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Drama Plays Out At Serbian Film Agency Accused Of Anti-Serb Bias

Members of a group called the Association of Kidnapped and Missing Serbs from Kosovo staged a protest at the Film Center of Serbia on September 21, calling for the resignation of its director.
Members of a group called the Association of Kidnapped and Missing Serbs from Kosovo staged a protest at the Film Center of Serbia on September 21, calling for the resignation of its director.

When a dozen members of the Association of Kidnapped and Missing Serbs from Kosovo entered the premises of the Film Center of Serbia (FCS) in Belgrade last week, they weren't hoping to catch an afternoon matinee.

Instead, they were there to protest the FCS's participation in the films The Load (Teret) and Favorite (Mezimica), which they claimed touch on allegations of Serb involvement in the trafficking of human organs harvested from ethnic Albanians killed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Specifically, the association accused the FCS, a government-funded agency, of financing films that portray Serbs as people who "removed organs from Albanians to resell them although the entire world and the judiciary have evidence that Serbs were the victims" of the alleged practice during the bloody conflicts that tore apart the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

"Serbs in The Load are portrayed as bloodthirsty and the Albanians are innocent and honorable," says Snezana Popovic Markovic, a representative of the association, which is demanding that FCS director Boban Jeftic step down.

"Is there anyone who will stand in the way of the lies of this man? Or should we accept that we are a genocidal people who do not even deserve to live," she added.

The Load is a fictional tale that chronicles a truck driver making his way from Kosovo to Serbia with a secret cargo during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

Director Ognjen Glavonic never reveals the contents of the truck, but the film carries strong echoes of his 2016 documentary Depth Two (Dubina Dva).

That movie, which has yet to be released in Serbia, addresses the cover-up of the discovery of a freezer truck containing the bodies of 55 Albanian civilians allegedly killed by the Serbian police and army that ran off the road into the Danube near the Serbian-Romanian border.

The truck's contents are subsequently tied to mass graves discovered two years later in the suburbs of Belgrade.​

Favorite deals with equally grim material in telling the fictional story of a former Serbian police officer who falls for an Eastern European woman as he confronts a network of organ traffickers who want to harvest her heart.

Jeftic, who wasn't at the agency when the protesters demonstrated, denies that the FCS provided any financial support for the film and believes "other interests" are at play in the drama surrounding both movies.

"I am very sorry that such delicate topics, which for various reasons are scandalous to many, have been manipulated," he added.

Filming has yet to start on Favorite and the FCS says it is no longer associated with the project.

Scriptwriter Dimitrije Vojnov and actor Nikola Kojo, who is slated to play the lead role, have accused the FCS of bowing to pressure over how Serbs are portrayed in the film and of engaging in censorship by pushing for script alterations to remove "anti-Serbian elements."

The Film Center of Serbia "administered changes to the script against the will of one of the authors and then threatened the producer to give up on making the film," Vojnov said in an open letter.

It is not the first time a film has come under fire from protesters for its portrayal of the bloodshed in the Yugoslav wars.

Angelina Jolie's "In The Land Of Blood And Honey" about a Bosniak and Bosnian Serb who were once in love but find themselves on opposite sides during the Balkan wars caused an uproar upon its release in 2011.

Many accused Jolie, who both directed and starred in the film, of misrepresenting Serbs and producing an anti-Serbian movie.

According to Serbian screenwriter Filip David such controversies are indicative of a reluctance among many of his compatriots to come to terms with their past.

He told RFE/RL that the outrage provoked by these films is typical of this unwillingness to confront what happened during the Balkan conflicts, which he says led Serbia into "total global isolation."

"The truth about the nineties needs to be told," he added.

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