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#3-27: The Great Method

Partisan Songspiel: A Belgrade Story

Screenplay for a video film. Written by Vladan Jeremić, Rena Rädle, Tsaplya and Dmitry Vilensky. Introduction by Vladan Jeremić & Rena Rädle

If we reflect about the general condition in Serbia and direct connection of the reality and the stories we had collected together, building the screenplay within the project Partisan Songspiel, we conclude that right now it is not possible to structure all aspects and information of one society in one short text or even in one newspaper. There are many thinkers, activists, journalist and theorists that must be involved for this work and that should reflect profoundly on every particular situation.

It is important to mention what was the relevant source of the texts that we had collected and had wrote for the Partisan Songspiel movie screenplay. Working many years together with our colleagues from various fields of contemporary art, social and political activism, we had built a complex practical and theoretical background which gave us final decision on issues that should be discussed. Four oppressed characters: Roma Women, Lesbian, Worker and Invalid are choosen by all of us as the main trigger and as the representatives of the conflictual situation in post-war Serbian society.

The struggle of the collectives and organizations in Serbia and the Balkans in general, such are one that fights for workers rights as Freedom Fight, ASI or Party of Work does, was a deep inspiration for our work last years. Not to forget groups that are fighting for the LGBTQ rights as Queer Belgrade, Labris, GSA, Queeria, and others very active in Belgrade and Novi Sad. Women in Black are very important organization that fights against militarism, war, sexism and nationalism, choosing anti-militarism and non-violence as aim to act.

Roma organization have very special task and very special position in Serbian society as Roma people are the most discriminated group. The triggering point for the screenplay was a banishment of Roma and refugees in Belgrade and reactions from the citizen, politicians, and other to this situation. We have reflected the whole situation in our text titled: “Antiziganism and Class Racism in Europe” that we wrote after the protests and attacks on Roma settlements in Belgrade. As we already state in its title, Antiziganism and Class Racism is a problem of the whole Europe and not only a local Balkan story.

Belville is the name of a new residential complex in New Belgrade, built by Blok 67 Associates Ltd. This company was founded by Delta Real Estate and Hypo-Alpe Adria Bank. Their aim is to build business offices and apartments for athletes taking part in the Summer Universiade in June 2009 in Belgrade. After the Universiade, the apartments will be handed to new and predefined owners. On April 3rd, 2009, in a sudden action with mechanical-diggers, forty houses were demolished in a Roma settlement that had begun taking shape during the last five years in a location near Belville. The decision to demolish the Roma houses was made by Belgrade’s Secretariat for Inspections. City Mayor, Dragan Djilas, said on this issue that: “Whoever is illegally occupying a part of city land in places planned for infrastructure facilities cannot stay there. It has nothing to do with the fact that the people in question are Roma or some other ethnicity. A few hundred people cannot stop the development of Belgrade, and two million people living in Belgrade certainly won’t be hostages to anyone. This practice shall continue to be implemented by the City Authority in the future. Simply – there are no other solutions”. The police assisted in the demolition of the settlement by securing the diggers, without giving residents the time to rescue their belongings. Several inhabitants had to be practically drawn out of the ruins at the very moment when one digger was clearing the area. As we were close by, we joined our neighbors from the very beginning of this action in Block 67. As an act of protest to the home demolitions, Jurija Gagarina Street was blocked around noon that day. The settlement’s inhabitants then organized another protest in front of Belgrade City Hall. Although Serbia is currently presiding over the “Roma Decade” in 2009, city authorities didn’t have a plan for alternative housing at the moment the houses were demolished. It took three protests and pressure from international organizations to stop the media lynch against Roma and to try to find a solution for alternative housing. After the protest the Major Djilas was concerned, the Roma issue was ‘solved’ by placing a three Roma mothers with children into containers in Mirijevo, near the old Roma settlement. The majority of the people still have no alternative solution.

