out of Five
Running time: 100
A nostalgic, poignant documentary, Cinema Komunisto , with its stunning archival footage, is fascinating and enlightening in its championing of a nation that’s gone, but should certainly not be forgotten.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Mila Turajlic, Cinema Komunisto is a documentary that delves into the history of Yugoslav films and examines the influence that President Tito’s love of movies had on the nation’s entertainment industry. Uncovering rare footage from many revolutionary, but forgotten, Yugoslav films, Cinema Komunisto pays tribute to a country that no longer exists and its much-loved leader, whose deep adoration for cinema is discussed and enlightened by Tito’s personal projectionist of 32 years and his favourite film director, as well as other filmic figures.
Opening and ending with CocoRosie’s stunning and aptly poignant ‘Lyla’, which melancholically coos over Yugoslavia, Cinema Komunisto is a wonderful documentary that revisits the post-war period that spurred an influential film industry. Although it wasn’t as necessarily glamorous as its Hollywood counterpart, the flock of movie stars including Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who arrived to film in the now crumbling Avala Film studios, soon made sure that it was.
The archival footage is fantastic, offering us golden glimpses into Hollywood arrivals and rare footage of many left-behind films. Cinema Komunisto is bowed out by loyal natives and ends on a patriotic and sentimental note, showing us how the Avala film labs don’t even have electricity anymore and the film welcomingly revisits a bridge (blown up for the Oscar-nominated film, The Battle of Neretva) which as of 2008 is still collapsed, half dangled in water.
Cinema Komunisto may advertise film as its central subject and perhaps even its leading character in its synopsis, but the real and undeniable star of this nostalgic documentary is President Tito of Yugoslavia. Adored by his nation, as well as film stars and filmmakers (Orson Welles describes him as something along the lines of ‘the greatest living man in the world’ in a fascinating interview clip), President Tito is the crowning glory of this documentary, which ably translates how his love of film (Tito famously watched a film every night for 32 years) had a profound effect on his country and the rest of the world. It was a shame that Cinema Komunisto chose not to delve more into the aftermath of Tito’s death, but then again, the collapse of a nation’s film industry says it all.
With its absorbing archival footage of unearthed films and interviews, Cinema Komunisto is a wonderful watch and a must-see for film fans. Recommended.
Cinema Komunisto (tbc)