Srđan Dragojević

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Srđan Dragojević
OIFF 2015-07-18 212820 - Srđan Dragojević.jpg
Dragojević at the Odessa International Film Festival 2015.
Born (1963-01-01) 1 January 1963 (age 56)
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1992–present
Notable work
Lepa sela lepo gore, Rane
Tatjana Strugar (m. 1988–2007)

Srđan Dragojević (Serbian Cyrillic: Срђан Драгојевић, pronounced [sř̩d͡ʑan drâɡojeʋitɕ], born 1 January 1963) is a Serbian film director and screenwriter, who emerged in the 1990s as a significant figure in Serbian cinema.

Since 2010, he has been a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia's (SPS) main board. In late August 2013 he became an SPS MP in the Serbian National Assembly.

Early life and career[edit]

Born to a journalist father who headed a state-owned Belgrade-based newspaper and a French translator mother, Dragojević described himself as "the child of middle-level communist nomenklatura in Serbia".[1] In his early youth, Dragojević played guitar in the punk/new wave band TV Moroni. He also dabbled in journalism, writing for Polet and Start magazines.

He obtained a degree in clinical psychology from the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Philosophy. In 1987 he started studying film and TV direction at the University of Arts' Faculty of Dramatic Arts (FDU) under the tutelage of Bajo Šaranović and got another degree.

In parallel, Dragojević was active in poetry, publishing a book of poems called Knjiga akcione poezije (The Book of Action Poetry)[2] in 1986 and winning Branko's Award for it. By his own admission, much of his poetry was inspired by the 1920s Soviet art and poets like Vladimir Mayakovsky:[3]

Dragojević published one more book of poetry Čika kovač potkiva bebu in 1988 before devoting to film. He briefly came back to poetry in 1995 as an already established film director to release Katkad valja pročitati poneku knjigu da ne ispadnete glupi u društvu.

Cinematic career[edit]

Debut and early period[edit]

Dragojević made his directorial debut at the age of 29 with 1992's Mi nismo anđeli whose screenplay he wrote as well. What was essentially his FDU graduate thesis project, an irreverent youth comedy set in Belgrade about a geeky teenage girl who gets impregnated by a local playboy, turned out to be a huge hit in FR Yugoslavia and eventually in the rest of the former Yugoslav countries.

With his cinematic profile raised, in 1993, Dragojević was set to begin shooting a campy Almodóvaresque project tentatively titled Devedesete (The Nineties) about loyalty, jealousy, infidelity, and intimacy, with the original plan to shoot three separate endings and distribute three versions of the film. However, financial implosion of the state-owned production studio Avala Film amid galloping inflation in FR Yugoslavia put an end to that project.[5]

He was next hired along with Aleksandar Barišić to co-write a star vehicle for turbo-folk star Dragana Mirković that eventually became 1994's widely panned romantic musical comedy Slatko od snova. Produced by influential Serbian show business manager Raka Đokić whose clients included local top-selling young starlets of the folk music genre, the high-budget film was envisioned as 25-year-old Dragana Mirković's cinematic platform meant to allow her to show herself in different light (more pop dance music less traditional folk) and thus increase her nationwide fame, much like Đokić managed to do for Lepa Brena several years earlier with her Hajde da se volimo film that grew into a hugely successful two-sequel money generating franchise. Following the same pattern, Đokić again threw funds at the top people from local cinematography and attracted by his money numerous Serbian film and music industry people (including Dragojević, Branka Katić, Nebojša Bakočević, Rambo Amadeus, etc.) normally completely disassociated from and even ideologically opposed to the commercial folk music milieu flocked to do the film. Still, Slatko od snova was a box-office flop, only managing to become a camp guilty pleasure in the years since for its over-the-top excess.

The year 1994 also saw Dragojević write and direct a made-for-TV musical comedy Dva sata kvalitetnog TV programa ("Two hours of quality TV programming") that aired on RTS television's third channel (3K) as part of their New Year's Eve 1995 programming. During next year, 1995, he directed a couple of episodes of the RTS series Otvorena vrata ("The open door").