*****

Long shot of a stage. Two groups of people stand on two platforms. One of these platforms, the tallest, is an abstract reconstruction of a monument to World War Two Yugoslav partisans. “Inside” the monument we see a Chorus of Dead Partisans—young people dressed in white overalls. On the second platform we see representatives of the ruling class (the Oppressors) dressed in black business suits—a Mafioso, an Oligarch, a Nationalist, and a Woman Politician. Two bodyguards protect them.
The four heroes of the film slowly enter the space between the platforms. They represent the Oppressed: a Worker, a Romani Woman, a Lesbian Activist, and a Disabled Veteran.

Music is heard. The chorus slowly comes to life, first somewhat drowsily, in recitative, then optimistically, demonstrating faith in its own necessity. However, undertones of sadness can be heard (the female voice that sings a separate part) or rather doubt (“We have turned to stone…”). The same theme of sadness, to which disappointment is added, becomes dominant in the closing theme. The chorus gestures in a way that is reminiscent of Greek tragedy.

 

 

Chorus:

It’s hard to wake up…It’s hard to wake up…

Wake up…Wake up!

Our children are ruining our country!

We have turned to stone…What of it!

We are partisans forever!

We have turned to stone…

We are immortal.

We have turned to stone!

We are your conscience,

We are your constant reproach!

We are partisans forever!

Our war is mysterious forever.

We remain in the dense forests of your conscience

As the secret scouts of communism.

We shall steal into your souls,

We shall tear blow up the bridges

on which your shameless thoughts roll.

The ideas of Marx and Lenin are our cannons,

Marshal Tito is our machine gun,

Fraternity and equality are the fighter planes of our souls.

We shall build bastions of nonalignment,

We shall set up dugouts of solidarity.

Your faith in justice is our ally.

 

We believe in you!

We shall lead you!

Close your ranks, comrades!

You don’t see us,

We are immortal,

We have turned to stone!

We are partisans forever!

 

The Woman Politician steps forward. She begins speaking in a long shot that segues into a medium shot.

 

Woman Politician:

The Universiade of youth and students is approaching. Healthy forces from all around the globe will be gathered under the auspices of our fatherland Serbia! Welcoming these beautiful young people and uniting them in magnificent, newly built stadiums, we say YES! to the European Union.

(The Nationalist starts to get agitated. He can be seen standing behind the bodyguards.)

Our city is fully prepared for these guests. We are erecting new buildings and fixing up old ones; we are planting flowers and removing garbage from our streets. Our slogan is “Clean up Serbia!”Admittedly, there are forces in our country that resist the great, unifying force of the Universiade, as well as sport and sports activities in general. Who are they? They are Roma and others who illegally occupy city lots. With their ridiculous actions, they obstruct the building of new sporting sites.

 

While she speaks, the camera gradually shifts to the Oppressed. Each of them is frozen in a characteristic pose. The Romani Woman begins the dance “My House Is Torn Down” from this position. As the camera pans on the Romani Woman, the Worker looks into the camera, thereby bringing the audience into the action. Viewers should have the feeling that they are part of this group.

 

Worker (pointing at the Romani Woman, he begins his lines haltingly):

Look, this is the Romani Woman. Her dance is called “My House Is Torn Down.” She and her family are refugees from Kosovo. They fled to Germany, but there they told them, “The war is over! Go back home!” But they didn’t have a home anymore. They built a shanty out of boards and lived under the bridge. Then other people came and a settlement emerged. She says they worked hard rummaging through the trash dumps of Belgrade and selling things at the flea market. At night, skinheads and junkies sometimes attacked them. Both the old and the young worked. They saved money to buy a stove, a fridge, and a TV. She says they were happy, although they lived very modestly. But suddenly police and bulldozers arrived under the bridge and tore down their houses, with all their belongings. She asks: How long is this going to last?

 

The camera rises from the position of the Oppressed. We see the Chorus in a low-angle close-up.

 

Chorus:

All the Oppressed should join the fight for justice.

The Roma fought in our ranks

In the fight against fascism!

Forward, all who are oppressed!

Brotherhood and unity!Unity!

