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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

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