Theater of Cruelty

Three political periods in Serbia

The Other Side of Everything
Regissør: Mila Turajlic

This documentary is a story from "the other side", which is not so common in the dominant narrative of Serbia before, during and after the war.


In an apartment building in Belgrade during the 1940 years, the apartment of the highly educated and wealthy Turajlic family was split up to accommodate two more families. It was at the beginning of the Yugoslavia of the Communist Revolution. The doors between the part where the Turajlic family was allowed to continue living and the two nationalized thirds of the apartment have been locked and sealed for 70 years when Mila Turajlic's mother Srbljanka Turajlic – who was two years when the division and nationalization took place – decides to apply to get back the family's former property so that she can leave it to her children. In the historical space between these two events, the documentary plays out The Other Side of Everything themselves.

Lovely subjective frame. The door, which has been closed and locked, which is only reopened after three quarters of a century, forms beautiful "book supports" for history which – as the central motive suggests – takes place at the intersection of historical, personal and political. The documentary is a study of three distinct political and historical periods in Serbia at a time when the door in the middle of the apartment of Sbrljanka Turajlic was closed: the era in which Yugoslavia was a socialist federal republic, the period when the federation disintegrated, the rise of ethnic nationalism and the rule of Slobodan Milosevic , and finally today's Serbia, which at least in the name is believed to be heading towards a true multi-party democracy. As she explores the past of her mother, family, and country, Turajlic places herself safely in today's tradition with ever-increasing subjectivity in documentaries – which have, for the most part, been mostly embraced by female documentaries.

Life and social history. The director's approach seems very reasonable: The Other Side of Everything is as much a story of her mother's life as it is of social, historical and political unrest in former Yugoslavia and today's Serbia.

As she examines the past of her mother, family and country, Turajlic places herself safely in today's tradition of subjectivity in the documentaries.

Srbljanka Turajlic is currently retired professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the University of Belgrade. She was one of the leading figures in the fight for democracy in Serbia and an active member of the national movement Otpor! ("Resistance!") – a civilian protest group that led the nonviolent fight against the Milosevic-controlled authorities in Serbia. She did not do very well in any of the post-World War II regimes: She came from a civilian family regularly spied on by the Yugoslav secret police UDBA, she organized anti-Milosevic demonstrations and held public speeches against his politics while she was wearing challenging Otpor! T-shirts – even after some of her colleagues were knocked over to join them, something her husband liked. When she received a prize for her efforts in democracy in Serbia, she christened it pessimistically "a failure".

The story of Srbljanka Turajlic is, as the film's title indicates, one of the stories from "the other side" – those not heard as often as the dominant narrative of Serbia before, during and after the war. It is also a fascinating story about a person with an unusual courage and a relentless mind. Moreover, it is a call for a new review of today's active civic efforts and struggles for political issues – especially in light of the recent debates surrounding today's engagement and activism on social media.

The film is also a call for a new review of today's active civic efforts and struggles for political matters.

Deeply personal and current. This does not mean that the film preaches to the audience and tries a didactic twist. The Other Side of Everything is a subjective and deeply personal documentary throughout. As the daughter of the woman who, at the age of seventy, still receives regular requests to provide interviews and commentary on today's political events and anniversaries for mass demonstrations such as the Bulldozer Revolution, the director turns the film's investigative eye on herself and her own will to stay in the country and move on the previous generation's struggle for a more democratic and just society at the expense of her own opportunities for a successful life – there are no concrete prospects for her in Serbia. Or is she going to do as many as she has done: pack up and go away for completed studies to seek a better life in Western Europe, or somewhere else? "We could all get on a bus and leave the country, and the rest of Serbia would be glad we finally did," she says. It's a dilemma so universal and important that it manages to transcend the film's story frame that postulates it. It says a lot about the film itself – and how it is a prime example of how meaningfully relevant a documentary can be.
Poglajen is a regular film critic in Ny Tid, resident

You may also like