(photo source: Balkanist Magazine)
The other day at a filmmakers gathering I had the pleasure to chat with Kristian Salinas, the artistic director of Houston’s Q-Fest, a queer and LGBT film festival. I mentioned the topic of the Sworn Virgins to him and what a coincidence that an Italian-Albanian co-production shown on this year’s Berlinale picked it up (see my post here).
Three years ago, the gay pride parade in the city of Split, Croatia, was cancelled due to protests and threats from religious and nationalistic groups of society.
I vividly remember the support march some friends organised in Rijeka, where I was living at the moment. We met on a square above the city centre on one of these cool spring days, when the weather cannot decide on rain or shine. Maybe 70 people had gathered, but there was no glitter nor revealing costumes, as you see in abundance on the big Christopher Street Day parades elsewhere. After a short speech, the crowd descended on the city’s main pedestrian precinct. A little down the hill, there was riot police to protect the demonstrators. By the time the protest / support march started, over a hundred people had gathered, some had rainbow flags, some posters, but no PA blared out music. Few passers-by stopped and looked when we marched down the pedestrian zone, but mainly because the demonstrations blocked the Korzo. The riot police made an impact, wearing full protective gear and helmets. Something seemed odd to me though, even though I am not a stranger to demonstrations with police escorts, it took a while before I realized the police officers were turned towards us, the demonstrators. As if to protect the public from our demonstration and not the demonstration from potential assaults from ill meaning groups or individuals, we saw our reflections in their helmets that covered their faces.
Being lesbian, gay, bi, trans or queer in any other way for sure is not easy. And even though it may not be completely accepted in all parts of the societies of South Eastern Europe, there is a vivid and creative scene with many and various festivals and organisations.
In terms of film, the topic has made it a couple of times on the big screen. Most recently the Serbian Parada / The Parade, released in 2011, was an as big as unexpected success in most former Yugoslavian countries, and even outsold American productions in Bosnia and Serbia. The film about a gay couple trying to organize the Belgrade with the help of a former soldier and his posse of (more or less) petty criminals is unfortunately filled to the brim with prejudices and stereotypes, and lingers a bit too long on the site of the war criminals turned mafiosi turned gay pride security guards to convincingly claim to support ideals of human rights and freedom of sexual orientation. The international success (in Yugoslav terms) got it some media attention (see here for a press review ), and there is actually the full version on YouTube, although without English subtitles:
More drama is employed in the Croatian – Bosnian co-production Go West, from 2005, about two soldiers, a Serb and a Muslim who flee from the besieged city of Sarajevo. The following scene gives a good impression of the style of this movie:
An even older and arguably a lot more complex film is Fine mrtve djevojke / Fine Dead Girls , released in 2002. A lesbian couple moves into a house resembling a microcosm of Croatian post war society:
here’s a scene:
LGBT continues to be a topic in SEE films, and although I have left out Bulgaria and Romania here. I want to leave you with another interesting research on homophobia the Balkanist Magazine from Sarajevo has conducted entitled “Queer as turbofolk”.