The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Vožd Karađorđe

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The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Vožd Karađorđe
Zivot i dela besmrtnog vozda Karadjordja - oglas.png
An advertisement for the film published in 1911.
Directed by Ilija Stanojević
Produced by Svetozar Botorić
Written by Ćira Manok
Ilija Stanojević
Starring Milorad Petrović
Ilija Stanojević
Sava Todorović
Dragoljub Sotirović
Vukosava Jurković
Dobrica Milutinović
Aleksandar Milojević
Cinematography Louis de Beéry
Release date
23 October 1911
Running time
90 minutes (original)
62 minutes (restored version)
Country Kingdom of Serbia
Language Silent film / Serbian intertitles

The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Vožd Karađorđe (Serbian: Život i dela besmrtnog vožda Karađorđa, Живот и дела бесмртног вожда Карађорђа), or simply Karađorđe (Карађорђе), is a 1911 silent film which was the first feature-length motion picture made in Serbia and the Balkans. Directed by Ilija Stanojević, who also acted in it, the film depicts the life of early 19th-century Serbian revolutionary Karađorđe Petrović, portrayed by stage actor Milorad Petrović. Filmed in August and September 1911, it was produced by film entrepreneur Svetozar Botorić and was based on several sources, including historical and biographical works, a play by Miloš Cvetić, and the Serbian folk poem The Start of the Revolt Against the Dahias. The film had its premiere in Belgrade on 23 October 1911, where it was positively received. Re-released in 1925, the film was lost after being screened to a group of Serbian immigrants in the United States in 1928. It was considered a lost film until it was discovered by film historians Aleksandar Erdeljanović and Radoslav Zelenović in the Austrian Film Archives in Vienna on 16 July 2003. It has since been re-mastered and broadcast on Serbian television.


The film opens with a young Karađorđe Petrović (Milorad Petrović) killing a Turk (Ilija Stanojević) for the first time. Afterwards he shoots his own father, when the latter refuses to travel with him to the Habsburg Empire in the aftermath of the failure of an earlier rebellion against Ottoman Turkish rule. Karađorđe is later seen in Serbia, where he initially declines an offer to lead the First Serbian Uprising. Once he accepts, the Dahias (members of the Jannisary junta that ruled 19th-century Serbia) envision their fate reflected in a bowl of water drawn from the Danube. The subsequent uprising leads to Karađorđe's death at the hands of Vujica Vulićević (also portrayed by Stanojević), an agent of rival Serbian revolutionary Miloš Obrenović.[1]


  • Milorad Petrović as Karađorđe Petrović, the leader of the First Serbian Uprising
  • Ilija Stanojević as a Turkish pasha and Vujica Vulićević, Karađorđe's assassin
  • Sava Todorović as various "Turkish dignitaries"
  • Dragoljub Sotirović as Hajduk Veljko and Karađorđe's brother, Marinko
  • Vukosava Jurković as Karađorđe's mother
  • Dobrica Milutinović as Janko Katić, one of the organizers of the First Serbian Uprising
  • Aleksandar Milojević as Mateja Nenadović, one of the leaders of the First Serbian Uprising



A still from the film depicting Karađorđe (centre) as he stands amidst a large group of followers.

The idea of creating a film about Karađorđe Petrović was that of Serbian film entrepreneur Svetozar Botorić, who opened the first regular theater in Belgrade in December 1908.[2] Botorić became interested in filmmaking after seeing Charles Le Bargy and André Calmettes's 1908 film The Assassination of the Duke of Guise (French: L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise), which drew on the narrative cinema genre. Botorić desired "to (re-)represent history in the new medium, recreating old myths in a way that was to characterise cinema's first century". However, he immediately encountered difficulties because cinema in early 20th-century Serbia was considered "mindless entertainment lacking any cultural value". In order to address such criticism, Botorić sought to create a film based on an important historical event. Veteran actor Ilija Stanojević, with whom Botorić had worked previously, was selected to direct the film.[3] Louis de Beéry, a cameraman who had previously filmed newsreels on Botorić's behalf,[2] was chosen as the film's cinematographer.[3]

