What it is…

Yugoslav Black Wave (aka Serbian Black Wave) was a derogatory term used to describe a group of films with strong, individualised ideas made in Yugoslavia (mostly in Serbia) during the Sixties and the Seventies. The movement followed the Czech New Wave closely and was engendered under similar political conditions as during the Prague Spring. And similar to its Czech cousin, it resulted in stronger counter-measures, including banning of films and exile of filmmakers.

Who its pioneers were...

What facilitated the possibility of forms of expression, such as in the films of the Black Wave, most was perhaps Yugoslavia's non-alignment with either superpower under the presidency of Josip Tito. This middle ground helped the proponents of the movement such as Dušan Makavejev, Aleksandar Petroviæ and Želimir Žilnik question the existing, dominant modes of filmmaking and their ideological agenda.

Why it is important...

The Serbian Black Wave is an example of a movement that developed a streamlined attack on the complacency and falsity of dominant political and aesthetic thought. Its subversive, independent, experimental and puckish approach to filmmaking has been an inspiration to many films. One especially thinks of important films from Japan during the later decade which took to unconventional forms and iconoclastic ideas that were a radical departure from the norm.

Where to find it...

Dušan Makavejev's Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967) seamlessly blends a cheesy documentary about pest infestation with a comic voiceover, fictional passages of intense drama shot in Cinema Vérité fashion as well as large stretches of surreal imagery that defy chronology and causality, that were a given in the popular films made during the day.

How it is characterised…

Objectives

Much like Czech New Wave, the dark, unsettling films of the Serbian Wave formed a counterpoint to the uplifting, socialist realist films and other Soviet propaganda films that the ruling party endorsed. These films attempted to describe life in a socialist nation with a critical eye and a playful attitude. Systematic artistic, social and sexual repression was one of the prime themes explored in these films.

Style

The Black Wave drew from a lot of prior, influential film movements such as Surrealism, Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave as well as the Montage theories of early Soviet filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein. These films freely blended documentary and fictional forms, employed atypical, even disorienting editing schemes and used irony and dark humour as the major narrative element.

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