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Slobodan Sijan and Marian Tutui: The Talks
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On the shores of Danube River in Cetate, Romania, Divan Film Festival gathers each year guests and participants to discover and sample old and new recipes from all the different culinary traditions of the Balkans, along with films screenings and academic symposiums. This summer, the festival focuses on the “Heroes and Anti-Heroes in the Balkans”, following 2013’s topic, “Balkan Comedy”, a subject overplayed by both the West and the Balkans themselves, filled nowadays with clichés and stereotypes.

One of the people responsible for establishing this genre is Serbian filmmaker Slobodan Sijan, invited last year at Divan, who, along with the festival’s Artistic Director, Marian Tutuisat and talk to altcine on the state of comedy in former Yugoslavia before Kusturica comes in the picture.For Balkan film fans it is common knowledge that Slobodan Sijan is the one who introduced black humour and horror comedies to the Yugoslav audience. His style, charming, his voice, vibrant. He talked about the heroic and non-heroic portray of a nation “just mediocre men generating evil” and how he tried to demystify the Yugoslav audience’s picture of themselves.

Sijan appeared in the early 80’s with a wave of filmmakers not ashamed to show their love and knowledge of (above all American) genre cinema (1), a generation which never wanted to be too original “for me it was a compliment to imitate some big directors”. After directing a handful of TV films in the late 1970’s, he gets a big break with his first full-length feature, Who`s Singin` Over There? (1980), walking on the same path his early colleagues (Dusan MakavejevMilos Radivojevic,Aleksandar Petrovic and others) did with theBlack Wave films of the 60’s and early 70’s, known for their non-traditional approach to filmmaking, their dark humor and critical examination of the Yugoslav society at the time. 

Who`s Singin` Over There? and Sijan’s second film, The Marathon Family (1982) are filled with Wild West type of set-ups (Sijan loves John Ford and Howard Hawks) and gags taken from the American slapstick and crime films of the 1930΄s (2). In 1983 Sijan makes How I Was Systematically Destroyed by an Idiot while, with his next film, Strangler vs Strangler, (1984), he pushes the limits further by performing a sort of genre travesty, a horror comedy relying on the authentic background of the youth rock culture of 1980’s Belgrade as much as on the psycho-horrors of Alfred Hitchcock, Mario Bava and Richard Fleischer (3). Sijan went on making Cogniac (1988), Poor Little Hamsters (2003) and his most recent Save Our Souls in 2007. As of 2001, he’s teaching at the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television in Los Angeles, California.

On the wait for the last week of August and Divan Film Festival’s 5th edition, let’s maintain last year’s main theme spirit of “Balkan Comedy” and just enjoy the Slobodan Sijan and Marian Tutui duo, in an afternoon light-hearted conversation.

1. Dejan Ognjanovic, Genre Films in Recent Serbian Cinema, Kinokultura, 2009
2. ibid.
3. ibid.

  Who`s Singin` Over There?
  Poor Little Hampsters
  Save Our Souls
  The Marathon Family
  Strangler vs Strangler
  How I Was Systematically Destroyed by an Idiot
  Emir Kusturica
  Milos (Misa) Radivojevic
  Marian Tutui
  Slobodan Sijan
  Dusan Makavejev
  Aleksandar Petrovic
  Divan Film Festival
  Divan Film Festival 2013
  altcine Explore movies by Country People To read
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