The script was written by Ćira Manok, Ilija Stanojević, and an unidentified person named Savković.[4] Its storyline was based on several sources, including historical and biographical works, a play by Miloš Cvetić, and the Serbian folk poem The Start of the Revolt Against the Dahias.[1]


To further its "cultural credibility", Botorić cast actors from the National Theatre of Serbia to play roles in the film.[3] Most of these performers had no on-camera experience. The role of Karađorđe was given to stage actor Milorad Petrović,[4] while director Ilija Stanojević took on dual roles playing both a Turk and Karađorđe's killer, Vujica Vulićević.[5] Actor Sava Todorović played numerous "Turkish dignitaries" throughout the film. Dragoljub Sotirović portrayed Hajduk Veljko and Karađorđe's brother, Marinko. Actors Vukosava Jurković, Dobrica Milutinović, and Aleksandar Milojević were cast as Karađorđe's mother, Janko Katić, and Mateja Nenadović, respectively.[6]


Intended to "boost national feeling and celebrate the monarchy",[7] Botorić underwrote the production.[1] Filming took place from August to September 1911, with exteriors shot on the Sava River, the Belgrade Fortress, Topčider, and Banjičko polje. Interiors were filmed in the courtyard of the Hotel Paris in Belgrade.[4] More than 1,000 extras were hired.[5] Costumes and sets were provided by the National Theatre of Serbia, while the cavalry of the Serbian Army participated in a scene depicting the Battle of Mišar.[4]

Release and reception[edit]

The film was developed and copied at the Paris headquarters of Pathé-Frères.[4] With a length of 90 minutes,[5] it was released under the title The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Vožd Karađorđe (Serbian: Život i dela besmrtnog vožda Karađorđa, Живот и дела бесмртног вожда Карађорђа) on 23 October 1911.[1] In the Serbian language, the word vožd literally means "leader".[8]

The film was first screened at the Hotel Paris,[9] becoming the first feature-length motion picture released in Serbia and the Balkans.[10] Afterwards, it was distributed and known simply as Karađorđe[3] and was shown in Smederevo, Niš, and Valjevo in 1912, in Skopje in 1915, and in Sarajevo in 1919. In 1925, it was briefly re-released in Belgrade.[4] According to film historians Petar Volk and Dejan Kosanović, Karađorđe was a commercial success in its home country. They surmise that the Serbian government viewed the film as a way of "re-establishing the myth" of its titular character, the founder of the newly reinstated Karađorđević dynasty.[3] Following its rediscovery, Professor Nevena Daković examined the film from a modern perspective, describing it this way:

From today's perspective, it is a static film d'art, a historical spectacle with tableaux vivants, mise-en-scène, and baroque, emotionally emphatic intertitles. Anticipating the wave of Serbian historical spectacles in the 1930s, the film fuels national sentiments and consciousness, celebrates national identity, and broadly participates in what Eric Hobsbawm has called "invention of the tradition" by glorifying and mythologizing a past that determines the shape of things to come.[7]

Film historian Vlastimir Sudar described Karađorđe as being "advanced for its time", calling it "a large-scale epic on a historical event of almost mythical proportions."[11]


Karađorđe was last recorded as being screened to a group of Serbian immigrants in the United States in 1928.[12] A copy of the film existed in Belgrade until 1947–1948, when it was destroyed after its owner tossed it into the Danube to avoid being persecuted by Yugoslavia's new Communist authorities following the Karađorđević dynasty's exile in the aftermath of World War II.[5] After many decades of being considered lost, it was rediscovered in the Austrian Film Archives in Vienna on 16 July 2003[11] by Aleksandar Erdeljanović and Radoslav Zelenović on behalf of the Yugoslav Cinema Archive (Serbian: Jugoslovenska kinoteka).[12] Erdeljanović and Zelenović went on to spend more than 3,000 hours attempting to re-master the film, whose quality had been significantly degraded due to the damp conditions in which it was kept.[6] Even then the film was not discovered in its entirety as the original was more than 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) in length while the version that Erdeljanović and Zelenović discovered was significantly shorter.[4] Erdeljanović has said that he and Zelenović managed to preserve an estimated eighty to ninety percent of the film during their restoration. Once the pair had completed their work, the film, now with a reduced length of 62 minutes,[10] was broadcast on Serbian television after many decades of being considered lost.[12]

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