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DUBROVNIK (Reuters) - Church authorities in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik have banned a Serbian comedy about Balkan war veterans and a gay parade which has been a box-office hit across the former Yugoslavia, due to its gay content and its failure to portray Serbs as aggressors in the war.
Co-produced by Serbia and Croatia and starring actors from both countries, "The Parade" tells the story of a retired Serb soldier who recruits former enemies from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo to protect a Gay Pride parade in Belgrade, which is threatened by nationalist thugs.
The movie, by Serbian director Srdan Dragojevic, has attracted more than half a million viewers in the Balkans, including 160,000 in Croatia, a tally most Hollywood blockbusters never achieve in the region.
It was praised for promoting tolerance by an ecumenical jury at this year's Berlin film festival. But in Dubrovnik it hit problems when the city's only cinema was due for renovation and screenings were moved to an improvised theatre run by the Roman Catholic church.
The church said the movie could not be shown because its gay content was not compliant with church doctrine but also because it portrayed Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the same way.
"The decision was motivated not only by the homosexual content but by its political message, which bothered even more," Bishop Mate Uzinic told Reuters.
The church said the movie was equating Serbs, seen as aggressors in most of the Balkans for their role in the ethnic wars of the 1990s, with their victims.
The mediaeval city of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast was shelled by Serb-dominated Yugoslav troops during Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence.
"I don't think tolerance should mean forgetting, erasing what has happened. Everyone must accept the past and then build an open future based on true facts," the bishop said.
Dragojevic, the movie's director, said he was disappointed.
"I have no problems with the ban being related to same-sex love. But I am disappointed by the political explanations about aggressors and victims. Seventeen years after the war, we are not allowing the new generations to grow up in normal countries, unburdened by what the earlier generations did," he said.
Reporting by David Spaic Kovacic; Writing by Zoran Radosavljevic; Editing by Susan Fenton