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Spotlights & Special Events

Feature Films : Subversive Serbia

Subversive SerbiaSerbia’s terrifying recent history has birthed a confrontational new generation of filmmakers who are using the medium to express their wounded psyches in ways the Western World can barely get its head around. Our spotlight, which we are calling SUBVERSIVE SERBIA showcases the key entries in this intelligently transgressive and politically charged filmmaking scene. We’re also going to showcase a string of retro Serbian genre films never before screened here, programmed in association with Dejan Ognjanovic and the Belgrade Cinematheque.

Beyond the screenings, Mr Ognjanovic will be presenting a multimedia presentation and panel discussion - AN INTRODUCTION TO SERBIAN HORROR CINEMA – where he will be joined by the makers of many of the films showcased in our spotlight.

Your eyes are about to be opened. Wide.



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The new blood:

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG Dir: Mladen Djordjevic – Montreal premiere
Hosted by director Mladen Djordjevic

This razor-sharp and often perversely comic metaphor about the social pathologies of Serbian life in the 1990s was a major hit at the Rotterdam Film Festival. A travelling “porno cabaret” journeys from village to village across rural Serbia, performing live sex acts in radical framings as a means of sexual confrontation, often provoking violent responses from the locals. Situations take a turn for the darker when the troupe are approached by a shady foreign war correspondent who makes them an offer they struggle against refusing—a ton of money in exchange for shooting actual murders, theatrically “performed” on willing, consensual victims who no longer care about living.

TEARS FOR SALE Director’s Cut Dir: Uros Stojanovic – International premiere
Hosted by screenwriter Aleksandar Radivojevic.


A Serbian village has been so devastated by war that virtually all the males have been killed, with only women remaining. Two girls earn their living as mourners-for-hire—they cry at other people’s funerals for money. When they inadvertently cause the death of the last remaining man in the village, the other women force them to go to Belgrade and find some fresh male flesh. They embark on the journey, followed by the ghost of their grandmother. An ambitious piece of eye-candy with a budget and visuals unprecedented in Serbian films, TEARS brings to mind a somewhat darker and more erotic Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Luscious period detail and costumes are blended with elaborate visual effects to conjure a unique fantasy environment for the fairy-tale plot, which uses the country’s tragic past as a background for an ambiguously dark romance. TEARS FOR SALE is characteristically Serbian in its mixture of tragedy and comedy, road movie and fantasy, death and romance, and myth and reality, and it represents a fresh vision which effectively merges the local with the universal. Also typically Serbian is the central conflict—obligation to society versus personal happiness, and the resulting clash between the individual and the communal, between selfishness and sacrifice. The film won raves everywhere from Tiff to Rotterdam in a highly reedited version in 2008, the original director’s cut having never been screened to audiences outside of Serbia…until now. Fantasia will be home to the international premiere of the film’s very different director’s cut.



A SERBIAN FILM Dir: Srdjan Spasojevic – Canadian premiere
Hosted by Director Srdjan Spasojevic, screenwriter Aleksandar Radivojevic. & producer Nikola Pantelic

Milos, a retired adult film performer agrees to do one last film in order to sustain his impoverished family. But the first day of shooting is a bit strange. Then it gets weirder. When Milos decides to pull out, things go from bad to worse. And worse. Until they reach the unspeakable. A film firmly rooted in the frustration and despair of living in Serbia today, A SERBIAN FILM reinvents the horror genre to suit its own purpose, turning it into a powerful cinematic scream of anger and frustration. It offers a stylized version of what it feels like to grow up in a country humiliated, denigrated, impoverished, bombed-out, stripped of its territory, labeled genocidal and haunted by the spirits of war crimes. It is a scream against corrupt politics, both domestic and foreign; against limitations both internal and external; against being both metaphorically and literally f***ed. It is the ne plus ultra of shock, but this already-notorious content comprises only a small portion of the film. It’s true power lies in its furious point-of-view, its shattered performances and it’s De-Palma-esque mise-en-scene. Scripted with eloquence by Aleksandar Radivojevic… who also wrote TEARS FOR SALE!


