“We’ve been coming to Mifed for 25 years and we don’t want to stop now,” is Yugoslavia Film’s Vojislav Vucinic’s explanation for his weeklong vigil at an empty booth in the Fiera with no new product other than a nature docu series. Vucinic, looking gray and haggard, knew in advance that Mifed would be a total write-off.

Because of United Nations trade sanctions, Serbian companies can neither buy nor sell at this market. No Yugo product is even being screened.

Also sitting on the sidelines is Belgrade’s private Centar film. Svetlana Banovcanin and Djordje Milojevic arrived in Milan buoyed by the fact that their pix “Virginia” and “Deserter” have picked up prizes in Valencia and Bastia. But despite interest from buyers, deals can’t be struck. “If the sanctions continue, we’ll be destroyed,” laments Banovcanin.

Both companies intimated that there are ways of conducting business despite the embargo but wouldn’t go into detail. In the case of “Virginia,” co-produced by France’s Mercury Films, sales could be made through France, “and we’ll eventually get paid.”

Yugoslavia Film and Centar were grateful that the market organization allowed them to defer payment for stands until their arrival in Milan–transfer of funds is impossible now. Milojevic also expressed relief that at least some international fests aren’t imposing a cultural boycott on the local industry, which managed to make 13 features this year despite the ongoing civil war.

But runaway inflation has had its effect on domestic box office, unmitigated by the ongoing crisis. “People sit in front of their TVs and watch news from 6 p.m. until midnight,” was how Banovcanin summed it up.

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