Where's the "resistance" in Slovene film-making?

It will come as something of a surprise to many that a former communist country in Central Europe has practically no tradition of activism or political resistance through its films. The country is Slovenia. However efforts are underway to increase awareness of the power of film to move people when it comes to politics and social issues. As Lidija Petković of Radio Slovenia International reports the Civil Society Institute, along with others, has set up a different kind of cinema in the city of Maribor.

The cinema was started by Alex Veitch from Sweden. He calls it ''PEKINO'', with ‘kino’ meaning ‘cinema’ in Slovene. Every second week, for a couple of months, he will screen foreign productions of contemporary… and controversial, documentary films.

Veitch says that promoting pro-action is the main intention of such a cinema, and he believes Slovenia lacks this tradition..

“It’s important to actually believe that somehow you can affect the society around you, and by doing that you actually gain confidence as a person, or as a society, as well. I believe that the so called people who are governing our countries are not representing the people. You don’t have a very critical view over EU. And I think its’ very important to express that.’’

Next to religion, these activist films also explore the war on terror, aspects of copyright and the influence of internet on the media, and politics. They offer thought-provoking reactions to current problems around the globe.

But what more does a ‘visual resistance cinema’ offer?

‘’It’s important that you meet in a context. You actually meet people while seeing the films. You will keep that knowledge inside you in some sense, and I think that it will express itself in due course.’’

After the first screening, one of the visitors attended a hot debate over the issues dealt with right on the spot. His reaction:

''I would prefer if half of the crowd was for, and the other half against. But I think the film allows both perceptions. It depends on your predisposition, whether you will see it in a positive or negative way.’’

Another visitor, seeing the film for the second time, shared a different perspective:

“I was once again provoked. This is only a piece of reality, which is a problem, since sometimes we see only one thing and focus on a certain point of view. We forget there is always more to it.”

When reflecting on ‘visual resistance’ in Slovenia’s film production, Jurij Meden, an acknowledged film critic, and editor of several film magazines, is concerned about the situation:

“There is no real interest in Slovenia on behalf of film makers to actually do something, especially if you compare it to other countries in Europe. For example in neighbouring Austria or in Croatia they have a very very strong scene of contemporary film making, which so to speak, call arms, that are engaged, that are aware of what’s happening in society today.”

Meden sees the real reasons behind this passive documentary film culture in the will and the motivation of people. The government, not willing to finance such films, is the least of his concerns. If someone wanted to make a loud engaged film in the manner of Michael Moore and Al Gore’s style, he is certain it could be done.

"Nobody would stand in his or her way, and say, no, we will not give you money to make such a film. The problem is simply, that film makers are lazy and not really concerned with what’s happening. And if or when they are concerned, they make films, which in my opinion, are not important, because they are more concerned with themselves, than with the issues they are supposed to be talking about or dealing with.’’

According to Meden, there’s only one example of a Slovenian film overstepping the usual boundaries. It’s a 2-hour-and-20-minutes-long videotape from 2002, titled ‘’Terror Gegen/Under Attack’’. In it, a duet called son:DA, express their social and political fears after 9/11.

Slovenia has quite a few film festivals, like ‘’DokMA’’ and ‘’Isola Cinema,’’ which screen domestic pro-action films, and they have always been well attended. That is why Meden is optimistic that “resistance” and “controversy” will develop as themes in locally produced films.

“I believe that within time, a certain level of critical thought absolutely has to develop. And the people will grab their cameras out and start making films".