Balkan cinema encompasses films from the countries in the Balkan Peninsula, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. The region has a rich cinematic history and has produced many acclaimed films that have won international recognition and awards.

Balkan cinema often explores the social, political, and historical context of the region, including themes such as war, conflict, displacement, and identity. Many films also offer a unique perspective on everyday life, cultural traditions, and societal issues.

Some of the most notable Balkan films include “When Father Was Away on Business” (1985) by Emir Kusturica, “Underground” (1995) by Emir Kusturica, “Grbavica” (2006) by Jasmila Žbanić, “No Man’s Land” (2001) by Danis Tanović, “Time of the Gypsies” (1988) by Emir Kusturica, “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (2005) by Cristi Puiu, and “Black Cat, White Cat” (1998) by Emir Kusturica.

Best Balkan Movies

Balkan cinema offers a unique and diverse perspective on the region and its history, culture, and people, and continues to inspire and captivate audiences around the world.

1. I Even Met Happy Gypsies (1967)

I Even Met Happy Gypsies is a 1967 Yugoslav film directed by Aleksandar Petrović. The film tells the story of a young gypsy named Bora, who is torn between his love for his fiancée, Tisa, and his attraction to a free-spirited gypsy woman named Tereza.

The film explores themes of love, freedom, and social inequality, as well as the struggles of the Romani people in Yugoslavia.

The film was highly acclaimed upon its release and won the Grand Prix at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival. It was praised for its realistic and nuanced portrayal of Romani culture and society, as well as its exploration of complex and universal themes. The film’s cinematography, music, and direction were also highly praised.

Overall, I Even Met Happy Gypsies is a powerful and moving film that offers a unique and insightful look into the lives and struggles of the Romani people. It remains a classic of Yugoslav cinema and a beloved favorite among film enthusiasts.

I Even Met Happy Gypsies / Skupljaci Perja
  • Bekim Fehmiu, Olivera Vuco (Actor)
  • Aleksandar Petrovic (Director) - Aleksandar Petrovic (Writer) - AVALA Film (Producer)

2. Innocence Unprotected (1968)

“Innocence Unprotected” is a Yugoslav film directed by Dušan Makavejev, released in 1968. The movie is a hybrid of a documentary and a fiction film, and is considered an important example of Yugoslav Black Wave cinema.

The film is a reconstruction of an obscure 1942 Serbian film of the same name, which was the first sound film made in Serbia. The original film was a melodrama about a circus performer named Mary who is seduced by a wealthy industrialist, and eventually commits suicide.

Makavejev’s version intersperses footage from the original film with behind-the-scenes interviews, archival footage, and other elements, creating a unique and playful commentary on Serbian cinema and society.

“Innocence Unprotected” is notable for its innovative and unconventional approach to storytelling, as well as its satirical and subversive tone. The film was initially banned in Yugoslavia due to its criticism of the country’s communist government, but has since gained a reputation as a cult classic and an important work of avant-garde cinema.

Innocence Unprotected [VHS]
  • Ana Milosavljevic, Vera Jovanovic, Bratoljub Gligorijevic (Actors)
  • Dusan Makavejev (Director)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

3. When Father Was Away on Business (1985)

“When Father Was Away on Business” is a Yugoslav drama film released in 1985, directed by Emir Kusturica. The film is set in the 1950s and explores the life of a family in socialist Yugoslavia during the time of political repression and state control.

   

The film follows the story of a young boy named Malik who witnesses the arrest of his father by the authorities. His father is sent away to a labor camp for a supposed affair with a younger woman, while Malik and his family are left to cope with the aftermath.

The film explores themes of political oppression, family dynamics, and the resilience of the human spirit. It depicts the struggles of a family caught in the midst of political upheaval and the impact of political repression on the lives of ordinary people.

“When Father Was Away on Business” was a critical and commercial success, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival. The film was praised for its portrayal of the political climate of Yugoslavia at the time, as well as its portrayal of the complex relationships between family members and its depiction of childhood innocence in the face of adversity.

Overall, “When Father Was Away on Business” is a powerful and poignant film that offers a unique insight into the human cost of political oppression and the importance of family and resilience in times of turmoil.

