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  Dr. Marian TUTUI, film researcher, curator of the Romanian Film Archive
BALKAN CINEMA VERSUS CINEMA OF THE BALKAN NATIONS 3. Cinema Schools in the Balkans 4. Two Decades of Success Mean Tradition?

Extract from the book "ORIENT EXPRESS The Romanian and Balkan cinema" Marian Tutui, NOI Media Print 2011

The whole rush undertaking of creating distinct film
traditions is particularly artificial because, carried out as
it was at a moment when the borders of national cinemas
were collapsing and giving way to increasingly trans-
national film-making, building on new national cinemas
today is a causa perduta.
                                                     Dina Iordanova

World histories of cinema most often ignore the cinema schools in the Balkans or they mention only the Yugoslav and Greek ones. Such schools of cinema deserve mentioning. If we do not take into account the awards in Venice before WW21 and the Oscar nomination in 1959 of the co- production The Year Long Road/ La Strada lunga un anno/ Cesta duga godinu dana (Italy- Yugoslavia) directed by Italian Giuseppe De Santis we shall find that filmmakers representing Yugoslavia received the international acknowledgement with director France Stiglic’s Oscar nomination in 1960, won an Academy award for animation in 1961 through Dusan Vukotić and then in 1965, 1967, 1979 and 1986 other four nominations for films of Aleksandar Petrović, Stole Popov2 and Emir Kusturica. The Yugoslav animation has asserted itself not only through Vukotić but also with the other representatives of the Zagreb School in Croatia. As early as 1928 they made the first cartoon in Zagreb and Dusan Vukotić received an Oscar in 1961 for The Substitute/ Surogat and another nomination for The Game/ Igra in 1962. Even the Skopje School of animation in Macedonia has produced reputed filmmakers such as Petar Gligorovski3 and Darko Marković4. Yugoslav cinema has been described as being characterized at its beginnings by historical films, immediately after WW2 by films with partisans and by the “phenomenal... rise of animated film”5. This school is characterized by an anti- Disney reaction considering that imitating the movement of people and animals does not represent the inner essence of animation6. Another axiological landmark is represented by the Belgrade School of documentary where Ante Babaja, Mladomir Purisa Djordjević, Aleksandar Petrović, Krsto Skanata, Stjepan Žaninović and Želimir Žilnik asserted themselves. Another characteristic consists in the co- productions made in Yugoslavia after WW2. The 60s are characterized by the poetry of Petrović’s films, the sarcasm and anarchism of Makavejev, by the political satire of Žilnik and by Živožin Pavlović’s black humor. At the end of the 70s we witness the affirmation of the Prague School (named after the filmmakers who had studied there). Rajko Grlić, Srdjan Karanović, Goran Marković, Goran Paskaljević, Lordan Zafranović and Emir Kusturica manifest by an unprecedented narrative liberty, social satires and diverse genres. Besides them we can notice Karpo Godina, Stole Popov, Soja Jovanović, Mica Milosević, Slobodan Siljan and Stojan Stojcić. Meanwhile veterans Dusan Makavejev and Živojin Pavlović continued their activity.

On its turn, Greek cinema received through actress Katina Paxinou an Academy award as early as 1944 and a nomination in 1961 for actress Melina Mercouri, as well as for directors Michael Cacoyannis and Vassilis Georgiadis for the best foreign films in 1963 and 1965, respectively in 1964 and 1966. We can add to them an Oscar and a nomination for composer Manos Hadjidakis in 1960, respectively in 1965, as well as international successes of directors Nikos Koundouros, Theo Angelopoulos, Pantelis Voulgaris and Kostas Ferris, without mentioning the ones of the self- exiled Constantin Costa- Gavras. Greek cinema has been described as characterized mainly at its beginnings by genres such as hypersensitive melodrama, comedy adapted after theatrical successes and “foustanella”, a Greek specialty including peasant plot and costumes7. Many films include scenes with dances and folkloric music. However, they have noticed films even in the 30s of directors such as Achilles Madras, Orestos Laskos and Dimitris Gaziadis. For the 50s they have noticed the influence of the Italian Neo- Realism mainly with directors like Grigoris Grigorios and Stelios Tatasopoulos. In the 60s are noteworthy Ado Kyrou, Michael Cacoyannis, Nikos Kondouros, George Tzavellas, Vassilis Georgiadis, Theo Angelopoulos and Pantelis Voulgaris while for the last decades Apostolis Doxiadis, George Stamboulopoulos, Kostas Ferris, Tonia Marketaki, Niko Papatakis, Robert Manthoulis, Nikos Vergitsis and George Katakuzinos. Alongside with them one should emphasize the merits of composers of music scores like Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis, as well as of actors like Melina Mercouri, George Foundas, Irene Papas, Themis Bazaka and Aliki Voyuklakis. After the period of dictatorship in the 60s a new genre flourishes, the one of political history8, whose notorious representatives is Voulgaris and Angelopoulos. In the last decades a significant contribution to the achievements of Greek cinema has also had the director of photography Iorgos Arvanitis, a constant collaborator of Angelopoulos and holder of an award for image in Venice (1989).

Romanian cinema received a first award in Cannes for an animation film by Ion Popescu- Gopo in 1957. The next important award was at the same festival for a screening by Liviu Ciulei in 1965. Awards for Mircea Mureşan (1966) and Mirel Ilieşu (1969) followed again in Cannes, the ones of Dan Piţa in Berlin (1985) and Venice (1992), as well as Lucian Pintilie’s award, again in Venice (1998). Recently, young directors Cristi Puiu, Cătălin Mitulescu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Cristian Nemescu and Cristian Mungiu received several awards at the great European festivals in a period of only seven years (2001- 2007) so that many critics began to talk about a “New Wave” of Romanian cinema.


In 1974 American Michael Jon Stoil considered that “about Albanian cinema in general it is enough to say that it offers work for about 200 Albanians, which is not enough for founding a big studio in USA”14. If we consider an Albanian success Sergei Yutkevich’s award in Cannes (1954) for the Albanian- USSR co-production Skanderbeg/ Velikiy voin Albanii Skanderbeg, it still would be singular until 2001. Then director Gjergj Xhuvani received for Slogans/ Parullat (France- Albania) an award for debut in Cannes. In exchange, directors from the new countries emerged from ex- Yugoslavia enjoyed success quite rapidly. Croatian Krsto Papić was nominated in 1990 for the Golden Globe, Macedonian Milcho Manchevski received the Golden Lion in Venice and was an Oscar nominee in 1994, Slovenian Jan Cvitković received an award for debut in Venice (2001) for Bread and Milk/ Kruh in mleko while Bosnian Danis Tanović and Jasmila Zbanić received an Oscar in 2001, respectively the Golden Lion in Berlin (2006). We can add Aida Begić with her Snow/ Snijeg (2008, Bosnia and Herzegovina- Germany- France- Iran) which received Critics Week Grand Prize in Cannes.


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