Symposium on the Yugoslav Black Wave (1963-73)

in 13rd goEast Film Festival

by Milan Vlajcic

As a part of very rich and wonderful program of the 13th edition of goEast — Festival of Central and Eastern European Film, the Symposium on the Yugoslav Film Black Wave (1963-73) attracted an enthusiastic audience. During its three days, from early morning, we had the pleasure of listening to a dozen lectures on different topics, done mostly by young scholars and film theorists. Every time, after an introduction, sometimes fervent discussions were managed, asserting how complex and provocative is this part of Yugoslav film history, named as the Golden era of Yugoslav cinema, connected with the French Nouvelle Vague, New Polish Cinema (Munk, Wajda), and especially with the great Czech New Wave (Forman, Passer etc.)

As a basis for this serious event, in the Murnau Film Archive the audience had an excellent opportunity to see the selection of the best films from this era — by authors such as Dusan Makavejev, Zelimir Zilnik, Zivojin Pavlovic, Krsto Papic, Bato Cengic, and others. The cinema hall was mostly full, especially for Zilnik movies, not least because his debut film Early Works (1969) (awarded the Berlin Golden Bear) was strongly inferred as an attack on official Tito Policy. The attendance this time in Wiesbaden was exceptional and raised many references in both the Symposium and in the corridors of the festival.

Zilnik and this writer were only living witnesses and active actors on the public scene at this tumultuous time, so our interventions were just part of a very vivid and sometimes polemic atmosphere at the closing panel. I was amazed that dozens of young scholars and critics gave us some interesting theoretical understandings of this era. It was a sometimes fervent but useful polemical discussion, concerning the complex nature of Yugoslav proclaimed freedom for culture and creative minds that was in the trap of contradiction between highly posted principles and, on the other side, praxis in real life; full of hardline officials, violence and discriminations on all levels.

A lot of Yugoslav films, collectively known under the label of Black Wave, are not so easily available in ex-Yugoslavia because the production houses of the time do not exist anymore. So, we saw some films for the first time in twenty years, under the roof of beautiful Murnau Archive. But it was a great joy to see how wonderful the reaction was from mostly young cinemagoers.

The whole three-day Symposium raised productive dilemmas concerning the connections between Black Wave films and contemporary independent films all over Europe. Though not a unique response, the attitude is very close to my opinion that this connection is very strong. Seeing the best movies from the Black Wave era, we understood that after many years they did not lose anything. They could have been made today, because the cinema language is not so different from the contemporary independent cinema. The best energy is saved and obliged: bravery in seeing critical sides of life, the rebellion spirit against destructive attacks on human rights for minorities and marginal existence — from rock-star lives to losers — without their guilt and will.

As an aged critic, with big experience covering many festivals, from Cannes to Baku, I must express my high praise for an excellent festival achieved by the director and selector, Miss Gaby Babic.

Edited by Steven Yates