Želimir Žilnik

27 November, 2014 - 20:30
KASKcinema, Ghent
talk+screening
“I do not hide my camera. I do not hide the fact from people I am shooting that I am making a film. On the contrary. I help them to recognise their own situation and to express their position to it as efficiently as they can. The hidden camera is a scam. It is all right to use in films on timid animals, but it has no place in films with people.“

Serbian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik was along with a.o. Dušan Makavejev one of the key figures in the  Yugoslav 'Black Wave'. He always kept his provocative attitude and style and his engaged affinity for the margins and those that reside there.

 

In collaboration with KASKlezingen & Nova Cinema.

 

In the context of the research project “Figures of Dissent (Cinema of Politics, Politics of Cinema)” KASK / School of Arts. www.kask.be

Black Film

Želimir Žilnik
,
YU
,
1971
,
16mm
,
b&w
,
14'

One night, Žilnik picks up a group of homeless men from the streets of Novi Sad and takes them home. While they enjoy themselves in his apartment, the filmmaker tries to "solve the problem of the homeless" carrying along a film camera as a witness. He speaks to social workers, ordinary people. He even addresses policemen. They all close their eyes in front of the "problem".

Seven Hungarian Ballads

Želimir Žilnik
,
YU
,
1978
,
16mm
,
colour
,
30'

Traditional Hungarian ballads sung by talented non-professionals from Vojvodina villages. Each of the seven ballads has been shot in the atmosphere of the song and describes the farm work which is mentioned in the song.

Inventory (Inventur - Metzstrasse 11)

Želimir Žilnik
,
YU
,
1975
,
16mm
,
colour
,
9'

Tenants of one old building in the centre of Münich are featured in this film: most of them are foreigners who work in Germany as "guest workers" (Yugoslavs, Italians, Turks, Greeks etc.). In their mother tongue, each of them tells who he or she is, and briefly talks about their major worries, new hopes and plans for the future.

Tito Among the Serbs for the Second Time

Želimir Žilnik
,
YU
,
1994
,
video
,
colour
,
43'

Belgrade 1994, a man in Marshal Tito’s original uniform appears in different parts of the city. Instantly, groups of people flock around him and get involved in passionate discussions. Almost all of them accept to play the game, complain about the old times in Yugoslavia and blame Tito for everything.

Talk with Želimir Žilnik

Among the many anecdotes for which Želimir Žilnik is well known, there is one involving a discussion he had, sometime in the beginning of the 1970’s, with Ivo Vejvoda, at the time one of the leading Yugoslav diplomats and communist intellectuals. Vejvoda told Žilnik that it was unfortunate that his films focused so much on the 'lumpenproleteriat', which he called “a regressive force without class consciousness". This remark was typical for the criticism accusing Žilnik of painting a “black” picture of the Yugoslav society which was ostensibly flourishing in the wake of the political and economic reforms of the 1960’s, an accusation to which he bluntly responded by making a film which he literally titled Black Film (1971). Žilnik picked up six homeless people from the street and brought them into his home, not only to share the warmth of his middleclass apartment, but also to actively participate in making a film about their situation. Black Film stands as the quintessential example of Žilnik’s work, which tends to focus on the lives of vagabonds, swindlers, tinkers, beggars and bohemians, those who were in the Marxist tradition dismissively referred to as the 'lumpenproletariat', generally depicted as an inert mass of marginal and reactionary vulgars, an unredeemed and unregenerate underclass which didn’t play any structural role in the construction of socialism. This blackness then, which was so characteristic of the 'black wave' cinema of the time, can be associated with the indication of this uneasy contradiction between those who were considered as true proletarians and their degenerate close cousins, all of which were allegedly unable to grasp the political reality of their own situation. It can also be related to the unveiling of the notorious gap between the utopian promise of knowledge and salvation on one hand and the reality of poverty and inequality on the other. But the blackness can just as well be implicated on cinema itself, this art form which unsuccesfully used to claim to have the power to change social reality. “They left us our freedom”, Žilnik wrote in a text accompanying a screening of the film, “we were liberated, but ineffective”. In spite of this self-reflexive critique, Žilnik stubbornly persevered in making films, even up to this day. The political landscape might have changed, but not the filmmaker’s attitude, which remains loyal to the uncovering of the difficult legacy of socialism and the predicaments of those who were once called 'lumpen', who are today said to be included but hardly belonging.