Critical acclaim[edit]

Four years after his debut, Dragojević finally returned to directing feature films - this time completely breaking out of the youth genre to tackle the gruesome issues related to the ongoing Yugoslav Wars with a controversial drama containing elements of dark comedy, Lepa sela lepo gore, set in war-torn Bosnia. In addition to critical praise, the movie made a measurable commercial impact with more than 700,000 tickets sold domestically during its theatrical run.[6] It also raised plenty of controversy across Europe over its ideological aspects: while many saw it as a powerful denouncement of war, others viewed it as "fascist cinema". The movie was even refused entry at the 1996 Venice Film Festival in addition to splitting the jury at the 1996 Thessaloniki International Film Festival that ultimately denied it the main prize despite being an overwhelming hit with the festival's audience.[7] In North America, the film received more or less universal critical praise as Dragojević started getting courted by Hollywood almost immediately following the film's notable run on the festival circuit across the continent. He signed with William Morris Agency in late summer 1996 and got flown to Los Angeles where he had meetings with different studio heads.[8] However, deeply dissatisfied with the scripts he was being offered, the director decided to come back home and do another film in Serbia. Therefore, the only tangible result of his brief flirtation with Hollywood on this occasion was the deal with Fox Lorber for the North American limited theatrical and home video distribution of Lepa sela lepo gore.

Back home on the political front, Dragojević supported the 1996-97 anti-government demonstrations by speaking at rallies and taking part in protest walks.

In 1998 Dragojević gave a bleak and critical portrayal of life in Slobodan Milošević's Serbia in Rane, which was another critical success for the young director. Loosely based on a true story, its plot tells a tale of two teen criminals growing up together before turning on each other. Released in May 1998 and, like most local productions, funded in large part by state institutions such as the state-run broadcaster RTS, the film elicited a stern response from the government elements that did not appreciate the director's brutal portrayal of Milošević's Serbia. Though they didn't ban the movie outright, they severely impacted its promotional cycle by refusing to run the film's ads in the state-run print and electronic media outlets.[9] During the film's promotion on the festival circuit in North America, Dragojević expressed concern that he wouldn't be allowed to continue making films in Serbia under Milošević.

Those fears didn't turn out to be unfounded as his attempts to raise funds for the film adaptation of Dušan Kovačević's 1984 theater play St. George Slays the Dragon quickly got shot down.

Hollywood years[edit]

By 1999 Dragojević had enough of Serbia as the realization set in that he wouldn't be allowed to make films the way he wants to. He thus called on his Hollywood connections in order to once again explore his options across the pond and soon opened negotiations with Miramax as he again started to get some interest from America including a January screening of Rane at the Sundance Film Festival.[10]

In late March 1999, a week after NATO started bombing Serbia, Dragojević boarded a bus to Budapest with his wife and their two kids and went to New York City where he had a scheduled screening of Rane organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center at the Museum of Modern Art[11][12] as part of its annual 28th New Director's/New Films series.[13] The arrival to the country that's bombing his homeland put him in an odd and uncomfortable position and he acknowledged as much in interviews.[14] He remained in the United States, travelling across the country with Rane that had several more festival screenings (including the San Francisco International Film Festival) while simultaneously negotiating terms with Miramax.

In July his deal with Miramax was announced,[15] and the family moved to Los Angeles, settling in Laurel Canyon.[16] Dragojević spent the next several years living and working in the United States, dividing his time between LA and New York. He was under the so-called first look deal which obliged him to offer everything he's interested in developing (either his own work or someone else's work whose rights can be bought) to Miramax first and then if Miramax refuses it, he was free to shop it around elsewhere. The deal also functioned in the other direction whereby Miramax would offer him scripts, books, stories or re-make ideas they thought fit his sensibility and he'd have the right of refusal.[17]

However, Dragojević experienced major problems persuading the studios to fund his projects,[18] and he also mostly didn't like the ideas being offered to him. The closest he got to finishing a movie was the heist-comedy on whose script he was co-credited with Alan SereboffThe Payback All-Star Revue — that was agreed to be a co-production between Miramax and Mel Gibson's Icon Productions. The announcement was made in November 2000 with Dragojević upbeat about the project he envisioned as a "funny and commercial film containing a unique mix of genres, including Shakespearean subplots and unpredictable structures".[19] The plot revolved around a band of lounge musicians playing in the Riviera casino in Las Vegas who decide to rob the place where they perform. Though they manage to pull off the heist successfully, they run into troubles during the getaway. Now trapped, they agree to give themselves up on the condition that they are granted an interview with a Rolling Stone reporter to tell their story.[20] The planned plot featured a multitude of characters with many subplots.[21] However, in the middle of pre-production the movie got canceled in 2001 due to an impending SAG strike threat and the Warner Bros.' announcement of putting Ocean's 11 remake with an all-star cast into pre-production, which Miramax thought would jeopardize Payback's box-office appeal.[22] Over the following years, by now known for his frank and colourful interviews, Dragojević talked openly about the experience:

