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Simon Lereng Wilmont
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"The Other Side of Everything" is a documentary that combines a political history of Serbia since Yugoslavia was formed in 1918 (emphasising the post-communist period since 1989) with an affectionate portrait of the public life of one woman, her family and their apartment in a genteel neighbourhood in the centre of Belgrade - which was the capital city of Yugoslavia while it survived and is now the capital of Serbia. The woman is Srbijanka Turajlic, who loved Yugoslavia and whose daughter Mila Turajlic (who also briefly appears on screen) made the film.
The film weaves together many threads to create a political tapestry that I understand. Around the turn of the millennium, NATO completely changed its policy - from supporting Yugoslavia's leader Slobodan Milosevic on the basis that his remaining in office was the best guarantee of stability in the region to bombing Serbia from the air on the basis that the same man was the "Butcher of the Balkans", responsible for war crimes. I cannot recall news media (at the time or since) even reporting that an about-turn had taken place - let alone explaining it.
The film also shows how, over the decades, Srbijanka persistently spoke up in public in support of democracy and against sectarianism, how her criticism of the policies of Milosevic while he was leader led, in 1999, to her being dismissed from her job as a professor of engineering at Belgrade University and how, after his fall from power, she became minister of education.
Milosevic's associates are now back in power - to Srbijanka's dismay. She declares that she is too old to lead another public protest and that it is now the next generation's turn to act. She wonders aloud whether Mila might take up the baton. There is no need for the younger woman to reply in words; the film itself subtly perpetuates her mother's activism.
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