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CABARET BALKAN

SYNOPSIS:
In contemporary Belgrade, a group of loosely connected characters fend off the evils of their war damaged lives with varying degrees of success, amidst love, hate, violence and tenderness. Small incidents are magnified in the pressure cooker atmosphere, and private lives are like open wounds, festering with guilt, fear and pain. We follow each of the handful of men and women with trepidation, as a single night unfolds in Belgrade.

"With Cabaret Balkan, Paskaljevic set out to try and extrapolate the insanity of civil/ethnic war with the corrosion of the normal behaviour of a single community. Threads of stories woven briefly around each of several characters, some of whom are connected by nothing more than a physical coincidence, others by love, or hate or sheer belligerence in the face of unknowable crisis in their society. A meltdown of social stability, Paskaljevic seems to be saying, is mirrored very quickly in the breakdown of civilisation as we understand it, as it applies to the norms of interaction. For instance, when a foolish young driver crashes into another car, the offended driver responds in the extreme manner of a man already driven half crazy by a succession of things that have crashed into his life. If neighbours and fellow city-zens of Belgrade lose sight of their own humanity, it is perhaps the final stages of a society imploding with the force of a banal hate born out of stupid prejudice. Paskaljevic repeatedly massages issues of guilt and blame, flitting from personal to institutional. Some of the scenes are almost unbearably visceral, even though the occasional violence itself is not excessive, by today's standards. But the context in which it happens and the motivations for it are shattering. The craftsmanship of this film is extraordinary, from the performances to the bleakness of the images and the immediacy of the atmosphere he creates. Powderkeg, it's original title, is indeed apt."
Andrew L. Urban

"Small wars are breaking out all over Serbia – and we are not talking about soldiers and guns. Private wars are engulfing ordinary Serbians, living in an angst ridden society that has lost its way. Insightful and disturbing, Cabaret Balkan explores the desperation of Serbians living in a war-torn country, their mentality and responses to every day life infected. Night has fallen on his country, comments director Goran Paskaljevic, with no light visible at the end of the tunnel. Harrowing life experiences bring out both the best and the worst in people, and there is a sense of fatalistic 'que sera sera' in times of catastrophe. Cabaret Balkan is a poignant portrait of damaged people, living in a damaged world from which there is no escape. We journey down the road of life in Serbia, where little triggers cause big explosions, love and hate are bedded down together, life's ironies abound. And the road is going nowhere. The exploration of human nature's ugliness when life's social veneer has been stripped is painful and real. We look through the window into the lives of different people and become involved in their emotional devastation. Conscience, guilt, hate, revenge… are daily fare; revenge is far from sweet, it is a bitter pill which offers only more pain. A boxing match becomes a personal vendetta, an insignificant car accident becomes cause for violence – once life has lost its boundaries of civility and social conscience, it quickly becomes animalistic and without restraint. A superb cast portrays only too well the resulting horrors of a divided country, while a haunting soundtrack poses questions with melancholy. Futility is clearly illustrated, and there are no answers to the questions. Life's ironies are exaggerated, and humour becomes darker than black. This is not an easy film to watch – it is painful, harsh and devoid of subtlety. But it is a thought provoking look at a side of the human condition that exists and should not be ignored. If we sit in our comfortable chairs and fail to face some of these issues, how can we expect these things to change? See it."
Louise Keller

"Cabaret Balkan is a hypnotic, awful, terrifying look at a society in decay - a society where violence has become an acceptable means of resolving all manner of life's problems, from a car accident to sexual inadequacy. Of course, Goran Paskeljevic's amazing film has a political subtext, commenting on what has happened (and is happening) in the former Yugoslavia. In that sense, this film is the equal of Milcho Manchevski's Before the Rain or Emir Kusturica's wonderful Underground - but Paskeljevic has a much more personal (and for that reason, more disturbing) take on the causes of problems in that part of the world. In Cabaret Balkan, men are caught in a circle of machismo, class division and ethnic hatred. Women are systematically victimised as a result, whether as a wife, girlfriend or simply a passenger on a bus. In this maelstrom, explosive violence is inevitable. The ensemble cast gives uniformly fine performances; but the standout is Bogdan Diklic. As the brutal John, Diklic gives a portrayal that will have the back of your neck tingling. As an exploration of the causes of violence, Cabaret Balkan is remarkable; but as a study of individual lives caught up in the most bizarre circumstances, it's extraordinary. One of the films of the year for me."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

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SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

CABARET BALKAN (MA)
(aka The Powder Keg)
(Serbia/Croatia)

CAST: Miki Manojlovic, Lazar Ristovski, Mirjana Jokovic, Sergei Trifunovic

DIRECTOR: Goran Paskaljevic

PRODUCERS: Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Goran Paskaljevic

SCRIPT: Dejan Dukovski, Goran Paskaljevic

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Milan Spasic

EDITOR: Petar Putnikovic

MUSIC: Zoran Simjanovic

ART DIRECTOR: Milenko Jeremic

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 25, 1999 in Sydney; March 16, 2000 in Melbourne; other cities to follow

Serbo-Croation with English subtitles

AWARDS etc:
FIPRESCI Prize, Best Film, 1998 European Film Awards

FIPRESCI Prize, Best Film, 1998 Venice Film Festival

Best Foreign Film, 1998 Santa Barbara Film Festival

Nominee, Best Foreign Language Film, 1998 Academy Awards

Official Selection, 1998 Toronto Film Festival Master Series







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