As mentioned, while in America, there were numerous other projects that he ultimately ended up not getting involved in. Soon upon arriving, Dragojević met with Harvey Weinstein who offered him Milčo Mančevski's script Dust, but Dragojević refused, reasoning that it's a very personal script that can more or less only be directed by Mančevski, and also due to discovering that, as he put it in one interview, "offering me that script was the Weinstein brothers' little 'fuck you' to Mančevski whom they were on bad terms with at that moment".[24] The studio then offered Dragojević the Heaven, Hell, Purgatory trilogy, while they particularly wanted him to direct Hell, however he vehemently refused, labeling the script "the dumbest thing I've ever read" in another interview.[23] Dragojević had been interested in filming Patrick Marber's play Closer from as far back as 1999 when he first arrived in the United States, but the studio kept turning him down, eventually hiring veteran director Mike Nichols who got to make the film in 2004.[23] The studio then offered Dragojević Reindeer Games, but he refused, figuring something better would come along.[23] He was by his own admission particularly interested in directing either Frida or View from the Top, however in the case of the former, the movie's producer and star Salma Hayek wanted a female director so the job went to Julie Taymor while in the case of the latter, the film's producers as well as its star Gwyneth Paltrow didn't like Dragojević's ironic take on the screenplay and Bruno Barreto got the job instead.[25] He was also in the running for The Mexican, but the job went to Gore Verbinski. Summing up his Hollywood experience, Dragojević said:

Return to Serbia[edit]

By 2001, Dragojević returned to his homeland without having made a film in America. With producer Biljana Prvanović, he founded a production company Delirium Films in 2002.

In early 2003 he was announced as having been hired to develop a script for and eventually direct Beautiful Game, film based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical that had already been staged in London's West End.[27] Along with a young American writer, Dragojević came up with an adapted screenplay from Ben Elton's story set in West Belfast during the 1970s about a group of Protestants and Catholics playing on the same football team as sectarian tensions surround them.[28] However, in the end nothing came of it and years later Dragojević revealed in an interview that a row erupted with producers over his desire to remove two of the songs.[26]

Around the same time, he also tried to get several projects off the ground such as the post-Holocaust novel After by Melvin Jules Bukiet with producer friend Julia Rosenberg as well as a proposed film based on Julian Barnes' 1992 novel The Porcupine, but was unable to raise funds for either of them. He also had an idea for a film called 1999 Cum in the Rye that was conceptualized as the final installment of his 1990s trilogy, but it also couldn't raise enough funding.

Suddenly, in summer 2004, he decided to make Mi nismo anđeli 2, the sequel to his greatest commercial hit after reportedly writing the screenplay from scratch in only three weeks.[29] Shot in co-production with Pink International Company and released in early 2005, Mi nismo anđeli 2 broke box office records in Serbia with 700,000 admission tickets sold[30] despite receiving bad reviews[31][32] and even accusations of plagiarizing Stan Dragoti's 1989 comedy She's Out of Control.[33] Dragojević himself on occasion referred to the film as an "open dialogue with the 1980s American B-comedy genre".[34] Still, some observers saw his involvement in the project as an attempt at delivering a quick commercial box-office hit that would financially enable the projects he was really interested in making.[23] Dragojević initially shied away from putting it in those terms,[35] but several years later admitted as much explicitly in some interviews.[36][37]

Around the same time Dragojević wrote one of the script drafts for Uroš Stojanović's film Čarlston za Ognjenku that he wrote as a "screwball comedy or postmodern Frank Capra", however Stojanović ultimately went into different direction with the film.[34]

Right afterward, Dragojević started working on the third installment of the Mi nismo anđeli franchise. This resulted in Mi nismo anđeli 3: Rokenrol uzvraća udarac that he co-wrote with Dimitrije Vojnov, but left directing duties to Petar Pašić. The approach taken was along the lines of Hollywood cinema - the script was offered to seven directors each of whom had to make a pitch with Pašić chosen in the end.[38] Still, the reviews were even worse than for the previous sequel and the movie was a failure at the box office. Summing up the Mi nismo anđeli sequels several years later in 2009, Dragojević said:

Dragojević was brought by John Cusack into the project titled Brand Hauser: Stuff Happens, which the Serb was slated to direct. However, the production company Nu Image led by Avi Lerner wanted the script re-written, a job that also went to Dragojević who in turn brought in Dimitrije Vojnov thus continuing their writing collaboration. The script that the duo came up with has been described by Dragojević as "a modern-day Dr. Strangelove". Dragojević then spent three months in Bulgaria doing preparation work with his set designer and director of photography, even flying out to locations in Morocco and Kazakhstan where parts of the movie were to be shot. Then weeks before the movie was scheduled to begin shooting, Cusack chimed in from London where he had been shooting 1408, voicing his displeasure with Dragojević's and Vojnov's version of the script and demanding a return to the original version co-written by Cusack himself. That spelled the end of Dragojević's involvement on the project as he decided to leave Bulgaria the next day. The movie ended up being shot with the original script and the new title War, Inc.. The only detail from Dragojević's script re-write that made it into the movie was the billboard for the fictional Democracy Light cigarette brand, which he previously used in his movie Rane.

