Tito … Dragoljub Ljubicic (Micko)
Chauffeur … Milan Pavlovic
“Tito Among the Serbs a Second Time” is an hourlong docu based on the hugely entertaining gag of having an actor dressed up like former Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito (1892-1980) walk around Belgrade and chat with people on the street. Point of the joke is to provoke passersby into offering opinions about politics, the war and life in Serbia today. A good fest run is assured for a film which, in its best moments, is poignant and revealing.
Veteran helmer Zelimir Zilnik (“Early Works”) opens with B&W newsreel footage showing the “happy” days of Tito’s communist dictatorship (1953-80). Factories meet their quotas in orderly fashion and child “pioneers” march in synchronized parades, all to the ironic accompaniment of Hawaiian music that makes that period seem like one long vacation. The idea soon wears thin, though, and this whole section could stand considerable trimming for foreign release.
Film really gets under way when Dragoljub Ljubicic (a famous Belgrade radio comic) appears. Though he doesn’t look that much like Tito, his dark glasses and dress uniform are enough to type him. He tells his aging chauffeur (Milan Pavlovic, only other actor in the film) that he has come back to listen to the people and find out what happened to his country since he’s been away. “It fell apart,” says the chauffeur dryly.
People willingly pour out their hearts to Ljubicic as though he really is Tito returned from the grave. Some blame him for the mess the country is in; others long for him to come back and rule with his “hand of steel.” Ljubicic asks questions like, “What happened to the fraternity and unity I taught my pioneers?” and gets the blunt answer, “They dumped fraternity and unity and started a war.”
The hand-held video camerawork lends a surreal naturalism to pic’s absurd premise. Editor Dara Arsenov keeps the pace moving without indulgence. Intercut are brief newsreel flashes of a glorified Tito meeting Churchill, Stalin, Brezhnev and the pope.
Though pic’s anti-government sympathies are never directly stated, the satire’s gloomy undertones leave little doubt about Zilnik’s intentions. Most touching is a young soldier’s strained description of the horrors of warfare. “There’s no man big enough to bring it to an end,” he says sadly. In the end, Tito/Ljubicic concludes, “the people are not of one mind.”
Zilnik’s latest feature, “Marble Ass,” will bow at the Berlin fest.