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‘God Bless Montevideo’ Inspires Serbs

Vesna Peric Zimonjic

BELGRADE, Mar 22 2011 (IPS) - Only months ago, most of the Serbs would probably not know that Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay, as there is hardly anything that connects the two nations.

But now, for more than half a million of them, it is a well known spot on the world map after they saw the Serbian movie under the unusual title: ‘Montevideo, God Bless You’.

In a country of 7.5 million people, where the introduction of new technologies and economic hardships have reduced the number of cinemas to only 70, the movie led to the re-opening of dusty cinema theatres and screenings organised in sports halls for more than 1,600 viewers at a time in provincial towns of Nis or Kragujevac. The number of people who saw it made it the most successful and popular movie ever in Serbia.

“This is not just an ordinary movie”, prominent Belgrade movie director and critic Dinko Tucakovic told IPS. “It has become a phenomenon, as it filled a vast void in Serbia”.

‘Montevideo, God Bless You’ is a well tailored story about the efforts and success of young Serb enthusiasts who rallied around a seemingly impossible goal — to practice the recently introduced game of football to perfection and make a team for the first world football cup held in 1930 in Montevideo.

They made the dream come true in Montevideo, the city “at the end of the globe”, as the players put it, and came in third. It was one of the greatest football successes of what used to be Yugoslavia. The team was made up solely of Serb players.

Based on the book by prominent sports journalist Vladimir Stankovic, it is a historical, well-costumed film with a nostalgic view of the Serbian capital of Belgrade in the 1930s. The audience sees the cobblestone streets of Cubura neighbourhood that disappeared in the course of decades and witnesses the magic of rising electricity use and birth of the radio. Ford T model cars circle the capital and cabaret nightclubs flourish downtown.

The heroes of the movie are well-bred, pleasant young men from ordinary yet decent families, highly aspirant, head-strong ambitious. In the course of the movie, however, it is companionship, faith, honour and respect, together with patriotism, that determine the role of the main characters.

“This is a movie that reminds us of values back in the past decades,” psychology professor Zarko Trebjesanin explained to IPS, commenting on the fact that the audience has largely been comprised of young people. “It is particularly impressive to the young, as there is no violence, war atrocities of the past or materialism that prevails in modern lives,” he added.

The whole generation of young Serbs grew up in wars, poverty and isolation of the 1990s after the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, when the traditional values system collapsed. The painful transition into the market economy in the past decade did not bring the expected economic improvement and prosperity, which led to disappointments and resignation among many.

“The movie tells the story of young and ambitious Serbia, that wants change, prosperity and affirmation,” prominent writer Ljubomir Simovic told IPS. “It reminds us of the level of civilisation we were forced to forget and could achieve no more…It also tells a valuable story of efforts to reach out from a small and tight community into something modern and avant-garde. That is why it is liked so much.”

For young people like Mladen Josipovic (23) and his friends who saw the film in Belgrade, it was “an opportunity so see what life was like back in the 1930s”. “We know nothing about it, and there are few people who could tell us how life looked at the time,” he added.

Mirjana Jakovljevic (55) said she wanted to see “something without violence or war subject that surrounded us for so many years.” “There are so many things we should think about and not only the wars, poverty and crime,” she added.

For movie and TV producers, this seems to have become a central focus over the last few years. While the director and producers of “Montevideo, God Bless You” are currently in Uruguay trying to arrange the shooting of an imminent sequel that would deal with the historic football championship of 1930, politeness and old-style finesse are taking over the TV screens.

The series “Taste of Rain in the Balkans”, which tells the story of five sisters from a Sephardic Jewish family from Sarajevo between the two world wars, who move across former Yugoslavia, has been a major hit on TV in Serbia, with the prospect of entering Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin and other ex-Yugoslav markets.

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