The result of a four-year journey tracking down former army mates in a now-fragmented, war-ravaged land, Mitko Panov’s first-person docu “Comrades” mourns the united Yugoslavia of his youth. It’s more moving on that semi-abstract plane than on the interpersonal one, however, as Panov reveals too little of himself for the reunions to register as movingly as they might. Fest and pubcaster play is signaled.
Having emigrated to the U.S. just after compulsory military service in 1981, Panov was a frustrated long-distance observer of his erstwhile Republic’s Cold War thaw and subsequent, catastrophic ethnic warfare. Deciding to return for a visit, he seeks out 12 fondly remembered comrades from his Federal Army stint, when ethnic/religious identity seemed irrelevant. The trip extends for months, then years, as locating the mostly evacuated, displaced or in-hiding men involves sleuthing through all Yugoslavia’s erstwhile states. Nostalgia for the comparatively strife-free era of Tito and Communism (illustrated by archival footage) is all subjects now have in common. But while Panov freely inquires about their interim histories, his English voiceover and overall p.o.v. reveal little first- person emotion. Leisurely docu is technically OK, some sound-synch problems aside.