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When Father Was Away On Business
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Moreno D'E Bartolli, Miki Manojlovic, Mirjana Karanovic (Actors)
  • Emir Kusturica (Director) - Abdulah Sidran (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

4. Cabaret Balkan (1998)

Cabaret Balkan is a Serbian drama film released in 1998. The film was directed by Goran Paskaljević and produced by the Yugoslav production company, Nova Film. The movie features an ensemble cast including Mira Banjac, Aleksandar Berček, Vojislav Brajović, and Bogdan Diklić.

The story of Cabaret Balkan is set in Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia, and follows several interconnected characters as they navigate the complexities of life in the post-Yugoslav era. The film explores themes of violence, political and social unrest, and the impact of the Yugoslav Wars on the lives of ordinary people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i03179r6DKs

Cabaret Balkan received critical acclaim for its direction, screenplay, and performances. The movie’s non-linear narrative structure and gritty realism were particularly praised. The film won several awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1998 Venice Film Festival. T

he Best Director award at the 1999 Thessaloniki Film Festival. Cabaret Balkan is considered a landmark in Serbian cinema and is regarded as one of the most important films to emerge from the Balkans in the 1990s.

5. No Man’s Land (2001)

No Man’s Land is a 2001 Bosnian war film directed by Danis Tanović. The film tells the story of two soldiers, a Bosniak and a Serb, who find themselves trapped in a trench between enemy lines during the Bosnian War. The film explores themes of war, nationalism, and human nature, as the two soldiers struggle to survive and come to terms with their differences.

The film was highly acclaimed upon its release and won numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002. It was praised for its powerful and poignant portrayal of the absurdity and tragedy of war, as well as its exploration of the human costs and consequences of conflict. The film’s cinematography, direction, and performances were also highly praised.

Overall, No Man’s Land is a powerful and thought-provoking film that offers a unique and insightful perspective on the Bosnian War and its aftermath. It remains a classic of Bosnian cinema and a powerful testament to the human spirit in the face of adversity.

No Man's Land [DVD]
  • Rated R for Violence and Language
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Serbo-Croatian: 5.1 Surround
  • English, French & Spanish Language Subtitles
  • Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic (Actors)

6. Spare Parts (2003)

“Spare Parts” is a Canadian drama film released in 2003, directed by Damir Lukacevic. The movie stars Claudia Michelsen, Mehmet Kurtulus, and Dagmar Manzel in lead roles.

   

The film tells the story of two illegal immigrants, Nina and Ajan, who are working in a German factory that produces spare parts for cars. The two struggle to make ends meet while trying to avoid detection by the authorities.

They become close friends and begin to form a deeper bond, but their lives take a dramatic turn when Ajan is suddenly deported back to Turkey.

“Spare Parts” is a poignant and emotionally powerful film that explores themes of love, friendship, and the struggles faced by immigrants in a foreign country. The movie features strong performances, a compelling storyline, and a realistic portrayal of life as an illegal immigrant in Germany.

The film was critically acclaimed and won several awards, including the Best Film Award at the Warsaw International Film Festival.

7. Esma’s Secret (2006)

“Esma’s Secret” is a Bosnian drama film released in 2006, directed by Jasmila Zbanic. The film explores the impact of the Bosnian War on the lives of ordinary people, particularly women and children.

The film follows the story of Esma, a single mother and war widow who is trying to raise her young daughter Sara in post-war Bosnia. Esma applies for a passport for Sara and discovers that she needs to reveal a secret about her past in order to get it.

The film delves into the legacy of the Bosnian War and the trauma and pain it inflicted on its survivors. It explores themes of identity, family, and memory, and offers a nuanced and complex portrayal of the aftermath of war.

“Esma’s Secret” was well-received by critics and audiences alike, winning the Golden Bear award at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival. The film was praised for its sensitive portrayal of the impact of war on women and children and its exploration of the complex relationship between memory and identity.

   

Overall, “Esma’s Secret” is a powerful and moving film that offers a unique insight into the human cost of war and the importance of memory and identity in shaping our lives. It is a reminder of the resilience and strength of the human spirit, even in the face of unimaginable tragedy and loss.

8. Cinema Komunisto (2010)

Cinema Komunisto is a 2010 documentary film directed by Mila Turajlić that explores the history of Yugoslav cinema and its relationship with politics and ideology during the communist era.

