British Film Institute
Over the years Mike has curated a number of film programmes at the National Film Theatre. Among the most significant were the three seasons he programmed of Yugoslav Cinema over the 1986-1897 season.
Yugoslavia 1: Balkan Express
Following Emir Justurica’s Cannes Grand Prix win for When Father Was Away on Business, the National Film theare’s collective conscience was priced by Downey into doing their first major retrospective of over 100 films over a year period. Part one was a series covering Yugoslav cinema up to the 1980s and going bac to the 60s and even briefly to the turn of the century when Milton Manaki was filming the hanging of Macedonian nationalists by occupying Turks. At the time 80% of Yugoslav box office was from domestic production, a far cry from today . Downey in this series gets to grip with the first new wave, a period of wild and stylistic experimentation and incisive political thought in the sixties followed in the seventies an orthodox backlash knocked back in the late seventies by the emergence from a ‘second spring’ of the so-called Prague School of film makers. Markovic, Karanovic, Grlic and Zafranovic, less experimental than their predecessors, but a more intense knowingness in depictions of the recent past and a reflectiveness brought in from the Vltava.
Films included: Petria’s Wreath (Karanovic), Who’s Singing over there (Sijan), The Raft of the Medusa (Godina), You Only Love Once (Grlic) , Do You remember Dolly Bell (Kusturica), Variola Vera (Markovic), Balkan Express (Baletic), Balkan Spy (Nikolic and Life is Beautiful (Draskovic).
Yugoslavia 2: Something In Between
An exploration through cinema of the miracle that was Yugoslavia and independent nation forged and sustained in the most complex part of the Balkans, which in the space of 40 short years created one of the most thriving and creative film industries either side of the iron curtain. The title of this second part of the retrospective explicitly divulges our underlying theme: the diversity complexity and often contradictory nature of a youthful state composed of 6 republics and two autonomous provinces boasting many more languages, three major religions and seven international frontiers.
Films included: Brother Brne’s Pupil (Hanzekovic), Man is Not a Bird (Makavejev), Rondo (Berkovic), The Rat’s Awakening (Pavlovic), I Even Met Happy Gypsys (Petrovic), The Birch (Babaja), When I am Dead and White (Pavlovic), Early Works (Zilnik), WR-Mysteries of the Organism (Makavejev), The Role of My Family in World Revolution (Cengic), Beachguard in Winter (Paskaljevic), Special Education (Markovic), The Rhythm of Crime (Tadic), Something in between (Karanovic).
Yugoslavia 3: The Occupation in 15 Pictures
There are as many attitudes to the founding myth of Yugoslavia as there are film makers. The Balkans are a crossroads and the territory which is now Yugoslavia has lain in the path of many an occupying army from classical times onwards. The South eastern section was long under Ottoman rule and the North western under Austro Hungarian. Split again during world war two with Germans and Italians occupying as well as under the Ustasha yoke. After the war it fell under Soviet influence until the split with Moscow in 1948. It’s not surprising therefore that these conflicts form the basis of an enormous body of film making . But it is the Partisan stories from WWII which have formed the mythology on which Yugoslav national pride is based reflected in the first post world war film Slavica and in a myriad of films for years afterwards. Film makers of the ‘Black School’ in re-assessing the black and white morality of this period did of course offend a good many sensibilities. The films in this season cover all these periods and attitudes, though all were chosen because they are cracking good films in their own right.
Films included: Innocence Unprotected (Makavejev), The Ninth Circle (Stiglic), Kaja I am Going to Kill You (Mimica), The Blood and Ashes of Jasenovac (Zafranovic), The Occupation in 26 Pictures (Zafranovic), Three (Petrovic), Valle of peace (Stiglic), Train without a Timetable ( Bulajic), Morning (Djordjevic), Little Soldiers (Cengic), Red Wheat (Pavlovic), The Ambush ( Pavlovic), Black Seed (Cenevski), Handcuffs (Papic), Happy 49 (Popov), When Father Was away on Business (Kusturica).