Želimir Žilnik


Želimir Žilnik, 2020 courtesy Kunsthalle Wien ©eSeL.at – Lorenz Seidler

Želimir Žilnik (Serbia) rose to prominence in the late 1960s as a primary figure of the Yugoslav Black Wave. He is noted for his radical, independent approach to filmmaking and his pioneering use of hybrid nonfiction forms. Having lost both of his parents to Nazi persecutions during World War II, he later trained as a lawyer at the University of Novi Sad, and was assistant to Dušan Makavejev. The student demonstrations of 1968 and the turmoil that followed the occupation of Czechoslovakia are at the centre of Žilnik’s first feature, Early Works (1969), which was awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival that same year. Since his beginnings in the lively amateur film scene of Yugoslavia in the 1960s, Žilnik has made over 50 films, many of which have anticipated real-world events: the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the economic transition from socialism to a neoliberal order, the annihilation of workers' rights, and wider social erosion related to labor and migration. Facing censorship, Žilnik left Yugoslavia for Germany in the mid-1970s, returning by the end of the decade. More recently, he has had major career retrospectives internationally, and is recognized as one of the most important politically-engaged filmmakers working in Europe today. His films have been screened at the Venice Biennale; Documenta (Kassel); MUMOK (Vienna); Sharjah Biennial; Media City Film Festival; ICA (London); National Gallery of Art (Washington); Slovenian Cinematheque (Ljubljana); Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Centre Pompidou (Paris); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo (Mexico City), along with many others. The book Želimir Žilnik: Shadow Citizens, named after a retrospective exhibition held at the Kunsthalle Wien  in 2020, explores aspects of Žilnik’s extensive oeuvre, and was released by Sternberg Press in 2021. MCFF’s Chrysalis Fellowship is providing support for a forthcoming feature created in collaboration with equally legendary filmmaker Karpo Godina. 


ONLINE SCREENING DATES: May 20 – June 10, 2021

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: Inventory, 9 min, 1975; Logbook Serbistan, 94 min, 2015 All stills, photographs and artwork courtesy ©Želimir Žilnik. 

Inventory, Želimir Žilnik, 9 min, 1975

Inventory (Inventur — Metzstrasse) is a short structural documentary experiment that takes stock of guest workers living at a particular address in West Germany.

Logbook_Serbistan,, 94 min, 2015

Illegal migrants and asylum seekers are housed in refugee centers in Serbia following dramatic flights from the war and destitution gripping areas in North Africa and the Middle East. These people must pass through a complex period of adaptation to life in Serbia, though in most cases their aim is to arrive in countries within the European Union. Written in collaboration with the protagonist, this incisive docudrama highlights the socio-political context in which these people show their individual worth, and in the process become protagonists with whom viewers can identify, whose struggles through adversity and whose fates they can understand.