DER Documentary

Bastards of Utopia


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by Maple Razsa and Pacho Velez
color, 55 min, 2010
In Croatian and English with English subtitles




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Three Croatian activists struggle to change the world. As children, they lived through the violent collapse of Yugoslavia. But now, amid the aftershocks of socialism's failure, they fight in their own way for a new leftism. In the middle of the struggle, a skeptical American is won over by their cause and even goes to jail with them. The activists, whether clashing with police or squatting in an old factory, risk everything to live their politics. But as the setbacks mount, will they give up the fight?

The film, shot during years of fieldwork with a Croatian anarchist collective, applies EnMasseFilm's unique blend of observation, direct participation and critical reflection to this misunderstood political movement. Its portrayal of activism is both empathetic and unflinching — an engaged, elegant meditation on the struggle to re-imagine leftist politics and the power of a country's youth.

“Dramatic proof that the struggle for liberty is irrepressible.” — Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
Bastards of Utopia is an inspiring story of militant creativity and invention. What can you do when the global cycle of struggles is in decline? How can you confront the fact that strategies of action and models of organization developed elsewhere just don't work here? Experiment, these activists tell us, experiment relentlessly until you discover through the brambles a path forward.” — Michael Hardt, author of Empire, Multitude and Commonwealth
“In the midst of the dark times we are now enduring, Bastards of Utopia sheds light on the anti-authoritarian activism that now flourishes in 'post-Communist' Croatia. For those seeking evidence of twenty-first century experiments in both constructive rebellion and 'concrete utopia,' Razsa and Velez's documentary will prove a seminal film.” — Richard Porton, Cineaste Magazine
Bastards of Utopia offers an intimate glimpse into the contradictions faced by committed young people trying to lead principled lives. Anarchism by its very nature has attracted the rebellious, the idealistic, and the passionate, and this documentary masterfully highlights the difficulties in spinning this sort of theory into practice.” — Joel Sucher, director of Anarchism in America
“The film is exceptionally authentic thanks to the willingness of the directors to share the fate of their subjects and because of their commitment to observing this theme over a long time period.” — Liburnia Film Festival Jury
“This film provides an interesting case study for the experience, intent, and technique of anarchist activism… This film would be suitable for classes on social movements, radicalism, protest, and democracy.” — Daniel Margolies, Anthropology Review Database
Bastards of Utopia is a powerful meditation on the possibility for alternative, progressive politics in the aftermath of disintegrating socialist utopias. …The film would be a powerful addition to any course or educational forum dealing with social movements, youth, protest, gender and politics, antiglobalization, as well as the former Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe, and the European Union. It would also serve well for courses focusing on ethnographic film and methods.” — Jessica Greenberg, American Anthropologist, September 2012

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Days of Ethnographic Film, Slovenia, 2012
Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, Germany, 2012
12th goEast Festival of Central and Eastern European Film, Germany, 2012
Worldfilm 2012 - Tartu Festival of Visual Culture, 2012
Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, 2011
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, 2011
Society for Visual Anthropology Film, Video, and Multimedia Festival, 2010
Union Docs, 2010
Honorary Jury Mention, Liburnia Film Festival, 2010
Motovun Film Festival, 2010
Maine International Film Festival, 2010
World Premier, Zagreb Film Festival, 2010

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