Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

Image of Želimir Žilnik during the production of Early Works, 1969. Image links to event page.



An Evening with Filmmaker Želimir Žilnik
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Join us at e-flux Screening Room on Saturday, November 4 at 7pm for an evening with filmmaker Želimir Žilnik, organized by Greg De Cuir Jr (co-founder and artistic director of Kinopravda Institute in Belgrade). The evening features a screening of early short films by Žilnik, followed by a discussion between Žilnik and Pavle Levi (Stanford University).

Six years after the first retrospectives on Želimir Žilnik in the US were presented at Harvard Film Archive and Anthology Film Archives, the original iconoclast of Yugoslav-Serbian cinema and the enfant terrible of the Black Wave returns to New York to continue a career-spanning survey of his uncompromising and politically-engaged films. Respected as a master of interventionist nonfiction and a pioneer of hybrid documentary techniques, at 81 years old and still working Žilnik is a true elder statesman of independent European cinema. His work for the big and the small screen is always positioned on the side of the marginalized and underserved, and his aesthetics are always a function of empowering people and creating awareness and empathy for their lived experiences.

This selection of short films presents the early works in Žilnik’s career. From unemployed workers to unsatisfied students, from the precariously housed to those living on the streets, these films participate in the struggle against the cruel march of progress and the callous ideology of the state.


June Turmoil (1969, Yugoslavia, 10 minutes)
The film documents student demonstrations in Belgrade in June 1968. It was shot for the most part in the court of Kapetan Mišino Zdanje (Faculty of Philosophy building), where students gathered and famous artists participated in solidarity with the students.

The Unemployed (1968, Yugoslavia, 13 minutes)
The film represents a series of portraits and situations people found themselves in after being made redundant during the time of the economic reforms that were supposed to establish market economy in Yugoslavia. In the interviews, people speak about their doubts and confusion, as they had been expecting socialism to give them more social security. They criticize the parasitic bureaucracy, they sign in to leave for and work in Germany, with whom Yugoslavia had signed an agreement on taking over the workforce around that time.

Little Pioneers (1968, Yugoslavia, 18 minutes)
Socially neglected children take care of themselves. They dare go stealing and break the law. They argue with parents who neither understand them nor have feelings for them. As a counterpoint to this story we see a TV show where a popular actor-entertainer, Gula (Dragoljub Milosavljevic), addresses happy, carefree children.

Inventory (1975, West Germany, 9 minutes)
Tenants of an old building in the center of Münich are featured in this film: Most of them are foreigners who work in Germany as “guest workers” (Yugoslavs, Italians, Turks, Greek,s etc.). In their mother tongue, each of them tells who he or she is, and briefly talks about their major worries, new hopes ,and plans for the future.

Black Film (1971, Yugoslavia, 14 minutes)
One night, Žilnik picks up a group of homeless men from the streets of Novi Sad and takes them home. While they enjoy themselves in his home, the filmmaker tries to “solve the problem of the homeless,” carrying along a film camera as a witness. He speaks to social workers, ordinary people. He even addresses policemen. They all shut their eyes in front of the “problem.”

This program is part of a coast-to-coast US tour for Želimir Žilnik. The New York presentation includes the international symposium The Avant-Garde Does Not Surrender: The Cinema of Želimir Žilnik at Columbia University (organized by Aleksandar Bošković, November 4, 2023), and the retrospective Žilnik in Autumn at Anthology Film Archives (November 3–10, 2023). Screenings are co-sponsored by the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University.

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–Two flights of stairs lead up to the building’s front entrance at 172 Classon Avenue.
–For elevator access, please RSVP to The building has a freight elevator which leads into the e-flux office space. Entrance to the elevator is nearest to 180 Classon Ave (a garage door). We have a ramp for the steps within the space.
–e-flux has an ADA-compliant bathroom. There are no steps between the Screening Room and this bathroom.

Image: Želimir Žilnik (right) during the production of Early Works, 1969.