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CABARET BALKAN

Yugoslavia, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Goran Paskaljević

Veteran Serbian director Goran Paskaljević's Cabaret Balkan is set in Belgrade in 1995, offering a rivetting, fictitious account of events occurring on the night of the Dayton Peace Agreement. It is the dawn of an awakening political consciousness, fraught with the lingering threat of hatred, violence and hostility.

Paskaljević is most concerned with Ihe lives of ordinary people caught in the fray, forced to cope with brutal, everyday realities while still hoping to one day awake from the nightmare. The recent events in Kosovo provide a frightening example of life imitating art, a testament to the prescient nature of Paskaljević's potent film.

The signs of war are everywhere, madness and conflict haunt the city. In a crumbling Belgrade hospital, Michael visits his childhood friend Boris, who has had his legs blown off on the front line. Michael bears a gift, a pair of electronically operated artificial limbs from Paris. A hopeless romantic, Michael is prepared to spend all his earnings on the gift and a special evening with his former fiancee, an act that could prove utterly futile.

Mustache, a former teacher, refuses to work for profiteers and has taken a job as a night bus driver. Paradoxically, he will go to extreme measures to protect what he believes is an honest job. His 17 year old son, who has become tangled up with the local mafia, is being hunted tor a crime he didn't commit. These and other stories make up the strands of this engrossing film. Its brilliant structure succeeds in conveying the impression that the lives of all characters are ultimately intertwined in an explosive destiny on this fateful, historic night.

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