Belgrade Filmed

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an ongoing research project

This informal prospectus outlines the analytical work carried out around a same topic since 2013, aiming to introduce upcoming stages for further research.



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Theory & Archives

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VIdeo Installation

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FOREWORD During my first year of architectural studies, I realize how much cinema influences my perception of space. My affinity for various genres and aesthetics was forged as I grew up watching popular movies and news on television. Seen throughout my childhood, these images represent a specific vision of reality mixed with fictional elements. All spacetime frames are located in a physical place, on a tape, or in my memories. With the relation architecture-cinema, my interest in the seventh art takes a new turn, influencing even my impressions when I visit a city often represented in movies. In parallel, I become aware that my hometown remains a mystery to me, and I decide to understand its essence. Between 1999 and 2003, as a child I watch Belgrade from afar through the foreign national channels. Between 2004 and 2010, after coming back to a country in transition to which I was detached, I struggle to decode its beats and fail to decrypt its tones. Therefore, my adolescence refers to a feeling of paradoxical disconnection with a capital where my body is present but my mind stays out of the geopolitical context. The idea of bringing together my passions for architecture, cinema, and cities starts in 2013 when I choose to analyze the history of Belgrade through feature films. This first approach is presented as my Bachelor thesis, serving as the main reference for my Master project. Indeed, my final study offers multiple levels of interpretation in response to spatial needs for the conservation of Serbian cinematic heritage. Having been constantly encouraged by my supervisors to push this theme further, I now propose a deeper reflection towards a doctoral thesis. � Film sets in the film production company Avala Film, 1962

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BELGRADE IN CINEMA Bachelor thesis, ENSA Nancy, France • 2013 Inspired by the documentary Los Angeles plays itself 1 the selection was aiming at a neutral point of view: I wanted to avoid any influence of my own affinities or cinematic preferences in order to have an objective classification. For the same reason, the reception or the budget of the movies was not considered. This is why there was only a couple of conditions. The films that I decided to take into account had to be feature full-length films produced before 2013 and with at least one scene clearly showing a relevant portion of the city. The duration of these scenes was not a criteria, because even a short segment can provide enough visual information about a location. The aim was to identify Belgrade’s streets, buildings, and citizens. After inspecting over 100 films, I ordered them by year and by shooting location. Almost all fragments were chronologically mapped. For the ones where it was impossible to define the precise place, I categorized them thematically. This spatio-temporal evolution allowed me to detect some urban progressions2 or discover buildings that no longer exist.3 By historically analyzing these places from an architectural point of view, I established a geographical and social portrait of images and people. Even if I was planning to spread this analysis to New Belgrade, I never got the opportunity to continue. But because of its very specific architectural, urban, historical, political and social meanings, New Belgrade will certainly be the central topic for some similar investigation in the future. 1

Thom Andersen, 2003


For instance, the moment when one street becomes a pedestrian zone.


Such as the first Post Office Building, constructed in 1929.

← Cipelice na asfaltu • 1956 Ljubav i moda • 1960 (B.A. cover) Dvoje • 1961

Pre rata • 1966 Pre istine • 1968 Ima ljubavi, nema ljubavi • 1968 Čudna noć • 1990

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BELGRADE FILM INSTITUTE Master thesis, HTWK Leipzig, Germany • 2015 By employing my Bachelor thesis as a database, I was able to measure the frequency of filming for each location. The connection of these spots let me imagine a hypothetical walk that would lead to a (fictive) film museum and research center.1 Indeed, after noticing that the Serbian film archives were spread between several locals that had become too small, my suggestion was to store them in one central institute. This imaginary architectural project had a multifunctional program and was aiming to become a place of exchange in the film industry. While in the process of architectural design, I volunteered in a curatorial platform for alternative guided tours around sonic and visual art, which motivated me as well for the invented cinetour. During my research, I also discovered some anti-touristic ways to visit a city. With the rise of smartphones, new digital tendencies popped up for apps that people would start using while traveling. In Paris for example, by selecting your current localization, you would have a list of movies shot from that same spot, allowing you a multidimensional experience by drinking a café with Amélie Poulain. Likewise, if we examine the intensity of cult TV shows watched by millions of fans, we can understand how that audience has been encouraged to add a new meaning to non-existent or fabricated places, mostly filmed in a studio.2 These inventive ways of interaction between illusion and reality could be judged as an amusing anecdote for the enthusiasts of the seventh art. Nonetheless, reconstructing these imaginary stories and putting them back in our context now gives new reading-layers of urban materiality. For more information on the architectural concept of the building and the cinetour, visit the category Competitions on my website: 1