Dragojević on the set of St. George Shoots the Dragon in 2007

In summer 2007, Dragojević started shooting the historical melodrama St. George Shoots the Dragon, an ambitious and expensive movie based on Dušan Kovačević's script about a love triangle against the backdrop of Serbian war effort in World War I. Funded in significant part by the governments of Serbia and Republika Srpska, the movie raised a lot of media interest in Serbia. It was by far the biggest movie project Dragojević had ever been a part of. The making of the movie, however, wasn't smooth. From Sergej Trifunović being fired as the lead and replaced with Milutin Milošević to cinematographer Miljen "Kreka" Kljaković walking off the project, the Serbian press detailed many of the on-set problems. In the end, as the film was about to go into theater release in Serbia in mid March 2009 even Dragojević himself admitted personal disappointment with some of the choices he made during shooting of the film in a lengthy interview for Vreme magazine. Among other things he said: "I invested so much energy into this film that I started to believe it would become a masterpiece, but it hasn't."[36]

In late 2010, Dragan Bjelogrlić's film Montevideo, Bog te video that Dragojević co-wrote with Ranko Božić came out to positive reviews and great commercial success. Simultaneously, Dragojević's political engagement in the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), a part of the ruling coalition in Serbia, was announced.[39][40]

In late October 2011, Dragojević's latest film Parada premiered. Covering the politically sensitive topic of gay rights in Serbia, the film generated some controversy leading up to the premiere. For his part, Dragojević boldly announced it as "the best film of my career",[41] and soon expanded on the statement: "Saying that was the result of my satisfaction with the fact I succeeded in controlling a very risky thing - to continuously balance between the concepts of 'high comedy' and 'high drama' and to purposely impact the viewer's limbic system, thus manipulating and drawing emotions I deem necessary for every segment of the movie all of which results in the emotional and cognitive reaction I planned".[42]




Political career[edit]

In December 2010 Dragojević's involvement with the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) led by Ivica Dačić had been announced. At the time of Dragojević's joining, SPS was part of the ruling coalition in Serbia that included many parties, but was dominated by the Democratic Party (DS) and its leader Boris Tadić. Considering that SPS was founded and formerly headed by Slobodan Milošević, whom Dragojević had been an outspoken critic of, many in Serbia found this turn of events surprising. Dragojević's answer was that he felt SPS is a different party from the days when Milošević headed it and added that his main motivation to join it was reviving closed cultural centers in small towns across Serbia and that SPS was the only party interested in his plan.[43]

In late March 2012 his name was submitted in the 55th spot on the party's electoral 250-person list for the 2012 parliamentary elections.[44] In addition to SPS, the list also included Party of United Pensioners of Serbia (PUPS) and United Serbia (JS). Dragojević took an active part in the campaign,[45] making TV debate show and public rally appearances. The SPS-PUPS-JS list ended up winning 44 parliamentary seats, which meant Dragojević didn't get the deputy (MP) status in the Serbian parliament.

However, year and a half later, Dragojević would get the MP status.[46] Following the August 2013 cabinet reshuffle, two SPS MPs — Branko Ružić and Aleksandar Antić — resigned their parliamentary posts due to being given ministerial positions in the prime minister Ivica Dačić's and deputy PM Aleksandar Vučić's reconstructed cabinet. Ružić's and Antić's parliamentary positions were taken over by Milutin Mrkonjić and Srđan Dragojević.[47] In January 2014, Dragojević was criticized by his cinematic collaborator Dragan Bjelogrlić over accepting the parliamentary job: "I wish he hadn't done it. That ambiance doesn't go with him at all. He's greater than all of them. The MP post is not a degrading one per se, but when I think back to Dragojević the punk rocker or back to 1990s when he'd quite brusquely, and often brazenly, say things to people's faces, now he looks like a wild boar that's been tamed and put in the parliamentary cage".[48]


Dragojević was married to costume designer and visual artist Tatjana Strugar from 1988 to 2007. They have three children: daughters Irina and Eva, and son Matija.


