Memories and Nostalgia in (Post-)Yugoslav Cinema
…history-as-problem has much less of an audience than
history-as-dream, history-as-escapism, than History.1
This article explores the ways the national past of ex-Yugoslavia is cinematically remembered, with particular focus on the role played by the combination of documentary2 and fictional material in the creation of diverse cinematic memories in mainly but not exclusively post-Yugoslav cinema. The primary issue I address is the role of documentary “interventions,”3 the use of remembrance and memories within fictional structures, in shaping the past. I specifically concentrate on how documentary shots—whether obtrusively inserted or seamlessly incorporated—rewrite the master narrative of a past whose very existence confirms the cinema as a privileged form of representation. This privilege is twofold, since cinema is able both to create a persuasive master narrative and to rewrite it, by revealing the hidden, elusive, latent meanings that cannot be expressed in any other way. In other words, cinema is imbued “with a particular sensitivity to groundswells of feelings and to changing sensibilities” and thus “films also lend themselves to the expression of sentiments that have yet to assume verbal form, or that resent clear articulation.”4 This sensitivity allows combinations of documen-
1 Marc Ferro quoted in Naomi Greene, Landscapes of Loss: The National Past in Postwar
French Cinema (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 11.
2 The term “documentary” will be interchangeably used with “docu,” “documentary mate-
rial,” “documentary (sometimes archive) footage,” implying the quality of being true to
reality, authentic, being based upon true events or things. It also refers to the facts in the
sense of information about a particular subject, about something actual as opposed to
invented. The notion of “faction” colloquially signifies work that is an amalgamation of
fiction and documentary: it is thus a convenient term for the whole group of works ex-
plored in this essay.
3 The term “interventions” broadly refers to the presence and work of documentary mate-
rial in the fictional structure and is close to the notions of insertion, combination, amal-
gam, intrusion or even contamination and the resulting effects.
4Greene, Landscapes of Loss, 5.