The film traces the history of Yugoslav cinema from its inception in the 1940s through its golden age in the 1960s and 70s, and finally to its decline and eventual collapse in the 1990s.

The film features interviews with prominent Yugoslav filmmakers, actors, and other cultural figures, as well as archival footage from classic Yugoslav films.

Through these interviews and archival materials, the film explores the ways in which Yugoslav cinema reflected and influenced the political and social realities of its time, as well as the tensions and contradictions that arose between artistic freedom and political ideology.

Overall, Cinema Komunisto is a fascinating and insightful exploration of the history and legacy of Yugoslav cinema, as well as the complex relationship between art and politics in the communist era. It is a must-see for film enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone interested in the cultural and political history of the former Yugoslavia.

Cinema Komunisto [DVD]
  • Cinema Komunisto ( Cinema komunisto )
  • Cinema Komunisto
  • Cinema komunisto
  • Mila Turajlic (Actor)
  • Mila Turajlic (Director) - Cinema Komunisto ( Cinema komunisto ) (Producer)

9. The Parade (2011)

“The Parade” is a Serbian comedy-drama film released in 2011, directed by Srdjan Dragojević. The movie stars Nikola Kojo, Milos Samolov, and Hristina Popovic in lead roles.

The film tells the story of a group of LGBT activists who are trying to organize a pride parade in Belgrade, Serbia. The organizers face various obstacles and challenges, including opposition from nationalist groups and hostility from the authorities.

The movie explores issues of homophobia, discrimination, and the struggle for LGBT rights in Serbia.

“The Parade” is a funny, moving, and thought-provoking film that sheds light on an important social issue in Serbia and beyond. The movie features strong performances, witty dialogue, and a clever blend of comedy and drama.

It was well-received by critics and audiences alike, and won several awards, including the Best Film Award at the 2012 Madrid International LGBT Film Festival.

The Parade [DVD]
  • The Parade ( Parada )
  • The Parade
  • Parada
  • Nikola Kojo, Milos Samolov, Hristina Popovic (Actors)
  • Srdjan Dragojevic (Director) - The Parade ( Parada ) (Producer)

3 Characteristics of Balkan Movies

Balkan cinema, which encompasses films from countries such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and Albania, is known for its unique style and characteristics. Here are three common characteristics of Balkan movies:

Dark Humor and Satire: Balkan cinema often uses humor and satire to deal with heavy themes, such as war, poverty, and political corruption. This style of humor is often referred to as “black humor” and is used to address taboo subjects and bring attention to social issues.

Non-linear Narrative: Many Balkan films use a non-linear narrative structure, where events are presented out of chronological order. This style is used to create a sense of disorientation and confusion, and to challenge the viewer’s assumptions and expectations.

Realism: Balkan cinema is often characterized by a gritty, realistic style of filmmaking that captures the harsh realities of everyday life in the region.

The films often feature non-professional actors and are shot on location, giving them a raw and authentic feel. This realism is used to create a sense of immediacy and urgency, and to highlight the struggles of the people living in the region.

 

3 Reasons To Watch Balkan Movies

Here are three reasons why you should watch Balkan movies:

Unique Perspective: Balkan cinema offers a unique and diverse perspective on the region and its history, culture, and people. The films often explore the social, political, and historical context of the Balkans, providing a deeper understanding of the region and its people.

Acclaimed Filmmakers: The Balkans have produced many acclaimed filmmakers who have won international recognition and awards. Filmmakers such as Emir Kusturica, Jasmila Žbanić, and Cristi Puiu have all received critical acclaim for their work, with many of their films screening at major international film festivals.

Compelling Storytelling: Balkan cinema is known for its compelling storytelling, exploring themes such as war, conflict, displacement, and identity. The films often offer a unique perspective on everyday life, cultural traditions, and societal issues. With their unconventional narrative structures and gritty realism, Balkan movies provide a unique and thought-provoking cinematic experience.

Best Balkan Movies – Wrap Up

The Balkans region has produced many great movies over the years, with a rich and diverse cinematic tradition that reflects the history, culture, and politics of the region.

These movies represent a diverse range of styles, genres, and themes, but they all share a commitment to exploring the complexities of the Balkan region and its history. They offer a unique and insightful perspective on the culture and politics of the region, as well as the human experiences that shape and define it.