New Documentary by Mila Turajlic to Reveal New Perspectives on Yugoslav Cinema
Notes by Gregory Helmstetter
Stevan Labudovic became known as “Tito’s cameraman” for travelling the world with the president of Yugoslavia, particularly as Tito was helping to establish the Non-Aligned Movement. The filmmaker is also regaled as a national hero in Algeria. As described in a previous blog post, the newsreel veteran is the subject of a forthcoming documentary (working title The Labudovic Reels) by Mila Turajlic, who was working with Labudovic until his passing in 2017. She has long been parsing the archive of Filmske Novosti (Yugoslav Newsreels) in Belgrade and was shooting new footage with Labudovic.
In a 2016 interview published by Film Center Serbia, Turajlic discussed the important role that Labudovic played, saying “the domestic audience of the older generation, especially those who remember newsreels running before movies, surely remember the fantastic and exotic shots that came to Yugoslavia when President Tito set off for a journey of peace in the mid-fifties.” [Translation via recnik.krstarica.com.] And she credits this to the two cameramen from newsreels, Labudovic and Dragon Mitrovic, who became personal photographers to Tito and the world leaders he became close to during his rule.
What’s more, Turajlic understood the great skill and knowledge of the craft that Labudovic possessed, which became evident during their friendship. She tells the story of his 50mm lens theory: “Shooting heads of state in their private moments, he concluded that when you look at someone using a camera with a 50mm lens, the true nature of their personality will be revealed.” And now through the help of the archive and Turajlic, the films are able to reveal again — and the world is able to gain insight through the point of view of the person who filmed the struggles of the Non-Aligned Movement. Further, we stand to gain a new perspective on Yugoslav newsreels role in world cinema .
Turajlic’s focus on Labudovic’s career is not uncommon in the film industry. There have been many Hollywood films about the exploits of filmmakers, and there are many more that highlight underseen or forgotten directors or stars. For Turajlic to turn the camera on Labudovic continues a long line of filmmakers championing the work others. In addition, her forthcoming documentary spotlights another important collaboration, that between filmmaker and archive.
Through the improved access to archival collections such as Yugoslav Newsreels, researchers can reframe our perception of historical events and perhaps come to a better understanding of the past. This is the role that the Orphan Film Symposium has taken on. Orphans 11 will provide another opportunity for filmmakers, archivists, scholars, and other lovers of film to come together and share perspectives on these previously orphaned works. •
Turalic will show extensive archival material on Friday, April 13, 4:30pm to 6pm.
Marsha Gordon & Buckey Grimm, Camerawoman Angela Murray Gibson Films Herself into History, 1921-1925
Mila Turajlic, Tito’s Cameraman: Stevan Labudović (1926-2017), Yugoslav Newsreels, and the Non-Aligned Movement in Algeria
Alia Ayman (Zawya Cinema, Cairo) moderator
Registration information and full schedule for April 11-14 events are on the Orphan Film Symposium home page.