TECHNOTISE: EDIT & I Dir: Aleksa Gajic

Serbia’s first animated feature film. Edit is a smart, poised and exceptionally good-looking young psychology student in Belgrade in the year 2074. In addition to her studies, she works for a major scientific research firm. After failing her grueling psych exam for the sixth time, however, she decides to lower her ethical standards and have a black-market memory-booster chip implanted in her to guarantee a passing grade next time around. The chip is successful, but seems to have some strange side effects, and Edit is soon gobbling iron-supplement pills like an addict. Something is going on inside her, and whatever this mysterious condition may be, it is of great interest to the company she works for… TECHNOTISE is a feast for fans of Euro-sci-fi comics à la Métal Hurlant. No surprise, as in addition to being a well-established illustrator at home, the film’s writer/director is known across the continent for his comic books with prominent French publisher Soleil. His debut film is packed with delightfully distinctive and carefully drafted little visual details and devices.


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The older blood:


VARIOLA VERA (1982) Dir: Goran Markovic

VARIOLA VERA’s title refers to the Latin name for smallpox, and it is loosely based on a real event. In 1972, in what was then Yugoslavia, an Albanian Muslim from Kosovo was infected with smallpox on his pilgrimage in the Middle East and upon his return to Serbia, caused an epidemic in the Belgrade City Hospital. In the claustrophobic environment of a quarantined hospital, a group of characters, led by Rade Serbedzija (EYES WIDE SHUT), try to survive the best way they can, and to retain their humanity in the process if at all possible. No one is safe in this bleak but also blackly humorous account of body horror infecting the body politic.


A HOLY PLACE (1990) Dir: Djordje Kadijevic
Hosted by producer Zoran Otasevic

A HOLY PLACE remains a hidden gem of psycho-supernatural horror which audiences outside of Serbia have yet to discover. Since the film is not available on DVD, this is the only chance you'll ever get to see it with subtitles and on the big screen that its imagery deserves. This is the version of Nikolai Gogol's short story “Viy” that foreign audiences have barely ever seen—most have probably never heard of it. Unlike the rather benign Russian fantasy VIY (1967), the Serbian version is definitively for adults. The story is still about a reluctant theology student forced to spend three nights in a row locked in a spooky church, reading the Psalms over the (un)dead girl. All the while, supernatural forces are trying to grab him from the holy circle drawn on the floor. Gogol's half-humorous story is enriched into a more complex one, whose intensity is unique among other, tamer Slavic attempts at producing fear

T.T. SYNDROME (2002) Dir: Dejan Zecevic

A group of young people in Belgrade are out to score some weed. They go to the Turkish baths within an ancient fortress to meet their dealer, but end up trapped there and mercilessly killed one by one by a mysterious murderer clad in black leather. It all seems to have some connection with the strange and very rare illness “T. T. Syndrome”. With elements of Dario Argento and John Carpenter, T.T. was the first Serbian horror film that didn’t feel obliged to justify itself with elements of more respectable genres. It does not imply a political allegory—although placing (and killing off) its youthful cast entirely in a public toilet might have been a statement about the dashed hopes of post-Milosevic Serbia, after all! But above everything else, the movie uses motifs and style of the slasher film, plain and simple, to scare its audience. It has attained cult status in Serbia.

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AN INTRODUCTION TO SERBIAN HORROR CINEMA (a special multimedia presentation and panel discussion) – July 14, 6PM, EV Building, 1515 St. Catherine W.
Serbian contribution to the horror film universe is relatively small. And yet, what Serbian horror cinema lacks in terms of quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. It can be argued that more than a dozen of existing Serbian horror titles belong among the most original works made in this nation's cinema in the past decades, and they deserve to be wider known.

The panel devoted to Serbian horror films will be opened by Dejan Ognjanović, film critic and author of the book In the Hills, the Horrors: Serbian Horror Cinema. He will provide the historical context and cultural background for the emergence of fantastic and horrific elements in Serbian films, with exclusive clips from rare titles barely (or never) shown outside of Serbia, like: THE SHE-BUTTERFLY, THE DAMNED THING, STRANGLER VS STRANGLER, DÉJÀ VU aka REFLECTIONS, etc.

He will be joined by the directors Mladen Djordjevic (THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG) and Srdjan Spasojevic (A SERBIAN FILM), screenwriter Aleksandar Radivojevic (A SERBIAN FILM, TEARS FOR SALE) and producers Nikola Pantelic (A SERBIAN FILM) and Zoran Otasevic (A HOLY PLACE) to discuss the currents trends, potentials and plans for the new face(s) of Serbian horror cinema.

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