Communism—that is the progress of humanity!

 

Woman Politician (addressing Chorus; high-angle long shot from their point of view):

These usurpers of municipal lands are standing precisely in the way of progress!

Worker (addressing Chorus): The Romani Woman remembers her people being forced to leave their homes in socialist times as well.

 

Woman Politician (addressing the Oppressed):

It’s unhygienic to live under the bridge!

 

Oligarch (elbowing towards the front of the platform and pushing others away; he prevents the Nationalist, who tries to interrupt him, from speaking):

We should immediately integrate into the global market! Thank God, we have my foreign partners and investors. We are prepared to privatize the economy. We shall make it competitive on the world market!

 

Nationalist (indignant, he tries to speak out, but the others won’t let him; finally, he yells):

They’re selling off the fatherland piece by piece!

 

Oligarch (continuing unperturbed):

But, all that aside, I am a true patriot. I look after my people by creating new jobs and feeding many families. In my supermarkets I sell low-price products. But what’s happening here? Look: these Roma have blocked the road! They are blocking free access to my supermarket. This means that citizens cannot buy groceries! They work hard and earn money, and they want to eat well! We won’t tolerate this impudence! I already called the mayor and told him he would personally answer for all this!

 

The scene shifts to a high-angle shot from the platform of the Oppressors—we look down upon the Oppressed. The Romani Woman continues her dance. The Worker begins the “Dance of the Severed Finger.” The camera focuses in close-up on the Worker and the Lesbian Activist.

 

Lesbian Activist (pointing toward Worker):

 

This is the Worker. His dance is called the “Dance of the Severed Finger.” He and his fellow workers are on hunger strike. Someone bought their factory and closed it without paying anyone anything. He says that he is fighting for people who have it even worse, the ones incapable of fighting for themselves. He cut off his finger because he had no other choice—no one pays attention to his struggle. He believes that soon we will all be feeding on our body parts, the only things left to us. Because all people are slaves under capitalism.

 

The camera shifts to a low-angle shot of the Chorus from the viewpoint of the Oppressed.

 

Chorus:Don’t forget, Worker—

you are the sovereign!

Your struggle is the class struggle!

Forward!You are right, comrade!

Everyone will rally round you!

Put an end to slavery forever!

Forward, comrade!

Take the lead, Worker—

Don’t forget: you are the sovereign!

Forward, comrade,

Forward, towards communism!

 

All the Oppressors laugh:

Ha-ha-ha!

 

Chorus (continues undaunted):Step forward…Fear nothing!

 

Oligarch (still chuckling): But what do the workers decide!? The owner decides everything! The boss!

 

Nationalist: The communists destroyed our country! They destroyed it! They murdered true patriots!

 

Chorus:Forward, comrade…

 

Oligarch: I’m losing money by the second! I won’t allow this!

Woman Politician: We won’t allow this!

 

Chorus: Forward, forward, comrade!

 

The camera moves to the platform of the Chorus and pans down on the Romani Woman and the Worker. They each dance their own dance, but somehow slow and feebly. The Disabled Veteran starts the dance “I Fought for My Country like a Real Man, but No One Appreciates This”.

 

Romani Woman (pointing to the Disabled Veteran):

This is the Disabled Veteran. His dance is called “I Fought for My Country like a Real Man, but No One Appreciates This.” He says that he went to war for his country and his people when he was twenty-three because he thought life was impossible without these values. Once, on the frontline, the blast wave from an explosion threw him in the air and when he fell, he cracked his skull. Today he receives a small disability pension and lives in a basement with his family. Neighbors from the building recently called the police to evict them from the basement, although no one uses it. He says he doesn’t understand why they are promising apartments to the Roma, while no one is interested in how he lives. He fought for these people after all.

 

The Worker is still absorbed in his dance. The camera switches to a high-angle shot from the viewpoint of the Partisans. The Oppressors are talking among themselves rather aggressively.

 

Chorus:

Our children killed each other in a bloody war!

