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Escape from the Balkans
First Publication: Papers of the symposium organized during the 3rd edition of Divan Film Festival Cetate 2012
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“The concept of Balkan film appeared virtually in the ‘80s, mainly with Emir Kusturica’s success at major festivals. He imposed a new kind of “ethno” cinema, i.e. one with exotic elements that attract and gradually manage to redefine the Western canon. Kusturica did not invent this type of cinema, one can easily find precursors like Michael Cacoyannis with his Alexis Zorbas (1964) and Aleksandar Petrović with Happy Gypsies (1967). However, although the term “Balkan cinema” started being used more and more, just as the terms “Scandinavian film” or “Latin American cinema” had been used before, there were very few attempts to define it. 

Balkan cinema today includes, besides Kusturica, Cacoyannis and Petrović, some new directors such as Srdjan Koljević, Costas Kapakas, Cristian Nemescu, Nap Toader, Aleksandar Morfov, Vinko Brešan, Darko Mitrevski, Ahmed Imamović, Srdjan Dragoević, Ahmet Ulucay, Yilmaz Erdogan, Ömer Faruk Sorak etc. No matter how rich and appealing this cinema might be, no intellectual from a Balkan country will ever agree to label it only as ‘Balkan cinema’. Indeed, we may agree that a film is ‘typical’ to the region, but by no means exhaustively so. For Westerners, Balkan cinema can be characterized by a few basic traits like ‘black comedy’, dream-like fantasy, raw vitality or violence, but for the natives these terms alone will sound shallow, reductive or even unfair and discriminatory. In fact, we can at least agree that “Balkan cinema” is different from “the cinema of the Balkans”. 

The Cinema of the Balkans” can refer to all aspects of the cinematic traditions of the region, no matter how small and insignificant, including the aspects that do not fit the general picture. Therefore, I suggested to no less than ten film critics and scholars from seven Balkan countries to get rid of the template, to escape from their preconceptions about the Balkans and to look for unusual things. Instead of drawing the limitations of the region and of its cinema, I proposed to tackle the attempts to escape them. Because cinema is an escapist art par excellence. 

I was expecting to receive papers on topics like Dusan Makavejev and his experimental rebellious narrative, or on the political cinema of the Balkans (still underestimated as such) as it had been represented by filmmakers such as Costa-Gavras, Angelopoulos, Voulgaris, Paskaljević, and Pintilie. I was a bit disappointed not to find such topics among the papers I received. But I was also amazed at how escapist cinema, or science-fiction, crime films, or westerns- until recently regarded as second-class genres – can become serious topics when treated by serious researchers….” 

Papers on the Volume Escape from the Balkans (Divan Film Festival 2012)

Escape and Homecoming in Bulgarian Cinema by Prof. Aleksanda Yanakiev

Unusual Films/Views of the Balkans by Prof. Nevena Dakovic & Aleksandra Milovanovic

Romanian Science-Fiction and its Creator: Ion Popescu Gopo by Dana Duma

Four Pieces of Hungarian-Balkan Co-Productions by Iván Forgács

Greek Cinema and the Balkans: Connections, Divergences and Escapes by Dr. Lydia Papadimitriou

Escaping Time by Magda Mihǎilescu

Policier, Noun. Prolegomena to a History of Romanian Crime Film by Mihai Fulger

Bulgarian sf Films: An Unsuccessful Attempt to Escape From Reality by Petar Kardjilov

The Balkan Westerns of the Sixties by Sergey Lavrentiev

The Birth of the Romanian Western by Marian Ţuţui

  Zorba the Greek
  I Even Met Happy Gypsies
  Costas Gavras
  Theo Angelopoulos
  Michael Cacoyannis
  Srdjan Dragojevic
  Emir Kusturica
  Srdjan Koljevic
  Cristian Nemescu
  Pantelis Voulgaris
  Costas Kapakas
  Yilmaz Erdogan
  Ahmed Imamovic
  Aleksandra Milovanovic
  Marian Tutui
  Vladimir Paskaljevic
  Dusan Makavejev
  Aleksandar Petrovic
  Vinko Bresan
  Darko Mitrevski
  Lucian Pintilie
  Omer Faruk Sorak
  Lydia Papadimitriou
  Aleksandr Morfov
  Nevena Dakovic
  Divan Film Festival
  Instead of Foreword: Cinema of the Balkans in and beyond cliches
  Divan Film Festival Official Website
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