Branko Ilic was one of the leaders of the rebellion against the Milosevic regime in Serbia in the 1998-2000 period and the leader of the students’ movement Resistance. He was arrested and beaten dozens of times, and in 2000 he received MTV “Free your mind” award for his struggle on behalf of the Resistance. Exactly ten years after the October 5th revolution, Branko returns to Belgrade from voluntary exile in his native Arilje. He starts working as a bartender and temporarily moves in with Svaba, an old friend from the time of the protest. At that time, the famous advertising agency Svaba works for is hastily preparing a major campaign to promote consumer loans. This is an opportinity for Svaba and Branko to reminisce the 10th anniversary of the fall of Milosevic regime on October 5th right in front of the Serbian Parliament.
The fragment from the essay “The Economy of Nostalgia: Communist Pathos between Politics and Advertisement” by Tanja Zimmerman
“In both types of revival of Communist visual formulas, in Russia as well as in Slovenia, we encounter an affirmative recycling of well-known material. In critical fine arts and in film, by contrast, the same patterns are used in an opposite, subversive way. Vladimir Milovanović’s film The Face of a Revolution (Serbia 2012), half a documentary, half a fictional grotesque, is dedicated to the Resistance movement (Otpor) in Serbia, which overthrew Slobodan Milošević on October 5th 2000. The documentary part of the film tells the story of the student Branko Ilić, who was born on October 5th 1981. He was one of the youngest popular leaders of the spontaneous movement, and he was awarded a prize named “Free your mind” by MTV in Stockholm in 2000.
The documentary starts with interviews with Ilić, today a forgotten man, about what happened to the revolution in Serbia. He expresses his disappointment with the results of the revolution and speaks of how his early fellow combatants have come to occupy high posts in politics and business, or have committed suicide. The film-makers and Ilić’s friends try to encourage him to celebrate the anniversary on October 5th 2010, an anniversary which has been forgotten in Serbian society. Via Facebook, he invites Serbian people who feel disappointed with the ex-revolutionaries in the new government to put their trash in front of the Serbian parliament. His slogan is: “Trash for trash” (“Đubre đubretu”).
However, there is almost no response to his call, as only some extreme leftist groups join him, for example the Communist youth (SKOJ). During the small, quiet protest, some policemen write down the names of the protestors, without recognizing which of them is Branko Ilić. Several days later, another event in Belgrade provoked real mass participation, namely the Love Parade on 10th October, which became a violent anti-homosexual manifestation of the right, nationalist wing.
The commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the revolution – which also alluded to all other unsuccessful revolutions up to the October Revolution – brought no catharsis for Branko. Deeply disappointed for the second time, he decided to stop giving interviews for the documentary and moved to the countryside, leaving the capital on 17th December 2010 for the small town of Arilje, where he was born.
The film presents Ilić as a broken man, who since then he has been living close to nature, taking pills, and avoiding company. The film producer comments that the unfinished documentary resembles the revolution which also never came to an end.
The fictional part of the film, which embraces the unfinished, broken-off documentary, is a grotesque. It unravels specific strategies employed by the post-Communist commercial system, especially its methods of abusing revolutionary slogans and symbols for the purpose of sales promotion. It shows an advertising company which is working for a big bank and proposes promoting loans for apartments and other services with revolutionary symbols. The company uses retro-avant-garde design and dresses their actors like sailors from the battleship Potemkin (Fig. 2). There are French, Italian, and Chinese revolutionaries; some of them resemble Robespierre, Saint-Just, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, and other well-known leaders.
Revolution is thus transformed into a trademark, its protagonists into role models of progressive avant-gardists. Contrary to their original pathos, formulas which once evoked the spirit of revolution and fraternal bonds are now transformed into commercial slogans: “The power of money is the extent of my power! If money is what binds me to society, nature, and people, then is not money the greatest bond of all? It is! That’s right!” The director of the advertising company knows how to use nostalgia for Communist times, a nostalgia which lives on in propaganda media from the Tito period, and how to transform it into the label of a “revolutionary offer”: “All these years of revolutionary books, partisan films… all this affects the collective unconscious and the psyche. Today everything is psychologized, new-age-ized, or put down to mere aesthetics.”
