Yugoslav Black Wave

Yugoslav Black Wave (also referred to as Black Wave) is a blanket term for a Yugoslav film movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. Notable directors include Dušan Makavejev, Žika Pavlović, Saša Petrović, Želimir Žilnik, Mika Antić, Lordan Zafranović, Mića Popović and Marko Babac. Their films are known for their non-traditional approach to film making, their dark humor and their critical examination of the Yugoslav society at the time.

Yugoslav Black Wave
Black Wave
Years active1963–1972
Major figuresDušan Makavejev, Žika Pavlović, Saša Petrović, Želimir Žilnik, Mika Antić, Lordan Zafranović, Mića Popović, Marko Babac

The wave is one of the most successful and internationally recognised cinematic movements of Southeast Europe, besides Romanian New Wave of 2000s. Films from the wave won a plethora of international recognition, including a Golden Bear, Silver Bear for Best Director, Cannes Grand Prix, six nominations for Cannes Palme d'Or and four nominations for Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, with success continuing through directors emerging from the wave, including two Palme d'Or awards in 1980s and 1990s. Today, several of the films are considered classics of world cinema and were released as part of influential collections such as Criterion Collection in the United States.


In the early 1960s Yugoslavia produced more films than ever before. Exports soared during this period of intense creativity and experimentation. The film makers were linked by a common wish to increase the freedom of artistic expression, and to reform the cinematic language. The filmmakers wanted the right to show the darker side of the human psyche and to openly criticize the policy of the socialist state. This stream gained international attention as well as provoking strong controversies within Yugoslavia. The liberalization of the film form and expression reached its apex in 1967– 1968.

In the following years, the counter-offence against the new movement intensified. Black films were attacked for their pessimistic view on the Yugoslav socialist development and liberalism in general, as well as their valorization of anarchistic and individualistic tendencies in the society. The attacks on the movement was can be seen as a natural result of the broader political developments at the time. Eventually it led to the banning of selected films and some directors were forced to leave the country.[1]

Notable individuals and movies

Aleksandar "Saša" Petrović was one of the major figures of the Yugoslav Black Wave. He made the movement well known in Yugoslavia and abroad. Two of his works were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: Three in 1966[2] and I Even Met Happy Gypsies (Feather Gatherers) in 1967.[3]

Želimir Žilnik's Early Works (1969) showed the main tendencies of the Yugoslav Black Wave: nonordinary forms, polemical methods, socio-critical concerns, oppositional ideology and a fatalistic final.[4] At the same time, it prompted the writer and journalist Vladimir Jovičić (who insisted on the position of the traditional communist party line) to write an article "The Black Wave in Our Cinema" (Crni talas u našem filmu), published in Borba on August 3, 1969, which coined the very term “Black Wave”. The official counterattack against the Yugoslav Black Wave began with this film and this article.[5][6]

Dušan Makavejev is considered the leader of the Black Wave filmmakers.[7] His most successful film was the 1971 political satire WR: Mysteries of the Organism, which he directed and wrote. The film was banned, and Makavejev fled the country, not working there again until 1988. He made Sweet Movie in Canada, the Netherlands, and France. It is banned in various countries to this day.

Although the best directors and movies of the black wave were Serbian, The Croatian Cinema was also a party to this process. The most important black wave classic from Croatia is Handcuffs (Lisice, 1969, by Krsto Papić),[6] first art product showing secrets of the breakup between Josip Broz Tito and Joseph Stalin in 1948.



Further reading

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