Admirers of Friends (a sitcom that started in the 1990s and ended in 2004) still visit the imaginary featured buidling in New York, where the main characters were living, despite the fact that the series were shot in Los Angeles 2

← Most filmed locations by year

Most filmed locations on a map Masterplan for the Film Institute

Some of popular interventions in filmed cities (Berlin, Paris, Belgrade) Model of the imagined Film Institute building

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BELGRADE ON SCREENS Ph.D. thesis, HCU Hamburg, Germany • current Although the two previous works were very well received, they have not yet reached their full potential and I do not consider them as completed. It is why I only see these phases as a preliminary base for the upcoming mutlidisciplinary research -Belgrade on Screens: Visions of Continuous Discontinuities. Films and Cities Since the beginnings of cinema, sights of symbolical monuments, emblematic squares or successions of streets and houses have contributed to the experience of a living city and its recognizability. The cityscape is melted in the silhouette of a player by playing itself: facades, bridges and walls are more than just a set-design. Its own story and singularity have a major effect on other actors. The way a city is filmed indicates if it is only a postcard, or if it becomes alive. Nevertheless, a city should not be strictly considered as one geographical dot, but a series of interactions between characters, their growth, interconnections, feelings — especially if their lives are fictions based in a real urban, socio-political context. In that particular case, any featured genre melts into a documentary because avenues, buildings or landscapes exist in a non-fictive physical dimension. Movies shape the collective memory, offering a powerful tool to understand the heritage of a town and its inhabitants. From a genre like City-Symphonies1 shot in the 20s, reflecting passing moments caught in time. To the Free Cinema2 of London in the 50s, with a spotlight on contemporaneity. Over the early snippets of the Nouvelle Vague3 showing a refreshing modern city. 1

e.g. Berlin - Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Ruttmann, 1927)


e.g. Together (Mazzetti, 1956); Every Day Except Christmas (Anderson, 1957)


e.g. Une Femme est une Femme (Godard, 1961); Cléo de 5 à 7 (Varda, 1962)

← Belgrade in 1722 Belgrade in 1854 Laboratory of Avala Film, 1962

Belgrade in 1863 Belgrade in 1912

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Following the repercussions of a rapid globalization and overpopulation that are to see in movies shot in Asia.1 Not to forget science fiction,2 often set in a futuristic environment, evoking utopian or dystopian conditions, adding a speculative angle to the urban evolution in all possible layers, from function to usage, putting a primordial accent to new technologies. All of them point out how narratives of users script the architecture, while the architecture scripts a simultaneous storytelling. If the arts of music, painting and literature have such an impact on our perception regarding historical events, cultural legacy or locations, to what extent can we evaluate the influence of cinema? In a world where the moving image has the power to fix the past, recreate an official memory over a mental memory, melt the material into the fictional, how do moving images reflect the identity of a city and its citizens? Films and Belgrade Belgrade was already filmed in 1897,1 but the oldest saved movie is from 1904.2 During the 1920s, the state was supporting documentaries. In the 1930s, Belgrade was the midpoint for cinema in Serbia, and in 1946, the Yugoslav government created the State Committee of Cinematography.3 Equipped with this film studio and a laboratory, the seat of Yugoslavia became a significant center for cinema in the region due to collaborations with local and international enterprises. Consequently, Belgrade plays in an important number of films, both as a descriptive background or as one of the protagonists. AndrÊ CarrÊ (an operator and representative of the Lumière brothers) made 15 films about Belgrade, but none survived 1


