Subversive Belgrade Layabouts

in 10th Geneva International Film Festival

by Borislav Andjelic

Continuing a fine tradition, the 14th Film Festival in Cottbus has, beside its feature film competition, it offers very important side programs which shed additional light on contemporary East European films.

The 2004 Spectrum program celebrates remarkable film aesthetics with distinguished work of some new directors from Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, but as well new films of directors whose talents were recognized at some earlier Cottbus festivals, and which have since become important influences on film making in their countries. Among these are Zrinko Ogresta with Here from Croatia and Dear Enemy by Gjergj Xhuvani from Albania (whose previous film Slogans won the Main Prize at the 2001 Cottbus festival) and Radivoje Andric from Serbia and Montenegro with his newest film When I Grow Up, I’ll Be Kangaroo (Kad Porastem Bicu Kengur).

I will dedicate the following review to Radivoje Andric’s film When I Grow Up, I’ll Be Kangaroo, because it is a good representative of the general goals of this year’s Spectrum program.

Despite lacking intensity and energy in places, one cannot negate the seductive appeal of When I Grow Up, I’ll Be Kangaroo. The film is soaked in the existential anxiety of young characters who want to hold on to those wonderfully rich moments of life created through their wanderings, while simultaneously trying to find their individual sanctuary, or at least a temporary shelter from the world.

When I Grow Up, I’ll Be Kangaroo is a romantic comedy that comprises three parallel stories placed in urban Belgrade. The first story takes place in a dilapidated cinema in a suburb, where “MC daddy” Braca (Sergej Trifunovic) is unsuccessfully trying to “pull” a model called Iris (Marija Karan). The second story takes place in a betting shop, filled with all sorts of losers, where two friends, Somi (Boris Milivojevic) and Duje ( Nikola Vujovic), are expecting “to hit a meal ticket” through the victory of a team in which their school friend Kangaroo (Nikola Djuricko) is the goal keeper. In a way the third story sums up the sublime futile existence of youngsters in this region. It describes two characters on the top of a skyscraper, Avaks (Lazar Strugar) and Hibrid (Miodrag Fisekovic) champion ‘layabouts’, and in company with of a coordinative character, Sumpor (Gordan Kicic), expecting something to pull them out of the languor, even if this would be the appearance of a “flying saucer”.

In the environment of general political despair and spiritual apathy of the time and place where these youngsters live, with the exquisite cooperation of screenwriter Miroslav Momcilovic, film editor Marko Glusica and cameraman Dusan Joksimovic, director Radivoje Andric is searching, and most of the time successfully, to find remarkable streams of misplaced life energy by mostly wandering within himself and others; despite everything that is hanging over his characters, they are devising and creating a step out of stagnation they have unwillingly found themselves in. Their omnipresent virtue, unusual for the region devastated by civil wars and economic drawbacks, is a positive energy which represents a fascinating spiritual element and hope that dignifies this charming and interesting movie.

It is a fable that is “velvety” on the outside, and “sour” on the inside, a special feature of Andric’s movies (Three palms for two scoundrels and a gal in 1998 and Lightning in 2001) – young characters, atmosphere, the subject matter – have found their place in the movie, oscillating from novelty and originality to being in accord with a mode. Andric remains faithful to a narrower, already traditionally urban context that lacks a more universal function, which, in a way, represents a limiting factor when presented to a wider domestic and foreign audience.

The actors bring allure and a unique driving force to this movie. Starting from the remarkable Sergej Trifunovic, the attractive Marija Karan, effective Gordan Kicic, to the outstanding mini-roles of Boris Milivojevic, Lazar Strugar and Miodrag Fisekovic, as well as Nebojsa Glogovac, Nikola Djuricko and Zoran Cvijanovic. With dazzling music of Vasil Hadzimanov, the movie When I Grow Up, I’ll Be Kangaroo will entertain everyone, but also will make them think.

Borislav Andjelic