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Circles (Without the Squares)
© Greg DeCuir Jr.
First Publication: festivalists.com March 20 2013
 
 
   
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The news just broke that Circles (dir. Srdjan Golubović) won the Audience Award at the Sofia International Film Festival. This follows the Special Jury Prize that the film won at Sundance, as well as the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlinale. While we are in the midst of this quite bountiful festival run, it seems we should begin talking about this newest representative of Serbian cinema.

Another award-winning director who I admire deeply and also consider a friend remarked that Circles is the type of film engineered for festival success. What exactly does this mean in the context of the film’s formal and thematic qualities? Circles opens in wartime Bosnia & Herzegovina where stereotypical monstrous Serbian soldiers are mercilessly beating their Muslim neighbor for no reason other than the whim that strikes them. A good-hearted Serbian soldier appears with the courage to stand between the oppressors and their helpless victim. What happens next is not shown but has dramatic consequences on various lives stretching from the Balkan region to Germany and back again. Golubović stages this drama as something of an episodic ‘our lives are all connected’ transnational European experience (but without the hollow stylistic flourishes that mar other work in this vein). The final scene of the film circles back in time to complete the tragic story of what befalls our beloved heroic soul.

Photo from the film

Regarding the mechanics of this film and what (and who) it is engineered for, the first question to be pondered is if we need another evocation of war trauma from Serbian cinema. After a screening of this film, a colleague said to me that he was tired of Serbian films which prod Serbs to feel guilty about the war (while he also pointed out that no other nation involved feels the same compulsion). This guilt would seem to satiate all parties involved – self-pitying Serbs, as well as foreign eyes that crave reinforcement for the idea that there are clearly-demarcated bad guys and good guys in the world. However, this film also shows that one good guy in a sea of bad can make a difference – though of course he must be killed for his efforts. The metaphorical implications of this fatal punishment spread far beyond the various interconnected family melodramas that Golubović composes his film around.

Golubović has already gone on record stating that this will be his last wartime film. Does that mean this will be his last international award-winning film? If that is too cynical a thought to stomach, we can take comfort in the fact that this is only Golubović’s third feature film. He is a very good director who knows where to place the camera, how to work with actors, and how to sequence a story. If he challenges himself in the future and pushes the boundaries of his craft, he will likely move to the forefront of the new generation of Serbian filmmakers, though the reward for this risk may not prove to be so immediate or quantifiable.
 
 
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Category
 
 
 
 
  Circles
 
  Srdan Golubovic
 
  Circles by Srdjan Golubovic awarded at Sundance Film Festival
  Balkan Films won the main and other prices at Berlinale!
  The Awards of the 17th Sofia International Film Festival
 
 
 
 
 
  Read it at festivalists
  Read it at de Cinema - de Cuir
  Berlinale 2013 Awards
  Sundance Festival Awards
  Awards of the 17th Sofia International Film Festival
 
 
 
 
 
 
       
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