DER Documentary

Balkan Rhapsodies: 78 Measures of War

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by Jeff Daniel Silva
color, 55 min, 2008

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Balkan Rhapsodies is an episodic documentary poem that interweaves a mosaic of encounters, observations, and reflections from Silva's travels throughout war-torn Serbia and Kosovo between 1999-2005. An American filmmaker and ethnographer, Jeff Daniel Silva, was the first US civilian allowed entry into a devastated Serbia in 1999 just days after the NATO bombings. By immersing himself intimately into the lives of people he meets, the film grapples with the inexplicable contradictions he encounters while digging deeper in search for comprehension.

Using the 78 days of NATO bombings (March 24 - June 10, 1999) as a structural reference point, this documentary infuses the fragmentation, cultural incongruities and ultimate dissolution of the Former Yugoslavia into the fabric of its editing through a poetic assemblage of 78 episodic movements (measures). Inspired by the rhapsodic musical form as well as a penchant for Serbia's potent national drink (šljivovica), the film weaves Silva's footage gleaned over eight years incorporating it with cultural imagery, archival material, and informal conversations with American luminaries Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Balkan Rhapsodies deftly balances a serious and humorous landscape that captures the essence of life in the Balkan's of a generation ensnared in war during the Milosevic years.

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"Balkan Rhapsodies: 78 Measures of War deftly juxtaposes the everyday and the exceptional, the sublime and the horrific, into a film that challenges us to reconsider what we thought we knew about war, about humanitarianism and about our own good intentions. It challenges us as students and scholars of the humanities and social sciences to interrogate our own process of meaning making - how we come to know what we do about war, and especially how we come to know and consume the pain and suffering of others. Balkan Rhapsodies is a beautiful and disturbing film, a film whose afterimage should provoke us to think about war and humanitarianism in a more sophisticated, and ultimately more compassionate way." — Lisa Stevenson, Professor of Anthropology, McGill University

read the full review here
"It's become a cliché that every documentary film/video tells a story, but what and whose story does it tell? Experimental filmmaker Jeff Daniel Silva, with his documentary Balkan Rhapsodies, exercises an exceptional talent to capture a kaleidoscopy of life in the post-war Serbia, after the NATO bombing in 1999. With this film Silva strives to crackle beneath the façade of ordinary lives, opening up a whole landscape of disillusionment and hope, humor and pain, and above all else succeeds in vividly capturing the bruised acceptance of a people in the aftermath of war. With its unique multilayered structure Balkan Rhapsodies remains open to interpretation and most importantly, each of the seventy-eight Rhapsodies is its own reality. Kudos for a filmmaker who exercises a profound commitment to the proposition that film is a vital manifestation and a document of the political volatile time we live in." — Branka Bogdanov, Director of Film and Video, ICA Boston

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Basil Wright Prize RAI Film Festival, 2009
"Visual Representation of Crisis through Ethnographic Film," EASA Biennial Conference, Ireland, 2010
AAA/Society for Visual Anthropology Film, Video & Multimedia Festival, 2009
11th RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film Leeds, 2009
Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, MA, 2008
Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, Göttingen, Germany, 2008
Best Documentary, Festival Cinemateca Uruguaya, Montevideo, Uruguay, 2008
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NY - Doc Fortnights, 2008
OVNI Arxius de l'Observatori, Barcelona, Spain, 2008
DocHouse Brussels, Belgium, 2007
ForumDocBH, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2007
Valdivia International Film Festival, Chile, 2007
DokumentART Festival, Neubrandenburg, Germany, 2007

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