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Bal na vodi (1985)

In 1985, four middle-aged Yugoslav emigres return to Belgrade for the funeral of Mariana, their beautiful compatriot. They called her Esther, for Esther Williams, she was the coxswain for ... See full summary »




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gala Videnovic ...
Mirjana 'Ester' Zivkovic
Relja Basic ...
Nebojsa Bakocevic ...
Young Glenn
Marko Todorovic ...
Dragan Bjelogrlic ...
Young Sasa
Milos Zutic ...
Young Kica (as Srdjan Todorovic)
Djordje Nenadovic ...
Pop Popovic (as George Heston)
Goran Radakovic ...
Young Pop
Milan Strljic ...
Young Ristic
Dragomir Bojanic-Gidra ...
'Joe' Ristic (as Anthony Gidra)
Glenn's father
Ruzica Sokic ...
Kica's mother
Spela Rozin
Danica Maksimovic ...
Rada Svercerka (black market)

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In 1985, four middle-aged Yugoslav emigres return to Belgrade for the funeral of Mariana, their beautiful compatriot. They called her Esther, for Esther Williams, she was the coxswain for their four-man rowing team, and they each loved her. They'd last seen her in 1953, when they rowed her across the Adriatic, pregnant, to join her exiled father in Italy. In flashbacks we learn the story of their youthful baptism into sex, smoking, rock and roll (Hey Ba-ba-re-bop), Hollywood and Swedish films, blue jeans on the black market, and their rivalry with Ristic, the Communist Party youth leader for whom they had instant antipathy. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Plot Keywords:

female nudity | period piece | See All (2) »


Drama | Romance



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Release Date:

24 October 1985 (Yugoslavia)  »

Also Known As:

A est suonavano una canzone: Hey Babu Riba  »

Box Office


$141,423 (USA)

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Features One Summer of Happiness (1951) See more »

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User Reviews

Coming of age in post-war Serbia
11 April 2017 | by (Ohio/PA border) – See all my reviews

Released in 1985, "Hey Babu Riba" is a coming-of-age drama set in post-war Yugoslavia; more specifically, Serbia. The film starts in the present with four middle-aged men who convene at the funeral of a woman they all loved and helped escape communist Yugoslavia to reunite with her father 33 years earlier. As teens in communist Serbia, the four boys were a rowing crew and the female was their coxswain. The girl, Mirjana (Gala Videnovic), is nicknamed Esther by the guys, after Esther Williams, the American swimmer and actress, who rose to fame with movies like "Bathing Beauty" (1944). One of her songs from that movie is a main tune in "Hey Babu Riba."

Speaking of which, the seemingly nonsensical title has nothing to do with the original title and comes from the brief appearance in the film of a recording of Lionel Hampton's "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop." The Serbo-Croatian title (translated) is "Dancing in Water," which is too generic and explains why they changed it. This is fine, but "Hey Babu Riba" is unnecessarily confusing. This could've been avoided by simply using the actual spelling of the song "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop." So why didn't they?

While the movie's too talky and the beginning is unnecessarily convoluted, there's enough good in it to give it a marginal thumbs up, if you don't mind reading subtitles (the Language is Serbo-Croatian with subtitles available on the DVD). The film illustrates how the natural trust and naiveté characteristic of teens can easily be swayed or abused. For instance, the manipulation to smoke based on the lie that it equals adulthood and, therefore, coolness. I should point out, by the way, that there's some tame (female) nudity in the movie.

What's most interesting is the setting, the struggle between Communist and American ideals in Tito's Yugoslavia. The "four" are attracted to American cinema, music and styles, while their nemesis (the leader of a rival rowing crew) is a rising member in the Communist elite so staunch he has tattoos of Stalin and Lenin on his wrists. He also happens to be in pursuit of Esther's affections. I couldn't help reflecting on how there was never a youth in America back then (the early 50s) who was fascinated by communistic ideals. Gee, why is that?

Another superb thing about this movie is the depiction of life in Eastern Bloc Europe in the early 50s. Interestingly, it wasn't much different than life in America, except for the specter of communism, which is WHY the rowing team were fascinated with the FREEDOM inherent to America and wanted to escape. Regardless, this was the first film depicting life in the 50s where I was thoroughly convinced and effectively brought back to that distant era. The actors never TRY to be from an earlier generation; they just are, and the movie works because of it.

The big mystery is (NO SPOILERS): Which one of the boys gets Esther pregnant? I suspected the answer in the first half and was right. It's not hard to figure out.

The movie runs 112 minutes and was written & directed by Jovan Acin based on the memories of Petar Janković, George Zecevic and Mr. Aćin meshed with the life of Radomir Perica, who was jailed for flaunting a Mickey Mouse tattoo in post-war Yugoslavia.

GRADE: B- (6.5/10)

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