A riveting look at the complex intersection of politics and art is offered in “Predictions of Fire,” Michael Benson’s fascinating chronicle of the tumultuous history of Slovenia. A natural candidate for the international fest circuit, this informative docu, which had already been broadcast on Slovenian TV, will receive a two-week run at New York’s Film Forum this summer. Other playdates at similar venues across the country should follow before it lands on PBS or cable.
Intriguingly dealing with the politics of aesthetics and the aesthetics of politics, issues seldom explored in American docus, this aptly titled work uses a postmodern, quasi-Godardian sensibility to show how politics invades every facet of artistic creation and how integral ideology is to the understanding of the structure and signification of images.
In the early 1980s, an industrial rock band named Laibach emerged from the tiny Yugoslav republic of Slovenia. Laibach was soon joined by a painting group, Irwin, and a theater group, Red Pilot. Modeled after a socialist state bureaucracy and calling themselves, collectively, NSK (New Slovenian Arts), these three groups became part of a micro-state within the newly independent republic of Slovenia. NSK recently began issuing its own passports.
Pic documents the activities of NSK as a uniquely controversial arts collective, positioning its work within the broader political contexts of former Yugoslavia. An extremely rich tapestry of historical events and their mythic implications in both art and politics unfolds onscreen, switching back and forth between the past and present of a region dominated by many regimes over the past century.
Docu benefits from primary info, which is then filtered and processed through the eyes of director Michael Benson, an American journalist who lived in the problematic region during Slovenia’s transition to independence. Helmer skillfully interweaves archival material and interviews with NSK’s leaders — and their critics — accompanied by illustrations of NSK’s artistic works.
With its rich visual imagery, “Predictions of Fire” is a timely, sharply focused docu whose implications about the use (and abuse) of art for political propaganda go way beyond Slovenia or Eastern Europe.