Shadow Citizens - Želimir Žilnik

Online Film Programme

As part of the exhibition, more than twenty of Žilnik’s films are from now on available for online viewing. Many of these are rarely screened, and all are being made available online to this extent for the first time. The films trace various periods and different working conditions within Žilnik’s practice.

They are organized in five sections, each available for viewing during the exhibition for a limited period of time at the website www.zilnikzelimir.net. Initially launched in 2009 on the occasion of the project For an Idea – Against the Status Quo organized by Kuda.org and extensively updated for this exhibition, the website is also a precious resource of writing on Žilnik’s work by many critics and colleagues.

Screening 5
18 Jun – 1 Jul 2018

Including the newly commissioned video on the occasion of the exhibition in the Edith-Russ-Haus: Among the People: Life & Acting

Courageous and radical amateur politics, both as a concept and as a method, permeates the extensive oeuvre of Želimir Žilnik (b. 1942, based in Novi Sad, Serbia). From his beginnings in the lively amateur film scene of Yugoslavia in the 1960s, Žilnik has gone on to make more than fifty films, working mainly in the genre of docudrama, which involves working with non-professional actors and merging fictional scripts with biographical elements. He received international recognition early on, winning the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 1969 Berlin International Film Festival for Early Works. In the 1970s his films encountered political opposition, and he left Yugoslavia for Germany, where he realized several independent films, including some of the earliest films dealing with the topic of guest workers. In the 1980s, after his return to Yugoslavia, he made numerous TV and feature films through which he portrayed early symptoms of the country’s growing social conflicts, continuing in the 1990s with films dealing with the maladies of the post-socialist transition as well as questions of migration.

The exhibition’s title, Shadow Citizens, reflects Žilnik’s lifelong focus on invisible, suppressed, and under- and misrepresented members of society. As a concept, “shadow citizens” is related to a form of political engagement toward “amateur politics”—the imaginative and subversive non-normative knowledge and alternative sensibilities that always lie dormant in a society and occasionally visibly push back against “politics as usual.” Spanning five decades of Žilnik’s career, the exhibition revolves around several of his feature-length films that anchor numerous short films and excerpts from longer works, organized in clusters of interconnected themes that elaborate on different facets of the potentials of shadow citizens and the pressures that the amateur undercurrent poses to the mainstream, in both emancipatory politics and artistic production. Accompanied by a screening program at a local arthouse cinema as well as online, Shadow Citizens emphasizes the filmmaker’s continuous engagement with the fates of everyday men and women, following their conflictual relations with the social structures that contain or refuse them. As different minorities increasingly becoming majorities everywhere, the shadow citizen becomes an exemplary global citizen. Žilnik’s oeuvre presents these processes as possibilities to imagine a new concept of citizenship that pushes current limits and borders.