In an unjust war!

Our children!In a bloody war!

SREBRENICA! SREBRENICA!

Brother fought against brother!

Brother fought against brother!

SREBRENICA! SREBRENICA!

Our war was holy,

Yours was a bloody massacre.

SREBRENICA! SREBRENICA!

Don’t let them make our death meaningless—

We died so you could live in peace…

 

Long frontal shot of the Oppressors. The Mafioso, a war profiteer, steps forward, pushing the others aside. His bodyguards tail him.

 

Mafioso:

What a disgrace! They’re insulting the war veterans! Take me: I’m a war hero myself and a true patriot, and I always help our veterans (points to his security guards). I give them jobs. And why? Because I’m generous! Everyone knows how much I’ve done for our people. I’ve also done a lot to support sports, to support our football clubs. And what’s football without football fans? I’ll say even more—what’s Serbia without fans? So many true war heroes came from the ranks of fans! And now what? Should we deprive these honest citizens, these true patriots, of a new stadium, of a great sporting celebration, only because the Roma refuse to budge from under the bridge? If our government cannot restore order, we shall solve this problem together with the war heroes.

 

Woman Politician (as if in an aside, not wanting to show her hand and make a direct accusation, speaking simultaneously with the Mafioso):

We know how you restore order! You took the money, but didn’t solve the problem!

 

Mafioso (not hearing or ignoring the Woman Politician):

What matters is that everything should be fair. And those who claim that I’m war profiteer—I will shut their traps! I’ll make them compensate me for moral damage, and I’ll give the money to orphans!

 

Chorus (as if coming to its senses, with great enthusiasm):

The heroes of our war,

The ones who didn’t fall on the battlefields with us,

Built towns, factories, railroads…

But war profiteers we shot on the spot…

We shot them on the spot…

 

Everyone is dancing except for the Lesbian Activist. She now begins her dance.

 

Disabled Veteran (pronouncing this speech with visible difficulty):

 

This is the Lesbian. Her dance is called “Love Is a Revolutionary Force.” During the war, she and her friends supported the deserters and all the others who didn’t want to fight. She feels that all war criminals should be punished. Now she’s an activist for the rights of sexual minorities and a social worker. She says we can change the world with small steps, and that love should be free. She believes marriage is legalized prostitution, and she helps female victims of domestic violence. During the last gay pride parade, during a fight with neo-Nazis, football hooligans, and priests, someone cracked her skull.

 

Chorus (with passion):

When we spilled blood for your bright future,

We didn’t divide ourselves into men and women:

We were comrades.

But the most important thing

Was love for our common homeland!

Love!

For our common homeland

Love…

Our Homeland is the Revolution!

 

Romani Woman:

Then what about socialist laws against homosexuals?

You think they have forgotten that?

 

Long frontal shot of the Oppressors.

 

Nationalist (finally pushing his way to the front):

 

What’s going on here, brothers! Isn’t it enough that the capitalists already sold Kosovo! They lost all the wars! Isn’t it enough that they want to sell Serbia! Nothing is enough for them! Due to their laxness, faggots, foreigners, and other Masons have raised their heads. I declare before the whole Serbian people—they want to deprive us of healthy offspring and therefore the future of our nation! The Roma living under the bridge spawn like rabbits, and these gays and lesbians urge us to renounce the family, abandon all divine laws, and turn against our Church, our holy traditions! Brothers! Let’s look up to our Russian brothers led by Putin! I invite all healthy forces of the nation to gather in one fighting fist! One fighting fist! Worker! War veteran! Come to your senses! Whose side are you on? Clean up Serbia! Clean up Serbia! Clean up Serbia!

 

Chorus of Oppressors:

 

Clean up Serbia!Clean up Serbia!Clean up Serbia!

 

Dance of the Oppressed. Everyone is dancing. This is their reaction to the slogan “Clean up Serbia!” and a kind of group dance therapy as it were. After the dance, they each take turns speaking. They speak for each other.

