Serb comedy has Balkans united in laughter

Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:46am EST
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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - A comedy about a former Serb war hero who recruits erstwhile enemies from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo to protect a Gay Pride parade offers a delightful snapshot of the post-war healing that has taken place in the ex-Yugoslav republics.

"The Parade" director Srdan Dragojevic said after his film was well received at the Berlin Film Festival on Monday that he opted to use humor as the wrapping for a film that tackles the disturbing reality of gay persecution in Serbia.

"Humor is so important," said Dragojevic. "My film was attacked by both left-wing liberals and right-wing nationalists. The trouble is they don't have a sense of humor. I use humour to mellow people down first and then hit them over the head."

The fictional tale is ostensibly about gay rights in Serbia and includes footage of the violence that erupted when right-wing activists disrupted a 2010 Gay Pride march in Belgrade.

More than 100 police were injured. Authorities in Serbia then banned a gay rights parade in 2011 citing safety concerns.

But on another level the film depicts Serbs, Croats, Bosnian and Kosovo Albanians working together and having fun together for a common cause - to protect a persecuted minority.

For Berlinale audiences accustomed to depressing films from the former Yugoslavia about the war and war crimes, such as "Grbavica" in 2006 and "Storm" in 2009, The Parade is a first-rate crowd-pleaser and box office hit throughout the Balkans.

More than 500,000 people have seen Dragojevic's comedy in all six ex-Yugoslav republics. Its makers said it is the first co-production by all republics since before the 1991-95 wars.   Continued...