Želimir Žilnik

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Želimir Žilnik
Zzilnik 2008jul.jpg
Born (1942-09-08) September 8, 1942 (age 77)
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1968-present

Želimir Žilnik (Serbian Cyrillic: Желимир Жилник; pronounced [ʒɛ̌limiːr ʒîlniːk]; born 8 September 1942) is a Serbian film director best known as one of the major figures of the Yugoslav Black Wave film movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He is noted for his socially engaging style of filmmaking and criticism of censorship that was commonplace during the Yugoslav communist era. After the fall of communism and the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, he became an outspoken critic of Slobodan Milošević's regime in Serbia.

Early life[edit]

Žilnik was born in September 1942 in the Gestapo-run Crveni Krst concentration camp near the city of Niš in southern occupied Serbia, where his Serb communist activist mother Milica "Maša" Šuvaković had been imprisoned by the Germans since early 1942. On 2 December 1942, when Žilnik was less than three months old, a group of prisoners managed to break out and escape from the camp, and in retaliation the camp guards executed a number of remaining prisoners, including Žilnik's mother. Only days before she was executed, Žilnik was taken out of the camp and given to her parents, and was thus raised by his maternal grandparents.

Žilnik's father was a Slovene communist activist and Yugoslav Partisan fighter Konrad "Slobodan" Žilnik who was severely wounded and captured in March 1944 in a battle against the Chetniks. The Chetniks tortured him and eventually executed him a few days later. He was posthumously awarded the People's Hero gallantry medal.


In 1969 Žilnik first came to prominence with his feature film Early Works (Rani radovi) which won him a Golden Berlin Bear and a Youth Film Award at the 19th Berlin International Film Festival. The film depicted the aftermath of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.[1]

During the early 1970s he was criticized by the establishment and his works were often banned due their controversial portrayal of student demonstrations and their advocacy of freedom of media and speech.[2] Between 1973 and 1976 he found work for several independent production companies in Germany. In conjunction with these companies he directed two documentary films dealing with anarcho-terrorism, titled Öffentliche Hinrichtung and Paradies.[3][4] Back in Yugoslavia he briefly worked in theatre production but soon returned to his previous work with documentaries.

In the 1980s his works began to garner more attention and were successfully presented on several television networks and at local and international festivals. In 1986 he made Pretty Women Walking Through the City (Lijepe žene prolaze kroz grad), a post-apocalyptic science fiction film which predicted that nationalist tensions would eventually cause the disintegration of Yugoslavia. His 1988 black comedy The Way Steel Was Tempered (Tako se kalio čelik) was nominated for the Golden St. George award at the 16th Moscow International Film Festival in the Soviet Union.[5][6]

In 1994 he co-wrote (with the leading actor Dragoljub Ljubičić) and directed Tito's Second Time Among the Serbs (Tito po drugi put medju Srbima). His 1995 feature film Marble Ass (Dupe od mramora) was a look at the myth built around the masculinity of the male as a warrior and leader. It was entered into the 19th Moscow International Film Festival.[7]

Recently he directed several documentaries dealing with the commonality of the Central and Eastern Europe and the problems with immigration to and from Europe with the same style and narrative that had gained him recognition for many years.[8]

Selected filmography[edit]

  • 1969 – Early Works (Rani radovi)
  • 1976 – Paradise (Paradies)
  • 1976 – Farewell (Abschied)
  • 1983 – The Second Generation (Druga generacija)
  • 1986 – Pretty Women Walking Through the City (Lijepe žene prolaze kroz grad)
  • 1988 – The Way Steel Was Tempered (Tako se kalio čelik)
  • 1994 – Tito Among the Serbs for the Second Time (Tito po drugi put medju Srbima) (documentary)
  • 1995 – Marble Ass (Dupe od mramora)
  • 1998 – Wanderlust (Kud plovi ovaj brod)
  • 2000 – Fortress Europe (Tvrđava Europa)
  • 2004 – Kenedi Goes Back Home (Kenedi se vraća kući) (documentary)
  • 2007 – Kenedi Is Getting Married (Kenedi se ženi)
  • 2009 – The Old School of Capitalism (Stara škola kapitalizma)
  • 2011 – One Woman, One Century (Jedna žena, jedan vek) (documentary)
  • 2015 – Logbook_Serbistan (Destinacija_Serbistan) (documentary)


  1. ^ Zelimir Zilnik - Rani radovi - Early Works (1969)
  2. ^ Zelimir Zilnik - Zelimir Bio (Long version)
  3. ^ Paradies - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes - New York Times
  4. ^ Paradies (1976)
  5. ^ Kinoeye | Serb film: Zelimir Zilnik interviewed
  6. ^ "16th Moscow International Film Festival (1989)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-03-16. Retrieved 2013-02-24.
  7. ^ "19th Moscow International Film Festival (1995)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-03-22. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  8. ^ Zelimir Zilnik - Trdnjava Evropa - Fortress Europe (2000)

External links[edit]