 

Worker: The Veteran is here by accident. Besides, he has some business with the Roma. He buys scrap metal from them. Ordinarily he wouldn’t do this, but the man has to make a living.

 

Lesbian Activist: The Veteran met the Roma during the war. They fought together in Kosovo against the Albanians.

 

Disabled Veteran: The Romani Woman’s grandfather was a partisan. He fought the fascists together with my grandfather.

 

Romani Woman: Some think that the Veteran is a lost soul. A lost soul.

 

Disabled Veteran: The Worker feels that apartments should be given to workers. And not to the Roma, because they are lazy bums.

 

Lesbian Activist: What does the Romani Woman want? Just a little land to build a new house and live peacefully with her family.

 

Worker: The Romani Woman feels that everyone should have the freedom they want. Everyone should have their freedom. That’s what she thinks.

Disabled Veteran (He pronounces “pacifist” and “civil society” almost syllable by syllable.): The Lesbian thinks the world can be changed without war and violence. She is a pacifist and dreams of building civil society.

 

Romani Woman: The Worker is quite alone in his struggle. No one needs him anymore.

 

Disabled Veteran: The Worker feels that a woman’s place is in the home. And that lesbianism is just a fad. And that the struggle should be a class struggle.

 

Romani Woman: The Worker knows that for the Lesbian all people are equal.

 

Lesbian Activist: The Veteran hates America and the European Union because they bombed Serbia.

 

Worker: The Veteran hates lesbians less than he hates faggots. What can you expect from a broad? That’s what he thinks.

They again come together and continue verbalizing each other’s positions.

 

Lesbian Activist: The Worker thinks that Kosovo is part of Serbia.

Romani Woman: The Lesbian doesn’t think so!

Disabled Veteran: The Romani Woman doesn’t care.

Worker: Serbia for Serbs! That’s what the Veteran thinks.

Romani Woman: Serbia for Serbs! That’s what the Worker thinks.

Lesbian Activist: The Romani Woman doesn’t think so!

Disabled Veteran: The Lesbian doesn’t think so!

Worker: Does the Romani Woman want a revolution?

Lesbian Activist: No!Disabled Veteran: Does the Worker want a revolution?

Romani Woman: No!Lesbian: Does the Veteran want a revolution?

Worker: No!

Romani Woman: Does the Lesbian want a revolution?

Disabled Veteran: No!

Worker: What does the Romani Woman want?

Lesbian Activist: A better life!

Disabled Veteran: What does the Worker want?

Romani Woman: A better life!

Lesbian Activist: What does the Veteran want?

Worker: A better life!

Romani Woman: What does the Lesbian want?

Disabled Veteran: A better life!

 

A better life!A better life!A better life!

 

The camera slowly pans to the Partisan Chorus. On the whole, their song is a lament, but we also hear in it a decisive voice that sends us the message—“Look for new partisans!”

 

Chorus:

We have turned to stone…

Our heroic deed was useless…

Our heroic deed was not useless!

We have turned to stone…

Our deed was not useless!

They don’t hear us…

We lost the war…No!

Our victory is immortal!

We are partisans forever!

They no longer have need of us…

The cannons of conscience have faulty triggers,

The machine guns of unity are rusty…No! No!

The trenches of justice are covered in dirt,

Overgrown with grass…No! No!

Our struggle is not over!

Look for new partisans!

Our explosions are muffled by their contradictions…

They’ll come to their senses!

They are trying!

Look for new partisans!

Their contradictions…

Their contradictions…

Look for new partisans!

Close your ranks, comrades!

Look for…

Close your ranks, comrades…

Look for…

Close your ranks…Look for…

 

The camera rises higher and higher. We see the satisfied faces of the Oppressors. The Oppressed stop their dance and look up. The Oppressors also look up towards the Partisans. The camera climbs higher and higher. The Chorus sing ever more softly and poignantly. The Partisans fly off into the sky, as it were, leaving Serbia behind. But they also leave us with the hope that that one day a new struggle for emancipation will commence in new forms.

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