Goodbye, how are you?

Serbians dissent with snapshots of wisdom; A travelogue of words & context.

Boris Mitic (Serbia), in his third featured length documentary, has produced something extra-ordinary which is hard (and better not) to categorize. He promotes it as a “satirical documentary fairytale”, but in a reality the film is even more bizarre.

It is a narration of quoted aphorisms by an actor; the images, taken by Boris himself in a course of two years, illustrate the narration. He travelled all corners of his home country, Serbia, filming interesting buildings, places and people that are both tragicomic and carrying a semantic value for multiple interpretations. It is like a visual aphorism.

[aphorism = a short pithy saying expressing a general truth; maxim according to Collins English Ddictionary. It comes from ancient Greek ἀφορισμός (aphorismós), from ἀπό (apo) and ὁρίζειν (horizein) meaning "from/to bound". According to us an aphorism is a snapshot of wisdom, an adage.]

As Boris Mitic explained to us in the Q&A session after the screening, his original idea was to have interviews with the modern day writers of aphorisms (apparently there are communities of aphorists) but since he thought that a ‘talking heads’ documentary approach was poor enough to showcase the richness of the aphorisms he embarked on something more groundbreaking. He tried to use a way of visualizing the text similar to the cynical wisdom of those aphorisms.

The result is quite entertaining although it took me a while to get in the mood. It is both a bitter and funny way to make social commentaries; quite innovative at least. It is an essay-film, where the textual nuance is intertwined with a visual travelogue. There is wealth in the detail, every image is well-selected and rich – it really demands your attention.

'Otpor' the Resistance Movement of Serbia

‘Goodbye, how are you?’ takes an insightful look of people’s critical comments of their own nation. It is certainly not an ad to promote Serbia as the next touristic attraction. It mostly shows the decadence of a nation trying otiosely to get on its feet in the newly and poorly established market economy after a tumultuous post-World War II history. From communism to capitalism – from Yugoslavia to post-Milosevic and the resistance movement that marched in October 5th 2000 in Belgrade, the country seeks to enter EU (despite strong opposition). Well, with open wounds in Kosovo and elsewhere, the Balkan region is surely one of the most turbulent in the past decades.

The images are amateurish on purpose, giving a handy cam everyday farce feel to the movie. 80% percent of the footage is filmed by Boris himself and 20% was taken by archives. The narrated adagios are short, smart and sharp. “This is probably the most objective film ever” someone commented and I cannot disagree much.

The film has a home-made DIY appeal, with a small budget (30000 euros) and a one-man crew. Although it is a constraint, small budget can raise the challenge and push creativity as well. In documentaries especially, it can ‘force’ you see the greatness of life’s fabric.This shows that there is a great turn from overproduced flashy productions with empty content to more essential, creative everyday storytelling.

Our world is rich, full of stories and every one of us can acquire the tools, scratch the surface and bring a nice tale for the rest of us. Let’s leave the film industry for something more vital and much much much more entertaining.

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