Aleksandar Leka Konstatinovic, Marshall Josep Broz Tito
CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Mila Turajlic's Cinema Komunisto is a documentary about a nation that once was and their history of cinema.
Turajlic is a Serbian filmmaker, and Cinema Komunisto is an enjoyable and informative historical doc about a slice of Yugoslavian history that is mostly known only in Eastern Europe. Yugoslavia, that country that is now divided into various parts including Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, was ruled by President Tito, a Communist dictator and, for the purposes of this film, an absolute movie nut. Tito set about to create a magnificent studio in which magnificent films would be made, actually he planned to create three studios but only one was completed, and for the next 40ish years the nation would churn out a wide variety of films ranging from political films to war films to comedies and, yes, the majority of them are viewed as propaganda films that helped to shape the ideals and values of the nation.
While this sounds as if it could be a boring view, it is far from it. In particular, Cinema Komunisto includes a fascinating interview with Leka Konstantinovic, Tito's personal projectionist for 32 years who reportedly showed the sum of 8,000 films to Tito over the years. It's reported that Tito watched a film every single night, often staying up into the late hours to ensure that he was able to finish the film. It was during these years that Yugoslavia temporarily partnered with the Soviet Union's MOSFilms, a partnership that eventually ended and then resulted in Yugoslavia actually beginning to work with Hollywood.
In the 60's, Yugoslavian cinema was largely ruled by a sort of shadowy figure who began working more and more with Hollywood and quite a few names surfaced in Yugoslavia including Kirk Douglas, Sophia Loren, Anthony Hopkins, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles. The nation even had its own film festival, which played host to a tremendous amount of Hollywood names and Welles and Yul Brynner even acted in Yugoslavia's 1969 Oscar entry, The Battle of Neretva (which had a movie poster designed by Picasso himself!).
Filmed in the Serbo-Croatian language with English subtitles, Cinema Komunisto is currently on the film festival circuit and will be screening at the Indianapolis International Film festival from July 14-24. Not yet picked up for distribution in the U.S., the film should eventually find a home either on cable or in ancillary markets.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic