2–8, 48, 54, 75–6, 79, 81, 82, 84, 85, 115, 144

198 Index Postcommunist films xi, 28, 71, 82, 123, 128 Postmodernism 5–6, 56; postmodern irony 156, 165–7, 170n37 Preserve (Łukasz Palkowski 2007) 107, 117–19 Pretty Village Pretty Flame (Srdjan Dragojevi´c 1996) 51n56, 142n16 Promised Land (Gitai Amos 2004) 172 Propaganda 28, 58, 60, 61, 63, 73n23, 78, 89, 99, 156, 165 Provincialism 44, 154–5 Pupendo (Jan Hˇrebejk 2003) 128 Quitting (Zhang Yang 2001) 168n2 Railroad of Hope (Ning Ying 2002) 88n50 Rambo III (Peter MacDonald 1988) 18 Realism 77, 82–4, 86; neo- 39, 75, 78–9, 84; on-the-spot 83-4; socialist xii, 38, 39, 75, 80, 83 Reception 4, 7, 13, 14, 15, 22, 89–91, 94, 96, 98, 122, 173 Reply with Photo (Una Celma 1999) 26 Representation 4, 50, 6, 8–9, 28–9, 30, 32, 38, 46, 75–6, 83, 86, 98, 107, 112, 116, 121, 134–5, 149, 150, 172, 175; self- 27; stereotyping 18, 78, 89, 100; unrepresentable 161 River Elegy (1988) 161, 168 Romanticization 28, 83, 113, 118, 122, 129 Rostov-Luanda (Abderrahmane Sissako 1997) 53–4 Rouch, Jean 63–4 Russian Bride (Zeki Alasya 2003) 173–4, 176 Ruudi (Katrin Laur, 2006) 27 Saint George Shoots the Dragon (Srdjan Dragojevic 2009) 45 Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror 1972) 67, 72n4 Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg 1993) 108 Sembène, Ousmane 54, 57, 72n4 Seventeen Years (Zhang Yuan 1999) 83 Shadow Play (Yavuz Turgul 1992) 177, 180–1 Sissako, Abderrahmane 53–4, 71 Slogans (Gjergj Xhuvani 2001) 90, 95, 97–8, 101 Socialism 38, 43, 53, 55, 69, 70–1, 72, 82, 107–8, 112, 116, 121, 135, 138, 141,

172; African 59; and Left movements 4, 54–5, 56, 179; Yugoslav 41, 134 Socialist capitalism 79 Socialist friendship 53–4, 67, 70, 72 Socialist ideals 66, 125, 177, 179, 181 Socialist realism (see realism) Solidarity 35, 53, 66–7, 112, 126; Solidarity (Polish Labour Movement) 108, 114–16 Something in Between (Srdjan Karanovi´c 1983) 42 Space (see also place) 1, 2, 6–7, 9, 29, 60, 68, 85, 101, 107, 110, 121, 122, 129, 134–5, 137, 139, 140–1, 143–5, 149, 150–1, 153, 154, 155, 157–9, 162, 164, 167–8, 171, 175–6, 178, 180; of claustrophobia 129, 175, 176, 178, 179, 181 Spatial iconography, 171 Spectatorship (see also audience) 8, 65, 151 Star (Nikolai Lebedev 2002) 18 Strangler versus Strangler (Šijan 1984) 51n36 Sun, Hay and Erotica (Zdenšk Troška 1991) 128 Superiority (see also inferiority) 29, 110–12, 165; cultural 110 Tarkovsky, Andrei 43, 47 Television broadcast/TV 15, 21, 32, 63, 64, 69, 70, 108, 123, 135, 139, 142n12, 145, 157, 162, 167, 169n20 Terrorism xi, 94; 7/7 (London) 115; 9/11 (New York) 15, 22; war on 15 The Adjuster (Atom Egoyan 1991) 145 The Balcony (Giedr˙e Beinori¯ut˙e 2008) 29 The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen 1998) 4 The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman 2002) 46 The Bus (Tunç Okan 1976) 175, 177–8, 180 The Corridor (Šar¯unas Bartas 1995) 29 The Crime That Changed Serbia (Janko Baljak 1994) 50n31, 136 The Devil’s Backbone (Guillermo del Toro 2001) 91 The Firemen’s Ball (Miloš Forman 1967) 127 The Fourth Man (Dejan Zeˇcevi´c 2007) 46 The Invisible Frame (Cynthia Beatt 2009) 1–3 The Jade Warrior (Antti-Jussi Annila 2006) 26