The Crowning of the King Petar I Karadjordjevic (Mottershaw, Wilson)

This led to the largest film production company in the region: Avala Film, by some considered as the Hollywood of the Balkans 3

(Dis)continuity The word discontinuity appears as much in the architectural as in the cinematographic vocabulary. It refers to a disconnection in space and time, two elemental notions in both disciplines. It indicates the absence of regularity or intervals within a perpetual condition. In Belgrade’s case, inherent breaks of patterns in its urban and cinematic history have been resulting from radical changes. Now, it reflects as the center of a dissolved country, seeking for its communal memory. By a lack of persistence in maintaining one unique guideline in strategic urban planning, Belgrade has a tradition of discontinuity. How are architectural discontinuities manifested in film? How do screen adaptations describe a city being destroyed, bombed, modified? How do accessible images impact our cognitive awareness of a city and do they generate any misconceptions? In June 2020, while planning the first phase of my research, I am watching from an other country (again), through a screen (again), violent scenes from protests happening (again) in front of the Parliament. Only this time, it is on social media that I see brutal images since public broadcasting channels don’t show real facts. This time, citizens are reporters by sharing their content online. This time, the political context seems to be different. This time, I am not a child anymore and I relate to people of my generation who are now resisting (again).

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Significance How the moving image reflects the discontinuities of a city and its citizens has found expression in a wide range of exchanges. Literature about film and city,1 film and war2 or urbicide3 is broadly represented. Further specific research dealing with films, cities, and war, over the concepts of memory, place, and identity, arises in the context of Balkan transformations. In the past few years, there has been an increasing quantity of colloquiums, essays, and artistic projects depicting comparable concerns. But there is no comparative approach exploring the relation of moving images to destructions, simultaneously across time and genre, on a scale of the city of Belgrade, through urbanism and cinema. Furthermore, a more evident response to existing political debates is missing. By bringing transdisciplinary closer looks to the past, it becomes urgent to mirror them with the current situation. As a damaged legacy of previous regimes is erased or left to decay, Belgrade is still exposed to ambiguous or improvised modifications by political systems with tendencies to abolish or deny former regulations. With a development shaped in these non-transparent frameworks, the public discourse is constantly raising the deepness of Belgrade’s discontinuities. This problem was also introduced at the RWTH Aachen University, with the project Belgrade: Continuity of Discontinuity, bringing up Belgrade Waterfront as an example for profit-oriented real-estate policy avoiding social needs and responsibilities.


e.g. Edward Clift, Julia Hallam, François Penz, Les Roberts, Lawrence Webb


e.g. Elisabeth Bronfen, Leslie Midkiff DeBauche, David Luhrssen, Paul Virilio


e.g. Bogdan Bogdanović, Martin Coward, Jeffry M. Diefendorf, Stephen Graham

By exploring audiovisual heritage, the goal is to inspect transformations geographically and chronologically, highlighting most pictured areas in that period. This will contribute to a critical understanding of discontinuous representations of post-war scarred spaces through the moving image. It will demonstrate how fiction is being used to retell past events or, inversely, how documentaries are being used in fiction. Acknowledging these distinctions between targeted and largescale audiences is needed, especially when the official rhetoric asserts two parallel visions of reality: pro- and anti-government. In Serbia, the transformation of the media system in the last two decades has been slow, incoherent, incomplete, and shows signs of new decline, shaped by political authorities who pressure and influence public broadcasters. As a result, there is a strong conflict between public and private media channels, which offer divergent interpretations of facts. Thus, internal political conflicts continue to divide a population in a frozen transition, where democratic values are weakened. Finally, at a time when new technologies and alternative methods allow us to rediscover our cities, the accomplished research aims to become a data reference in other scientific fields such as urban digitization or digital mapping, and open new questions about the power of images.

