Serbian cinematography dates back more than a hundred years, to 1896 when the first movie was shown in Belgrade. After the World War II, Belgrade became the center of Yugoslavian cinematography, with most prominent production houses being: Avala Film, Zastava Film and Dunav film, among others. First movie ever produced in Serbia was in 1911, and in 1957 the first color movie was filmed. And from then on Serbian movie industry kept flourishing with more than 300 movies filmed between the 60s and 90s. Even the falling apart of Yugoslavia in 1991 and the difficult period that followed didn’t affect Serbian film industry; If anything, these trying times and turbulent history were an inspiration for many films to come, since most of the movies are war-themed and heavily dosed with black humor.
Some of the most prominent film directors are Živojin Pavlović, Dušan Kovačević, Goran Paskaljević, Slobodan Šijan and Emir Kusturica who is the most successful Serbian filmmaker and the winner of many international awards.
This list consists of the titles that every enthusiast who decides to dabble in Serbian films should see:
10. The Elusive Summer of ’68 
This comedy centers around a high school graduate, Petar (Slavko Štimac), a maturing young man who is starting to feel attraction towards women, which leads him to fall in love with every woman he meets. This leads to a series of comical situations and drives his father, who is a municipal judge, a Marxist and a man of reputation insane. The year 1968 was a year when the clash of generations was strongy felt in Serbia, and this movie managed to capture the atmosphere of that time very well.
9. The Fall of Rock & Roll 
Written in the omnibus form, this movie consists of three independent segments and is written and directed by three different screenwriters and directors. All three stories revolve around the lifestyle of young people in late ’80s, the rise of new wave music, house parties, and the clash between rock culture and the rising popularity of the commercial folk music. This movie attained cult status and was awarded a Golden Arena for Best Film Editing at the Pula Film Festival in 1989.
8. Time of the Gypsies 
Considered one of the best films of Emir Kusturica, this story revolves around a young gipsy boy with the power of telekinesis. He begins his life in a Yugoslavian village and ends up in Italy where he gets drawn into a world of crime. The traditions, rituals, and beliefs of the gypsy people are presented quite realistically in the movie but there are also parts that resemble a fairytale or a dream. It is this very mixture that makes this movie brilliant and a must see.
7. Sky Hook 
This is a story of people caught in the war during the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. It depicts the consequences of war through the story of one ordinary family living in Belgrade and the atmosphere in their neighborhood while they dread of the wailing of sirens, signaling that they should hide in bomb shelters. Very realistic imagery makes this war drama easy to relate to.
6. Tito and Me 
Through the eyes of a 10 year old boy, Zoran, this film depicts the life in 1950s Yugoslavia during the rule of Tito. Child’s perspective allows the film to inspect and question all the philosophical and moral ideas of that time by showing them through the eyes of an unbiased viewer. Many elements of a family drama and the comedic tone make this film very enjoyable, while it criticizes the political scene of that time.
5. We Are Not Angels 
This cult comedy takes us to the 1990s Belgrade where a literature student and womanizer Nikola (Nikola Kojo) is faced with a problem when he learns that the girl he slept with is pregnant. The angel and devil fight over his soul and take turns to whisper ideas into his ear. Belgrade music and fashion scene of the 90s is very well depicted in this lighthearted comedy.
4. The Professional 
Two men, Teja (Branislav Lečić) and Luka (Bora Todorović) both face their demons when Luka steps into Teja’s office to confront him. Teja is a former university professor, a writer and a political activist turned publisher, while Luka is a former Serbian Security Service agent, turned taxi driver, whose mission was to follow every Teja’s move. His mission turned into a personal obsession for Luka. He forces Teja to relive some of the moments from his past, and uncovers the reasons behind his personal involvement in the case. Through the flashbacks we learn the story of these two men which is at the same time tragic, hilarious and incredible. This is an adaptation of the novel by Dušan Kovačević, who also directed the movie.
3. When I Grow Up I’ll be a Kangaroo 
A movie about young people who are about to hit their 30s and haven’t done anything with their lives yet. One of the three central stories focuses on Braca (Sergej Trifunović), a young student of film editing who is on a date with a beautiful model, Iris (Marija Karan), and everything that can go wrong, does; another story focuses on the rest of their friends and neighbors watching an important game between Manchester and Ipswich, because their friend “Kangaroo” is the goalkeeper of Ipswich. Their lives seem to temporarily stop for the duration of this soccer game, which emphasizes the despondent state they are in, with no sense of purpose in life; Avaks (Lazar Strugar ) and Hibrid (Miodrag Fišeković) are two idlers who drink bear and smoke weed all day long on top of their building, and only add to the whole sense of hopelessness. Even though the plot may seem somber, it is actually a humorous portrayal of the condition that is all too familiar to Serbian people.
2. Balkan Spy 
Ilija Čvorović (Bata Stojković) is a reformed Stalinist who has spent several years as a political prisoner. After being routinely interrogated about his tenant Petar (Bora Todorović) who has just moved back from Paris and opened a tailor shop, Ilija becomes more and more convinced that his tenant is in fact a spy and starts surveilling him. He includes his brother Djura (Zvonko Lepetić) in his paranoia-inducing secret operation. This comedy of absurd and irony criticizes the authoritarian ideology of that time in a witty manner characteristic of the writer and director Dušan Kovačević.
1. The Marathon Family 
The Marathon Family, or literally translated “The Marathoners Run the Lap of Honour” is another gem of the writer Dušan Kovačević, and producer Slobodan Šijan, and probably the greatest Serbian film to this day. This cult film, set between the two World Wars, centers around six generations of Topalović family, who are a family of undertakers. When the oldest family member (150 years old Pantelija) dies it sets off a rat race over who gets the inheritance. The family members resort to all kinds of tricks in order to outsmart one another. In parallel, they are trying to keep their business running; instead of making coffins, Topalovićs simply steal coffins from the graveyard and refurbish them as new. They are also building a modern crematory which they hope will be their biggest source of income. The youngest family member, Mirko (Bogdan Diklić) falls in love with their associate Bili Piton’s (Zoran Radmilović) daughter Kristina (Jelisaveta Sablić) and doesn’t want to continue the family business. Instead he wants to become a movie star with the help of his innovative friend Djenka (Bora Todorović). Great acting and the unusual plot of this film, among other things, make it one of the most loved classics of Serbian cinematography.
What is your favorite Serbian film?