Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

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The Avant-Garde Does Not Surrender: The Cinema of Želimir Žilnik
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The Avant-Garde Does Not Surrender: The Cinema of Želimir Žilnik, an international symposium organized by Aleksandar Bošković. This conference is free and open to the public.

Please join the East Central European Center, the Njegoš Endowment for Serbian Language and Culture, and the Harriman Institute for The Avant-Garde Does Not Surrender (after Asger Jorn’s L’avant-garde se rend pas, 1962), a symposium dedicated to the cinematic works and practices of renowned Yugoslav filmmaker Želimir Žilnik, who has been in the vanguard of socially committed and politically engaged cinema in Europe since the 1960s. His extensive body of work, comprising over sixty short films and features, has steadfastly adhered to the principles of cinematic resistance against the prevailing status quo, cultivating a distinctive cinematic style that prioritizes agency over mere representation.

Žilnik’s films, particularly his documentaries and docudramas (referred to as docufiction), serve as a platform for giving voice, stage, and agency to various marginalized, underrepresented, and often overlooked individuals and groups. In his distinct approach, Žilnik transforms cinema into an instrument of praxis, a form of cinema that not only empowers its protagonists—the homeless, the unemployed, immigrants, refuges, the politically, racially, and sexually oppressed, or marginalized subjects—but also fosters an engaged social experience. Žilnik’s “cinema-as-praxis” (Levi) relentlessly resists hegemonic regimes of knowledge by espousing modes of understanding and interventions in the world rooted in practical experience.

The symposium is accompanied by a retrospective of Želimir Žilnik’s works at the Anthology Film Archives (November 3 – 10), followed by an evening with filmmaker Želimir Žilnik at the e-flux Screening Room on Saturday, November 4 at 7pm. Both events are organized by Greg De Cuir Jr. and co-sponsored by the East Central European Center. The evening at e-flux on November 4 features a screening of early short films by Žilnik, followed by a discussion between Žilnik and Pavle Levi.


Tatjana Aleksić, Associate Professor of Comparative and Slavic Literatures and Film, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Petra Belc, Ph.D. in Film Studies, University of Zagreb

Vladislav Beronja, Assistant Professor in Slavic and Eurasian Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Greg de Cuir Jr., Co-Founder & Artistic Director of Kinopravda Institute, Belgrade

Amir Husak, Documentary Media Maker and Assistant Professor of Media Studies, The New School

Ana Janevski, Curator in the Department of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art

Dijana Jelača, Lecturer in Cinema Studies in the Department of Film, Brooklyn College

Nataša Kovačević, Professor of Postcolonial LIterature, Eastern Michigan University and Editor of JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory

Pavle Levi, Professor of Film Studies, Stanford University

Dušan Radunović, Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University

Jasmina Tumbas, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History & Performance Studies in the Department of Global Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Buffalo

Želimir Žilnik, Filmmaker

Image: Still from Želimir Žilnik’s feature film Pretty Women Walking Through the City (1986)


Saturday, November 4, 2023

9:50 AM | Conference Welcome

Aleksandar Bošković, Co-Deputy Director, East Central European Center, Harriman Institute


10:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Session One: Cinema-as-Praxis

Chair and Discussant: Dijana Jelača

  • Dušan Radunović: Towards a Cine-Performative. Marxism, Neo-avant-garde and the Production of Agency in Želimir Žilnik’s Films
  • Greg de Cuir Jr.: The Eleventh Thesis or Želimir Žilnik’s Newsreel on City Youth, Summer
  • Pavle Levi: The People are Present


1:30 – 3:30 PM | Session Two: Precarious Lives

Chair and Discussant: Amir Husak

  • Nataša KovačevićOur Man in Gabon: Non-Aligned Friendships between Solidarity and Inequality
  • Vlad Beronja: Unwanted Cosmopolitans and Queer (Neo)realism in Želimir Žilnik’s Kenedi Is Getting Married (2007)
  • Jasmina Tumbas: Queer Yugoslavia: Želimir Žilnik’s Transgressive Legacy for the Yugoslav Diaspora


3:45 – 5:00 PM  | Session Three: Feature Film Experiments

Chair and Discussant: Ana Janevski

  • Petra Belc: Hallelujah the Early Works!
  • Tatjana Aleksić: Yugoslav Anti-Utopia


5:00 – 5:15 PM | Concluding Remarks