  1. ^ Conversations with three filmmakers;World Socialist Web Site, 8 May 1999
  2. ^ Virtuelna biblioteka Srbije
  3. ^ Srđan Dragojević: Moji filmovi mogu da budu opasni;Blic, 31 October 2011
  4. ^ Moć klišea Archived 2012-01-31 at the Wayback Machine;Vreme, October 2011
  5. ^ Srđan Dragojević: Reakcije na "Paradu" su istovjetne u Hrvatskoj i Srbiji, nismo mi toliko različiti;Novi list, 26 December 2011
  6. ^ I u najskupljem srpskom filmu zvijezda Splićanka Archived 2011-02-04 at the Wayback Machine; Jutarnji list, August 20, 2007
  7. ^ Vox Populi Archived 2012-01-16 at the Wayback Machine;28 November 1996
  8. ^ Pretty Village, Pretty Flame:Gerald Peary, April 1998
  9. ^ Dark Balkan Comedy and Black-Sheep Directors;The New York Times, 24 September 1998
  10. ^ 1999 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Lineup;indieWIRE, 3 December 1998
  11. ^ One Filmmaker's View from Yugoslavia;indieWIRE, 31 March 1999
  12. ^ Growing Up in Belgrade With Suitably Black Humor;The New York Times, 22 August 1999
  13. ^ 1999 New York's New Director's/New Films Series Lineup Set;indieWIRE, 4 March 1999
  14. ^ After Anticipated New Directors Debut, Yugoslavian Filmmaker Discusses U.S./Serbian "Propaganda";indieWire, 5 April 1999
  15. ^ Dragojevic, Miramax Sit 'pretty';The Hollywood Reporter, 29 July 1999
  16. ^ Srđan Dragojević: Ne gledam svoje filmove;Story, 13 February 2012
  17. ^ Obračun sa sobom;Vreme, 1 January 2000
  18. ^ 1
  19. ^ Miramax, Icon plan 'Payback';Variety, 19 November 2000
  20. ^ The Payback All-Star Revue;The New York Times
  21. ^ The Payback All-Star Revue Archived 2004-06-17 at the Wayback Machine;Screenwriters Utopia
  22. ^ IMDb
  23. ^ a b c d e f Srđan Dragojević;, 4 February 2005
  24. ^ a b c Đurđić, Jelena (26 December 2011). "Kava i pljuge: Srđan Dragojević". Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  25. ^ Karanov, Igor (1 February 2008). "Aždaha ubiva anđela". Press. Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  26. ^ a b Največja Parada ponosa v srcu homofobnega Balkana;Delo, 2 January 2012
  27. ^ Lloyd Webber's Phantom & Beautiful Game Have Screen Plans;Playbill, 21 January 2003
  28. ^ INTERVJU NEDELJE, Srđan Dragojević (2. deo): Nisam snimao filmove s ratnim zločincima!;, 1 April 2012
  29. ^ SRĐAN DRAGOJEVIĆ: Izlet u Hollywood;BalkanMedia, 2005
  30. ^ Dragojevic@PodatakPlus;November 2011
  31. ^ Usiljena pucka komedija;Danas, February 2005
  32. ^ Lepa nada lepa beda;Popboks, 2005
  33. ^ Mi nismo andjeli 2 / Film je PLAGIJAT!
  34. ^ a b INTERVJU: SRĐAN DRAGOJEVIĆ, February 2010
  35. ^ Ponekad žalim što nisam bio u JUL-u;Vreme, 20 January 2005
  36. ^ a b c Intervju:Srđan Dragojević, reditelj, Vreme, March 22, 2009 Archived April 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Bez uspona i padova život je manje zanimljiv;Danas, 11 February 2012
  38. ^ The Dark Future of Film-making in Serbia: An Interview with Petar Pasic;The Moving Arts Film Journal, 24 October 2010
  39. ^ Srđan Dragojević: Da ostavimo devedesete;Blic, 14 December 2010
  40. ^ Srđan Dragojević: Politika, Bog te video;Večernje novosti, 25 December 2010
  41. ^ Srđan Dragojević: "Parada" je moj najbolji film;Blic, 29 October 2011
  42. ^ Otkazivanje Parade nije poraz ljudskih prava;Novosti, 16 December 2011
  43. ^ Dragojevic@Nedjeljom u 2;HRT, 11 March 2012
  44. ^ Na listi koalicije oko SPS i Srđan Dragojević;Blic, 23 March 2012
  45. ^ INTERVJU NEDELJE, Srđan Dragojević: Spremam se da budem poslanik SPS!;, 31 March 2012
  46. ^ Srđan Dragojević;Otvoreni parlament
  47. ^ Narodni poslanik Srđan Dragojević;, 29 August 2013
  48. ^ BJELOGRLIĆ: Dragojević mi izgleda kao divlji vepar u skupštinskom kavezu!;Nedeljnik, January 2014

External links[edit]