Tito's pet film studio at risk of Yugoslav fate

Thu Mar 7, 2013 7:49am EST
 
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By Matt Robinson

BELGRADE (Reuters) - On a forested hill above the Serbian capital, stray dogs nose through plywood film sets, the remnants of what was once one of the world's most prolific movie studios.

Founded in the wake of World War Two by Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, Avala Film fed his socialist federation on a diet of rousing war epics extolling a vision of 'Brotherhood and Unity' between its peoples.

Richard Burton, Yul Brynner and Orson Welles brought the glamour of Hollywood, while Tito's army supplied the extras.

But mirroring the fate of the country it once promoted, the long-since bankrupt studios now face being dismembered, picked apart and sold off to settle a debt.

Filmmakers and cinema buffs in Serbia fear the loss of a national treasure, and with it a rich catalogue of hundreds of films spanning half a century.

"The cinema of any country is a central component of its heritage," said Mila Turajlic, director of Cinema Komunisto, a 2010 documentary that looked at Tito's legendary love of cinema and the film industry he bankrolled.

Avala's creations, she said, "represent the cultural history of not only Serbia but Yugoslavia, and they will end up in the private hands of local businessmen, who'll be free to exploit them or even deny access to them in any way they see fit."

Avala Film's demise mirrored that of Tito's Yugoslav vision.   Continued...

 
A man passes ''Avala Film" in Belgrade February 26, 2013. On a forested hill above the Serbian capital, stray dogs nose through plywood film sets, the remnants of what was once one of the world's most prolific movie studios. REUTERS/Marko Djurica