The film does not end in a new revolution, but in a terrorist act on the part of the producer, who shoots the director of the advertising company. He becomes the face of a new revolution. The satirical film thus reveals a close connection between (Communist) revolution and mass media under a post-Communist, neo-liberal system. It confronts the nostalgic remembrance of a revolution that failed, when Zoran Đinđić was assassinated, with cynical ways of misusing slogans from all sorts of movements for new commercial aims.
The Face of a Revolution displays the face of Branko Ilić as a kind of mascot for short-term political purposes and aims that were later forgotten. Nostalgia is thus not an approach to a memory of the past or to an ideal, utopic future, but a creative means of promoting new ideas or products in the present, an activity whose aims are in contrast with the forms used to express it. This strategy, converting an original ethos into a modern form of pathos, is the same both in political propaganda and in commercial advertising. ”
“Milovanovic brings a contemporary sensibility marrying documentary and fiction, and offers a new key to creating a convincing narrative in terms of this form.
Dimitrije Vojinov, Doba Nevinosti
“The Face of a Revolution“ reflect contemporary Serbia which has became a not so funny bankers
fantasy. In such a society, where each of us becomes a figure on the tycoon’s table, the revolution can
only exist as a horrible parody of postmodernism. But in a period between the old socialist system and
non-holiday spending, the old revolutionary dreams come true, but only in the form of advertising, PR,
media, political spectacle, catwalk, consumption, and that’s not what the revolutionary dreamers had in
mind (at least some of them).”
Rastko Ivanović, B92
“Otpor (Resistance) was defeated, and today, the honest holders of the revolution are full of guilt and responsibility for this defeat. They are semi-conscious that they were manipulated from the beginning. The current uprisings, during the final victory of capitalism in Serbia, are reduced to the indifference of social networks and postmodern fraud, which are selling rebellion and revolution as a part of lifestyle in the emergence of a particular class, or the nostalgic platitudes of neocommunism nonsenses.”
Ivan Velisavljevic, Popboks
Branko Ilić bio je jedan od predvodnika pobune protiv Miloševićevog režima u Srbiji u periodu 1998-2000. go-dine i lider studentskog pokreta Otpor. Hapšen je i pretučen nekoliko desetina puta, a za svoju borbu je 2000. godine u ime Otpora primio MTV nagradu “Free Your Mind”. Tačno deset godina posle petooktobarske revolu-cije, Branko se vraća u Beograd iz dobrovoljnog izgnanstva u rodnom Arilju. Zapošljava se kao šanker i privre-meno useljava kod Švabe, starog prijatelja iz vremena protesta. Za to vreme, poznata advertajzing agencija u kojoj je Švaba zaposlen užurbano priprema veliku kampanju za promociju potrošačkih kredita. Švaba i Branko odlučuju da 5. oktobra obeleže desetogodišnjicu pada Miloševićevog režima isped Skupštine Srbije. Posle akcije, u preplitanju stvarnih i izmišljenih ličnosti i događaja, padaju maske traumatizovanog srpskog društva zaglavljenog u tranziciji između socijalizma i kapitalizma, ostavljajući gledaocima mogućnost da sami povuku granicu između dokumentarnog i fiktivnog.
Ivan Velisavljević (POPBOKS) OČVRSLI OD PORAZA
Dimitrije Vojinov (DOBA NEVINOSTI)
Rastko Ivanović (b92) IZMEĐU SNOVA I KATASTROFE
Slobodan Vujanović (Mislite mojom glavom) MUSAVO LICE SA OŽILJKOM
Marija Ratković (Marks 21) LICE (KONTRA) REVOLUCIJE
Vladimir Crnjanski (DNEVNIK) PROPALA REVOLUCIJA ALI LJUBAV NIJE
Dr Ivana Kronja (Srpski dokumentarni film 2006-2012) GLAVNI TOK I SUBVERZIJA.
Mirsad Mujkanović Hadzo (www.zlihadzo.com) DORF 2013
Igor Bašin (dnevnik.si) Revolucija še vedno žre svoje lastne otroke.