In 1945, Yugoslav president Tito created the Avala film studios on a hill above the capital, Belgrade. The studios were the second largest in Europe at that time, as was fitting for Tito’s “Hollywood of the East”. A brand new film genre was created there: „partisan“ war epics, a sort of „spaghetti easterns“ which depicted the heroic Yugoslav resistance to German occupiers. These superproductions became extremely popular and played a major part in advancing the national effort and fostering the illusion called Yugoslavia.
Cinema Komunisto explores the myth that created Yugoslavia, the people that created its fiction and how it collapsed in the brutal reality of war. Today, Avala Film studios is a sad ‘ghost town’ of abandoned and rotting sets, out-of-date equipment, empty film lots and unemployed technicians. Anyone looking for what remains of Yugoslavia would do best to look at the films that were made during its time. Can the story of the rise and fall of the Yugoslav cinematography help explain the unity and breakup of Yugoslavia?
In the early 1960´s, English producers are negotiating the possibility of a co-production with the director of Avala Film Studios, a state-appointed policeman. They ask him if he can guarantee certain technical conditions for the shooting, and he says yes. Then they ask if he can guarantee that there will be no war in Yugoslavia during the shooting. He picks up the phone, has a brief conversation, calls in his secretary and dictates to her: “As director of Avala Film I guarantee that there will be no war in Yugoslavia for the period of this shooting.” With the communist state supporting cinematography, anything could happen – or be prevented from happening.
Yugoslav post-WWII cinema had two things going for it. A communist government eager to promote the country both internationally and domestically, and its Supreme Commander Tito, a soft dictator so fanatical about cinema that he watched a movie every night for over 30 years. His favorites? Westerns and war epics.