Avala’s films contact with the world. He was in charge of ‘escorting’ all foreigners who came to Yugoslavia to shoot their films – from picking them up at the Italian border, to fulfilling their every request, like hiding rakija bottles from Anthony Hopkins, and engaging the Yugoslav secret police to stop a train on which a kidnapped Broderick Crawford was being smuggled.
“Never let them notice they are not in Hollywood.”
The Studio Boss
A template resume of a Communist party operator – from leader of youth ‘public works’ (that built Tito’s reconstruction projects), to director of the municipality in which Avala Film studios were built, he was offered to ‘take over’ Avala by his party mate, the infamous Ratko Drazevic. He was chased out of Avala for thinking that ‘the bad parts of communism should also be addressed in our films’. But, the next day he was offered to take charge of Belgrade Parking Servis where he earned the nickname Gile Pauk (Gile the Spider) for importing the first ‘spider’ pick-up trucks, after which he rounded up his party career by becoming director of Belgrade Airport.
“a great admirer of that regime, but with the greatest possible criticism”
LEKA (Aleksandar) KONSTATINOVIC
The person who served longest on Tito’s personal staff, Leka spent every night of his 32-year career as Tito’s projectionist, standing behind ‘the Marshall’s’ head in the dark, showing films that he gathered during the day. In those three decades he can count the number of people who shook his hand after the screening: Castro, Nasser and Carlo Ponti. Leka was the silent observer of daily life around Tito, an invisible witness of the political discussions that took place in the screening room, picking tangerine’s in Tito’s orchard in his free time.
“Tito would criticize me when he didn’t like the film, and Jovanka would say to him: Tito, Leka doesn’t make the films he just shows them!”
The Court Director
Bulajic’s films are the best examples of the authentic partisan genre that represents the most megalomanical days of Yugoslav cinema. For him Tito’s Yugoslavia truly was a golden age – he had at his disposal army units, villagers, whatever was required. His contribution was to give the founding myth of Yugoslavia it’s filmic narrative, stock characters, and most memorable quotes.
“Tito called me over and asked me what I wanted to do for my next film. I said it would be good to make an epic story about the Neretva battle.”
BATA (Velimir) ZIVOJINOVIC
The Screen Legend
How did a Yugoslav actor become the most popular film star in China, and so lay claim to having over 1 billion fans? By playing in over 300 Yugoslav films, Bata IS the face of partisan cinema. Reportedly, in his films he killed more Germans than Paton did. This popularity took him from screen to (political) stage, as he became a member of Milosevic’s party in 1991, and became a deputy in the Serbian Parliament. Bata is the personification of the Yugoslav partisan hero, who carried the myth of their noble struggle from film to film. Bata had a heart attack in September 2006, which he survived, giving interviews from his hospital bed about how he still had ‘Germans to kill’.
“What’s the last thing Hitler said before he died?
-Kill Bata Zivojinovic!”