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Historical ex-Yugoslav studios sold. An end of an era
27 April 2015
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On Wednesday, 22-04-2015, after a public auction, the biggest and historical Yugoslav-era Film Studio, Avala Film, was sold to for eight million euros to the private company Filmway, which is registered as being founded one month ago with capital of 60,000 dinars, or about 500 euros (US$537). The legal representative is listed as Michel Babic, a French citizen, according to the channel News Asia.

Sets, 1962

The Avala Film catalogue (1947-1992) comprising over 200 feature films and 400 documentaries, including winners’ films at the festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Venice, such as the 1967 winner of the Cannes Film Festival΄s Palme d΄Or, I Even Met Happy Gypsies, will also come into the hands of the new owner. The Yugoslav Film Archive requested from the Commercial Court to postpone at least temporarily the sale of the large film fund, but the Court disagreed.

Avala Film is the former Yugoslavia’s oldest and largest film studio. Modeled on the famous Italian Cinecittà, it was created in 1946, by Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, to be the country’s Central Film Studio. Between 1947, when it made the first post-war Yugoslav film Slavica to today, Avala Film produced a staggering 200 feature fiction films, and over 400 documentaries and short films, as well as numerous co-productions, starring Sofia Loren, Alain Delon, Orson Welles, Omar Sharif, Anthony Hopkins…  No book has ever been published on the history of the studios, nor is there an archive. There are almost no scripts, production documents, stills, or evidence of any kind of this cinematic heritage.

Laboratory, 1960

Avala Film produced its last film in 2000. In the decade that followed various production companies rented space in the film city, producing domestic films, television content and servicing foreign productions. Bankruptcy proceedings began in 2011, drawing warnings from Serbia΄s film community that the state risked losing a valuable part of its national heritage.

Until Wednesday, the studios still had the socialist-era status of ‘socially-owned’ property. The Serbian government sold Avala Film for the value of the terrain the film city stands on. The entire catalogue of films produced has been included in the sale, meaning almost half of Yugoslav history became the private ownership of a real-estate tycoon on April 22nd, 2015.

Protest, 2015 (®Tanjug/Oksana Toskic)

Appearing on television, Serbian Minister of Curlture Ivan Tasovac stressed that “the Serbian Hollywood has not been working since 1989″ and that distinction must be made between privatization and bankruptcy proceedings. The Dean of the Faculty of Drama, Zoran Popović on the other hand, said that Serbian filmmakers insist they are exempt from the privatization of the film production company.

Film artists and workers have been leading a campaign against the sale in the past few months and a petition was started seeking to exclude the film archive from the privatization process, without success. 

The filmmaker of the award-winning documentary film Cinema Komunisto, Mila Turajlic, along with the protagonists and collaborators launched a campaign hosted on the documentary’s website, called the City of lost films.

According to their own words: "We’ve called our campaign The City of Lost Films, referring not only to the lost film city, but also the fact that Belgrade has, as a result of another catastrophically mismanaged privatisation, lost a network of 13 cinemas in the city center. We chose the slogan The final screening to start a countdown to the sale, and you can participate in expressing your feelings by signing our petition. Most importantly, you can send us your texts, memories, photos and other souvenirs of Avala Film, and join us in this attempt to build an online space that will house the story of Avala Film."

The Gates, 2015

Support for efforts to prevent the sale of the Avala film fund in the past days, have been given by the Association of Serbian film directors, film producers Association of Serbia, The association of film distributors in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Film Artists Association of Dramatic Artists, Film Academy, institutions, and prominent individuals.

For the moment, the amazing Avala catalogue is saved and uploaded at the Cinema Communisto website, as the Avala Film website is no longer in existence.

  Cinema Komunisto
  I Even Met Happy Gypsies
  Mila Turajlic
  Avala Film
  Avala Film catalogue at Cinema Communisto website
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