Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Special Issue

The Image of the Stranger in Post-Yugoslav Films

  • Renate Hansen-Kokoruš
Films produced during the last two decades in the post-Yugoslav states often deal with the subject of these states’ recent history, focusing on the war and its consequences for human beings, as well as the consequences of political and economic transition, such as an increasing wealth gap, criminality, lack of perspectives, unemployment etc. The methods of presentation and modality range from the serious to the comical and grotesque. As these films reflect in special ways people’s new situation in the new post-Yugoslav countries, questions of self-image, understanding of oneself and of the cruel experiences of war are of utmost importance. The cultural, psychological and political positions of the countries that formerly belonged to Yugoslavia came into new focus with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the breakup of Yugoslavia, while the relationship between East and West staggered and required repositioning. However, in this time the political, economic and psychological situation of the West, especially of Central Europe, also changed fundamentally; this was noticed from outside, from the regions affected by war and poverty as a result of closing their borders. Cultural studies, history and anthropology, and to a certain degree also literature, noticed this tense relationship between Eastern and Western influences as basic for the Western understanding of the Balkans as the (European) East and Orienta ; and the self-understanding of the Balkans as exotic. In these works the border between East and West is not understood as fixed or as a binary opposition, but rather as a fluid phenomenon of meandering and shaping projections.