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ZIVELI: MEDICINE FOR THE HEART

USA, 1987 (MIFF 1989)

Director: Les Blank

Les Blank's long association with the Melbourne Film Festival ' continues with Ziveli, an anthropologtcal document on the culture and music of the Serbian-American communities of Chicago and California.

'Although the Serbs are a relatively small ethnic group, they have maintained their culture in America with amazing vigour and enthusiasm It was more than a hundred years ago, at the time of the California Gold Rush, that the first Serbian immigrants arrived from the rugged mountains of the Balkan Peninsula to settle in the New World, It was poverty and the oppression of foreign domination that motivated the Serbs to leave their native villages, fields and pastures for a new life in the industrial cities of the Midwest and the mines of the Far West.

Against great obstacles, Serbian religion and identity had survived five centuries of Moslem domination, and this deep sense of loyalty to ancestral tradition lives on in America today among the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the earliest settlers. Over the past hundred years, successive waves of immigrants have nourished and enriched Serbian culture in the New World up to the very present.

Among the most visible and vibrant aspects of Serbian ethnic life are the resplendent rituals of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the irrepressible love of song and dance.

Ziveli brings to the screen all of the vitality of Serbian traditions in a mosaic of folk music and arts, conviviality, religious pageantry, and immigrant lore, introducing the viewer to the richness of a little-known American subculture. - Andrei Sirmc, University of Southern California

See also...

BURDEN OF DREAMS

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A fascinating and controversial look at the ill-starred production of Werner Herzog's five-years-in-the-making feature, Fitzcarraldo. Set in the jungle of Peru, Fitzcarraldois the story of a mad drea… More »

IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER?

USA, 1984
As versatile an ethno-musicologist as Mr Blank is, his approach to his material involves at least as much warmth as scholarship. The music, as depicted here, becomes a natural unfiltered reflection o… More »

Sprout Wings and Fly

USA, 1984
There are no naked women in Les Blank's film, but the music is equally good. It is a touching tribute to Appalachian culture in the form of a profile of the legendary mountain fiddler, Tommy Jarrell … More »

Gap-Toothed Women

USA, 1987
What do model Lauren Hutton, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, truck driver Rena Morena, Chaucer's 'Wife of Bath', cartoonist Doris Seda, Cleopatra, and belly dancer Sharlyn Sawyer have in c… More »

HAITI - DREAMS OF DEMOCRACY

UK, 1987
The seemingly spontaneous boycott of the sham elections held in February in Haiti makes a lot more sense after one has seen Jonathan Demme's documentary on Haitian street life in the post-Duvalier er… More »

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