Crime that Changed Serbia
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|Crime that Changed Serbia|
|Directed by||Janko Baljak|
|Written by||Aleksandar Knežević
|Editing by||Jovana Krstanović|
|Running time||35 minutes|
Crime that Changed Serbia (Serbian: Bидимо се у читуљи / Vidimo se u čitulji; lit. See You in the Obituaries) is a 1995 made-for-TV 35-minute documentary film, authored by Aleksandar Knežević and Vojislav Tufegdžić (Knežević and Tufegdžić are also the script writers), technical part of the film directed by Janko Baljak, based on the book of the same title by Aleksandar Knežević and Vojislav Tufegdžić and produced by the Belgrade-based independent news broadcaster B92.
The unprecedented contacts and subsequent interviews with the criminals would have not been possible had not Knežević and Tufegdžić been covering the post of organised crime in their respective magazines, gaining the trust of the depicted characters. In more than 90 percent of cases Knežević and Tugedžić, due to the dangerous circumstances that required extreme caution and as small film crew as possible, were accompanied only by a camera operator.
Made in the form of an extended news report and narrated by journalist Dina Čolić-Anđelković, the film presents a snapshot of the chaotic Belgrade criminal underworld in the early 1990s which sprung up against the backdrop of Yugoslav wars. The film is composed of fragments from interviews with individuals directly involved with criminal activities either through perpetrating them or through trying to stop them.
Over the years the film developed a cult following, mainly due to its raw authenticity, characters interviewed, and the portrayal of the politically, economically and socially turbulent period of the early and mid 1990s in Serbia.
As the opening credits roll the film begins with shots of the infamous Milorad Ulemek, then commander of the Serbian police Special Operations Unit who was later convicted for the 2003 assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić, inspecting troops. Ulemek is not mentioned by name as he was still very much unknown to the general public at the time.
The narrator sets the tone by informing the audience that although Serbia was not directly and officially involved in the Yugoslav wars, Serbia very much felt the effects: country is under the United Nations trade embargo, the inflation rate is skyrocketing, streets of Serbian cities are flooded with weapons, and the brain drain is in full swing with young professionals leaving abroad. At the same time many local career criminals plying their trade in Western Europe have returned home to take advantage of the chaotic situation.
To further its point, the narration refers to the heinous crime that occurred on 1 December 1993 in Novi Beograd in Belgrade. Two returnees from the frontlines, Ilija Vujić and Darko Lončarić, broke into the apartment at Pohorska Street inhabited by Verica Židić and her 13-year-old son Davor. Vujić shot the mother in the liver, a technique he learned in the war that apparently allows the victim to live a little longer before succumbing, in order to have enough time to question her about her savings they were after. He then proceeded to kill her son as well. Belgrade police inspector Ljuba Milovanović is then interviewed about the gruesome double murder. He says that during questioning, Vujić's response to their question as to why he killed the son was: "Fuck the kid, he was supposed to be in school at that time of day, anyway". Narrator then says that before being apprehended by police, Vujić and Lončarić had recounted their crime in detail in a packed Belgrade cafe. None of the cafe guests who had heard the story found it necessary to call the police. In the end, Vujić received the death penalty.
The movie then shifts to interviews with various Belgrade gangsters. While some of them act through close-knit criminal clans, others seem to be freelancers. Many of them have also done work for the Serbian state security agencies.
War-struck Serbia is a frustrated nation. Young people realise that their future offers them only poverty, uncertainty and fear. As in many cities of ex-communist countries in which the standard of living fell rapidly, the young are easily tempted by money and glamour, things available to gang members. In the words of Bane Grebenarević: "Every young man in Serbia dreams of becoming a member of a gang for five minutes in his life". The same person adds that "Mortals (that is, ordinary people) will not experience in their entire life what one of us experiences in one day."
It is a generation that wants it all and it wants it now. Their idols are notorious criminals such as Carlos the Jackal and Željko Ražnatović. They acknowledge the fact that criminal activity in Serbia has not reached Western standards because of "lack of professionalism". They explain how things work and assess the positive and negative aspects of the criminal profession in the country. It is an unusual and disquieting opportunity for the viewer to peer into the underworld of the Balkans. The last scenes - the funerals of three of the people who had been interviewed and were killed during the shooting of the film - remind viewers that what they have seen and heard, no matter how unbelievable it may have seemed, is real. It is a documentary based on an original idea, rarely seen in the past and its immediacy make it compelling viewing.
Author and screenplay writer Aleksandar Knežević became an Eastern Orthodox monk and as Fr Romilo lives in the Monastery of Hilandar on Mount Athos, Greece. Knežević is also the author of the book 'Time and Cognition;Theological Reading of Marcel Proust' (Orthodox Theological Faculty of Belgrade, 2011 - the work is Knežević's MPhil thesis defended in 2010 at the Department for the Theory of Literature, Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade). At the moment, Knežević is doing his doctorate in theology at Balliol College, University of Oxford.
- Crime that Changed Serbia full movie
- "Another Truth: Recent Serbian documentaries at the Raindance Film Festival", by Maria Vidali, Central Europe Review, Vol 1, No 18, 25 October 1999
- Due to the series of exclusive text about the Serbian underworld published mainly in the daily Politika, Knežević was included in the book "The Hundred Persons Who Marked the Year 1993 in Belgrade".
- However, while waiting on the death row, he was pardoned by Serbian president Milan Milutinović because in the meantime the death penalty had been abolished in Serbia. Vujić's punishment was switched to 40 years in prison, which he has been serving since late 1993 in a high-security prison near Požarevac.