Serbia as a Centre of Film Industry: We are not a country of tackiness and kitsch

In the last two years, Jelena Trivan has been at the helm of a very successful organization, the Official Gazette (Službeni Glasnik), which, to the surprise of many, was declared the publisher of the year, and at the helm of the Film Centre of Serbia. Our country is increasingly becoming a film location of choice for global production companies, while famous actors and actresses have been frequenting Serbia a lot. We are talking with Ms Trivan about film industry, publishing, culture and politics.

Film crews can been seen almost everywhere in Belgrade. They say that there is no such thing as an unemployed cameraman or sound engineer in Belgrade and that they have all been hired by foreign production companies that are doing movies here. How did all of this come about?

— Today, almost every serious Serbian film producer or director is very busy, and apart from many foreign movies being filmed here, domestic ones are not lagging behind at all. The number of films made in our country has reached the figures from the former Yugoslavia, and Serbia is the number one in the entire region in terms of the funds it invests in the film industry. Tax incentives and experienced film crews are our trump cards in attracting foreign production companies, and Serbia generates a substantial revenue from the film industry. We realized quite some time ago that this was the way to attract foreign investments and we have succeeded in that.

There are a lot of diplomats, representatives of foreign chambers of commerce and companies among our readers. What does Serbia offer to foreign film companies and potential investors in film industry?

— It offers incentives for making films in Serbia, the well-equipped film studios and outdoor locations, film crews who have worked with the top Hollywood producers and the entire catering and service industry that goes with all of that. There are Hollywood films being filmed here, as well as complex Indian productions. Since the incentives that we provide are so high, the costs of filming are lower than in other countries.

You were quoted as saying recently that Serbia did not censor its films or books. However, there has been such a rumour about the films „The Load“ and „The Favourite“. What is your take on these two cases?

— There are no „cases“, but rather made-up stories. In Serbia, the majority of films are being made with the help of state funds and there is no serious artist who has never been granted those funds. Also, there is no topic from the past that has not been filmed about. We are a modern democratic country and this shouldn’t be even a topic of discussion. This year, the Serbian film industry won four awards at the Berlin Film Festival, thanks to the film „The Stiches“ („Šavovi“) that depicts a theme from the past, namely the disappearance of babies from maternity hospitals. The film attracted a lot of interest.

Many say that the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is now behaving like the Democratic Party (DS) in the last years of its rule. In a way, you have an inside information from that period. Which advice would you give to the people who are currently leading Serbia so that they don’t fall in the same trap as Boris Tadić did?

— Processes are the same in every democratic society and are described in political theory, as is the way of internal dynamics of the political party after years in power and the reactions it got from the public. Some problems cannot be ignored, such as unrealistic expectations that are not being met, the expectation that the state assumes responsibility for everything, and parallel power forces gaining independence. Nevertheless, this is a country with a stable political situation and a stable majority where one party has over 50 percent of political support. Everything that led to the demise of the previous government – instability, blackmails inside the coalition, and inability to make decisions – is not comparable to the current situation.

You are very critical of the 1in5 million protests. Do you really think that the opposition does not possess the same power as the one that brought the goverment down following the October 5th protests? Or the power that the opposition in Kiev had in 2013 and 2014?

— I have never been critical of the protests because I was ‘weaned’ on protests and lost a job during Milošević’s rule because of that. I am critical of the lack of civil values, the silence from the intellectual community when the protestors are being threatened, Aida Ćorović not being allowed to speak because she is Bosniak, or actress Mira Karanović being criticized for speaking about war crimes. I am critical because citizens are being misused for something that is not civil values.

You also said the following about the culture in Serbia – „Everybody views Serbia through the filter of reality shows, while, on the other hand, our theatres are chock full with people, we have the biggest book production in the region, and the festivals like BITEF and BELEF remain as popular as ever. We want to portray ourselves worse than we actually are.“ Can we, for a change, focus on the better segments of our society?

— The renovated National Museum and the Museum of Modern Art are re-opened in Belgrade. After the Frankfurt Book Show, the Belgrade Book Show is the biggest book fair in Europe. BITEF and the Belgrade Dance Festival are among the most popular contemporary festivals. FEST has become a synonym with a good traditional European film festival. Digitization of cinemas in smaller towns is nearly completed. Isn’t all of this enough? Of course, we can always do more, especially when it comes to guiding younger generations towards real cultural values. Still, I advocate that we are a country with a serious cultural offer, although we are constantly being branded as the country of kitsch.


The Official Gazette has been declared the publisher of the year, while its financial results are excellent. How did you manage to achieve this considering that you have never been at the helm of a big publishing company?

— Politics is a good school for everything providing it is coupled with formal education. You also know very well how the insitutions and legal system function, but on the other hand, you have learned to fight each day for results and you never get complacent. I thought that a public enterprise should be managed just like any other+ business, mainly not to rely on state’s aid and state deals and look for business outside the country’s borders. Our printing facility is one of the largest in the Balkans and now works for the clients from Germany, Slovenia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. In terms of publishing, there is almost no language from which we do not translate and thus bring closer different cultures to Serbia. Today, the Official Gazette is a public enterprise that generates profit, has no debt and is constantly investing in its production.

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