5 Contemporary Movies from the Balkans You Simply Have to Watch

There’s hardly anyone out there who doesn’t enjoy a good movie and European cinema offers many options to pick from. Today we are recommending five films from the Balkans that are a true delight to watch.

Are you tired of blockbusters? Are standard action thrillers and superhero movies something you’ve seen more times than you can count? If yes, you’re in luck, since the independent movie scene is currently booming in the entire world, offering amazing international titles that stay away from the beaten path.

While European indie cinema always delivers something bold and original, the new wave of Balkan cinematography is definitely worthy of your attention. From comedies to dramas, genre movies, and quiet, introspective features, here are five new releases from this part of the globe that will linger with you for a long time after the credits roll to an end. 

 

As Far As I Can Walk, 2021 (Serbia)

Retellings of classic stories are more than common in every kind of cinema. However, while our thoughts instantly go towards book-to-movie adaptations or reimaginings of classic fairytales, this Serbian film is bringing something thoroughly unique to the table. 

As Far As I Can Walk takes inspiration from a famous medieval Serbian epic about the bold and brave hero Strahinja Ban, following him on a quest to reunite with his runaway wife. However, while the original poem is set during the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans, director Stefan Arsenijević takes the basic story beats in order to introduce us to a highly modern and universal tale of immigration, love, and identity.

Following two economic migrants from Ghana, who’ve been living in a Serbian refugee camp for the last year of their marriage, As Far As I Can Walk might be the most quintessential film you’ll ever get to watch on this topic. While Samita (Ibrahim Koma) is trying to adapt to the new circumstances of his life, training for a local football club, earning money on the side, and doing everything he can to survive, his wife Ababuo (Nancy Mensah-Offei) is looking for a way out.

What follows is a story of extraordinary emotional charge, which reexamines our understandings of love, origin, belonging and the price we have to pay for freedom in an intelligent and, above all, touchingly human way. This is a movie you cannot miss out on.

 

The Staffroom, 2021 (Croatia)

Every environment has its own dynamics. The trouble is fitting in, deciding which rules are worth following and whether ideals and morals have a place in the world we’re trying to live in. Set in a Croatian primary school, The Staffroom examines precisely these questions, following a new counselor trying to stay out of different powerplays imposed by the headmistress, the teachers, and parents alike. 

Through breathtaking cinematography, often inspired and aided by visuals from classical art, especially the works of Breughel, this indie movie is most definitely a feast for your eyes. Once we add amazing performances, incredibly talented actors, and a great and thought-provoking script to the mix – we’re left with a film that talks about (school) politics as much as it does about the human experience. 

 

After the Winter, 2021 (Montenegro)

Another hidden gem from the cinematography of the Western Balkans is most certainly the drama After the Winter. Set in a small Montenegrin town, the audience examines what remains of five childhood friends who have gradually moved away to different corners of former Yugoslavia. Even though they remain in contact, with their friendship playing a fundamental part in their day-to-day lives, After the Winter inspects the depth of human connection and the way it changes over time. 

As we follow these people through their average day-to-day lives, Ivan Bakrač’s movie offers audiences something we rarely get to see in contemporary cinema: time to breathe, time to reflect, time to face an uncertain future, retain our inner child and discover who we really are once we take the road of adulthood. No matter how quiet After the Winter might seem on the surface, deep inside it shimmers with the truth. What more is there to ask from a film?

 

Celts, 2021 (Serbia)

Organizing a children’s birthday party takes a village, even in the best of times. During the ’90s in Serbia, however, when sanctions and inflation were everyday circumstances, it was much more than a collective effort. Thus opens the movie Celts, the astonishing feature debut of Serbian director Milica Tomović, which brings us sorrow and joy, childhood and adulthood, hardships and hope from the first frame all the way into the last. 

Intercepting between a couple of different storylines, some of them focusing on the children, some of them on the parents, their friends, and the rest of the family, we get a warm and comedic tale about the messiness of relationships, no matter the kind. While the aesthetic of the movie remains thoroughly true to the end of the century Yugoslavia (a wild mix between socialism and Western influences), the plot itself is timeless, with the characters feeling as authentic as real-life people. 

 

Murina, 2021 (Croatia)

Another incredibly strong feature film directorial debut comes to us from Croatia, directly through the lens of Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović. Mature and riveting Murina is a recent release that would be a shame to miss out on. 

Set during a family holiday on the Adriatic Sea, this movie follows young Julija (the mesmerizing Gracija Filipović) as she decides to replace her controlling father with his wealthy foreign friend. What follows is an unusual coming-of-age narrative that goes to the most unexpected places and haunts you even once the movie ends. And, considering the aesthetics of a seaside setting and the atmosphere only an independent movie can provide, Murina is an ode to teenage rebellion like no other in the world. 

So, while it might seem that good movies are few and far between, the next time you find yourself in a rut not knowing what to watch, give these five new releases from the Western Balkans a try. You might find your new favorite film somewhere on this list.

 

Photo: Shift Drive/Shutterstock

 


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