How to approach Mladen Djordjevic’s first film, a documentary on the Balkan porn industry, in the wake of the current crop of transgressive cinema coming out Serbia? It is cheap and shoddy and experimental – pretty much a on-the-job-training-ground for the wonderful and excellent follow-up, The Life and Death of A Porno Gang which lifts the best and most interesting visuals and story elements to puts them in service of a vastly improved narrative and artistic framework. The eventual (hopefully soon) DVD release of latter by Synapse Films will have Made in Serbia included as a supplementary feature; and that is about right place for it. It is overreaching and unwieldy at times, but this 97 minute feature is not completely devoid of charms and insight.
Nenad Bekvalac is a Belgrade film critic with a bit of expertise on European porno films and, I guess, some free time on his hands after an ex-girlfriend end a 3 month relationship and her regular stripping gig to make sex films in nearby, and relatively upscale Hungary. He sets out to both chronicle the origins and current state of the Serbian pornography scene, as well as make his own. This is ostensibly to entice his girlfriend to come back to him, but this narrative device seems so forced that it has one immediately questioning any sense of veracity. I don’t need ‘pure truth’ in documentary filmmaking (an impossibility) but a little enthusiasm would be nice! Bekvalac has such a downtrodden and ho-hum approach to the enterprise that while he does eventually get to make part of his porno film (with his ex-girlfriend no less) he wearies of things before the film gets beyond a single shot scene. It is not really surprising, weather you are a prude about sex films or not, that pornography is not going to bring a broken relationship back together. I did not happen in the fictional fairy tale Boogie Nights, and it certainly is not going to here! More interesting are the local, amateur porn actors: A lady approaching 50 and still working to make ends meet by making cheapo films, which admittedly pay a lot better than working the fields. A young bartender with dreams of becoming the next Rocco Siffredi, a bisexual and handsome young guy with a very pleasant and accepting mother, and a burly construction worker who spends much of the film with a bandage around his head and arm. The film follows their backgrounds and interviews family and co-workers to get a cross-section of opinion on anyone willing to work in the dodgy local smut business.
The motley group is lead by one of the few producers of smut in Belgrade, Slobodan Stanković, to become a troupe of Guerilla Pornography Artists with the mission statement of breaking down social barriers with down-to-earth ‘natural porn.’ Stanković has some scenes where he waxes philosophically on how he’d rather be shooting footage of his own children, or monks in Tibet, but it always come back to pornography because it is the only thing people are interested, but one has to wonder, as he is mightily outclassed by European and American DVDs and VHS tapes, nobody seems to buy or care about the local stuff. And that is because it is cheap, occasionally with wholly unnecessary arty pretensions and often Made in Serbia mirrors this. Are boom microphones falling into the shot (which occurs on the order of about once per minute) and casual capturing of cast and crew in the shot an attempt at mimicking the sort of low-rent porno that Djordjevic is documenting and Bekvalac is trying to transcend? There is a certain passion lacking in the whole thing, but then again, that is indeed reflective of many of the players involved here, or that is the way it comes out on screen. Even the family members and co-workers seem listless to the point where getting upset about something as trivial (and I imagine ubiquitous as it is anywhere these days) as pornography is simply not all that much to get worked up at. But in the end, Made in Serbia is watch-able as a passing curio, with the feel of a made for TV (indeed it was shot on video) documentary on a subject that probably will not be covered any time soon by networks in North America and there are (hither and yon) some sparse glimpses into real life in Serbia that stretch beyond the obvious pornography angle. But really, when you consider that this was the precursor for Life and Death of A Porno Gang, which in the humble opinion of this writer, is a significantly smarter and more effective allegory than the notorious A Serbian Film, its existence is very much worthwhile.
1.07GB | 1h 41m | 720×540 | mkv