Index 199 The Killer (John Woo 1989) 168n9, 170n27 The Last Train (Alexei German Jr’s 2003) 16 The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Leader Karadjordje (1911) 37 The Magic Sword (Vojislav Nanovi´c 1950) 49n14 The Muslim (Vladimir Khotinenko 1995) 17 The New Symphony (1981) 63 The Peshawar Waltz (Timur Bekmambetov, Gennadi Kayumov 1994) 17 The Ride (Jan Svˇerák 1994) 123, 127–32, 132n23 The Scent of Green Papaya (Tran Anh-Hung 1993) 76–7 The Soviet Story (Edvins Snore 2008) 28, 30 The Time of the Leopards (Zdravko Velimrovic 1987) 66–7 The Unpicked Strawberries (Srdjan Karanovi´c 1974) 50n31, 135, 138 The Vagabond (Raj Kapoor 1951) 168n9 The Wind Blows from the North (José Cardoso 1987) 67–8 The World (Jia Zhangke 2005) 154–5, 163 The Wounds (Srdan Dragojevi´c 1998) 51n56, 52n66, 136–7, 138 These Are the Weapons (Murillo Salles 1978) 61 Tiananmen Square 80, 82, 154–5, 159, 160, 169n17 Tirana Year Zero (Fatmir Koçi 2002) 90, 96–8 Tito and I (Goran Markovic 1992) 138 Tomorrow Morning (Oleg Novkovi´c 2006) 140 Tourism 30, 79, 80, 93, 118–19, 128, 155; tourist gaze 30, 118; tourist site 118 Transnational cinema (see also national cinema) 1, 4, 5, 13, 22 Transnationalism 1, 3, 4, 5, 7–8, 9, 13–22, 53–6, 75, 77–8, 79, 81, 83, 86, 91, 144–5, 154, 156, 175, 176; cosmopolitan 81, 126, 145; negotiation zone 8, 75; post-national 3, 77, 78 Trauma xii, 82, 136, 175–6, 179, 181 Tune in Tomorrow (Jon Amiel 1990) 93–4 Two Kilers (Juliusz Machulski 1999) 107

Universalism 16, 22, 56, 154 Urbicide 136–7 Values 29, 32, 36, 38, 43, 47, 81, 92, 107, 130, 143, 173, 174; cultural 61; film production 16, 22; national 14, 81, 173, 174; religious 173–4; symbolic 137 Vernacular cinema 108 Virilio, Paul 2 Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson 1997) 94, 97, 103n17 Wait for Me and I will not come (Miroslav Momˇcilovi´c 2009) 140 Walls, 2, 164, 169n27, 178, 180; the Berlin Wall 1–2, 69, 112, 114, 121, 125; the Great Wall 162 War 15, 17–18, 20, 22, 28, 38, 46, 54, 56, 57, 66, 67, 69, 94, 136, 137–8, 140, 156; Afghan 5, 13, 15, 17, 18; anti-war 17, 22; armed struggle 53, 55, 56–69; Chechen 15, 18; live battle 58; machine 164; Second World 8, 15, 18, 19, 21, 27, 108–9, 117, 121, 143, 147; the Cold War 1–2, 3, 4, 18, 132 War films 3, 5, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 29, 39, 41 War (Aleksei Balabanov 2002) 16 We are not Angels (Srdjan Dragojevic 1992) 45 Wenders, Wim 48 When father Was Away on a Business Trip (Emir Kusturica 1985) 138 Who’s Singing Over There? (Slobodan Šijan 1980) 42 Wind of Change (Funcho, Carlos Henriques 1981) 66 Women 9, 42, 60, 68, 71, 77, 88n50, 99, 109–10, 112–13, 115–16, 117, 125, 131, 137, 166, 171–81; fallen woman 171–2, 173, 174–6, 180–1 World cinema 1, 5, 25, 40 Wound culture 136–7 Xala (Ousmane Sembène 1973) 72n4 Xenophobia 67, 71, 173; ethnic prejudices 112 Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige 1984) 167–8

Index 205

Index 207