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Theory & Archives ÂŤ The place witnesses the identity and history but place is only a group of elements existing in certain order. Walkers transform place into space by their presence and movement. A word, like a place, is unidentifiable but in act of a speech, surrounded by different elements, it becomes multiply term and language creates the meaning. Âť 1 This interdisciplinary research leads to two complementary entities: an archival research and an artistic project. Both will be based on theoretical studies on the interconnections between urbanism, war, and cinema. The concept of discontinuity will be put in the relation to each of these sectors, leading to theories of collective memory, phenomenology, perception, and spatiality.2 Theory of cinematic cartography will also be discussed in the context of history and architecture, which will introduce the affective geovisualizations (emotional atlases). To analyze the effects of films, the first phase is the selection of video materials documenting key historical events within strategic locations. Just like for the Bachelor thesis, the choice of the film excerpts will be categorized by the frequency of reappearing streets and buildings. Feature films having been already defined, most of the places within this genre are already identified. The first task will be to find these places within other genres (documentaries, tv-series, news) and test if and how they correspond to each other. 1

Artist duo Doplgenger


e.g. Maurice Jean Jacques Merleau-Ponty, Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson

Relevant portions of films will be classified primarily by genre, but other principles will dictate how to include the images in the analysis, such as nature and budget of the production, box office, or reception. These criteria may suggest their significance in popular culture. A data collection from this quantitative research will provide a statistical overview. On the other hand, architectural documentation of specific buildings, master plans, particular technical drawings (elevations, floor plans, cadastral parcels), will give a reliable vision on the urban modifications over the years. Once establishing an overview of the most filmed spots, the next unit involves a comparative observation, based on cinematic effects. At this point, it will be pertinent to include other cities with similar experiences, and their motifs of discontinuities in the argumentation. This qualitative research intends to compile selected elements into a written descriptive criticism. Built on an accurate reading of the ensuing images, fundamental cinematic methods will be taken into account (camera angles and mobility, framing, editing, focus, shot, lighting). These techniques will give valuable insights into a place-identity-people relationship, as actual narratives emerge outside the frame, telling a story about their residents, feelings, and lifestyles. Rather than solely opting for visuals that explicitly show bombed buildings,1 an extension to these stories can be provided since they illustrate insinuated discontinuities of habits, too.2


e.g. Sky Hook (SamardŞić, 2000).

Some movies shot before 1999 reveal an interval filled with turbulence and evident disturbance in the character’s states of mind 2

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Video Installation In the final step, I would like to express the accumulated visual information by adding a spatial context that contributes to a physical experience of destruction and discontinuity, because showing a film is the best way of describing it and moving in a room is the best way of feeling the space. Therefore, I imagined the second part as a form of expanded cinema. A fragmented collage in a scenography of divided screens will spread in space, creating an immersive ambiance. Mapping tools and elaborated sounds will guide to the targeted places. By walking through the composition, engaged viewers become pedestrians, playing an active role as they initiate narrative sequences. This visual anthropology is seeking for introspection, from physical to psychological reactions. Materials elected in the first phase will be assembled thematically, geographically, and chronologically. Inspired by audio-extracts of the selected videos (soundtracks, music themes, voices, urban noises), ambient music will contribute to a complete journey. Analyzed data will accompany the videos with a series of diagrams. Interactive tools can be implemented in a digital context: by clicking on a dot located on one of the maps, one can see information about movies filmed on that spot.

← Experiments in Motion • 2012

Ten Thousand Waves, I. Julien • 2010

Gateway, N. Foster • 2012 The City of the Future, P. Keiller • 2007

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The work presented in this report has been written in an academic context, without commercial intent. The author does not hold the rights to the images. Text & Layout: Miljana Nikovic 2020 / english / DIN A5 / 21 pages

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