KOMMERSANT

Serbian Film Promotes Tolerance Of Gays. Will It Fly With Fellow Slavs In Russia?

Limun and Mirko
Limun and Mirko
Andrei Plakhov

MOSCOW - The first third of Srdzhan Dragoevich’s new film, The Parade, will bring a smile to even the gloomiest of faces. It’s a silly, rude comedy that is meant to be fun for the viewers.

It is also very much a film with a message about tolerance for homosexuals, as well as for those from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Just released in Russia, it had a successful run in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, surprising many with its largely warm receptions in places not often known for tolerance of the "other."

In particular, the movie is a call for all Slavs - which includes both Serbians and Russians - to be more accepting of gays. It is a particularly steep climb in Russia, where homosexuality was a crime until 1993 and was considered a mental illness until 1999. Today, 62 percent of the population still considers being gay immoral, and local governments have banned gay pride parades and enacted stringent rules against “homosexual propaganda.”

But the filmmakers are hoping that, like in Serbia, The Parade could open some eyes in Russia. The film's main characters include a macho Serb nationalist, a gangster and veteran of the Balkan wars, named Limun, and his hysterical and sentimental fiancé, Biserka, who is always dreaming about a beautiful wedding. There is also the elegant designer and devoted gay-rights activist Mirko, and his cowardly boyfriend, a veterinarian named Radmilo.

Limun brings his bulldog, called Little Sugar, into the veterinarian’s clinic, after the dog was the victim of a drive-by shooting. In his stressed state, Limun nearly shoots Radmilo, who almost soils himself as a result, and operates on the dog practically at gunpoint.

At the same time, Biserka hires Mirko to plan her wedding to Limun. Mirko says he will only do the wedding if Limun agrees to provide security from the neo-Nazis and religious extremists for the next gay-pride parade.

Ugly past

In 2001 there was serious violence at the Belgrade gay pride parade, and the city still refuses to provide protection, 10 years on.

The second third of the movie continues as a satire, but becomes increasingly sharp, turning from sexual orientation to politics. Limun becomes obsessed with protecting the gay-pride parade, but his colleagues from the judo club/bodyguard agency he operates don’t understand him at all; in fact, they were planning to attack the parade. But Limun is dedicated to the mission, especially for Biserka’s sake. Limun contacts all his old enemies, Croats, Bosniaks and Kosovars, who have been lacking a purpose since the end of the war. At first, they cannot quite see why they, tough guys with real war experience, should be out protecting gay-rights activists, but ultimately see Limun’s proposition as the only way to do something interesting and come together.

The last part of the film is a bit like docu-fiction. It was filmed at the 2010 Belgrade gay-pride parade, with some added drama. There were actually no deaths at the real event, but only because there were more police than parade participants. That fact is mentioned in the ending credits.

Of course, you cannot expect a film like this to hew closely to reality. In fact, quite the opposite- the less it follows reality, the more it gets its point across. The film, at first considered ridiculous, ultimately united former enemies and has become the first joint production of all the former Yugoslavian republics (except Bosnia) since Yugoslavia’s collapse in 1991.

More than 600,000 people, more than half of them Serbs, saw the film in the former Yugoslavia. The film, which recently opened in Russia, calls for tolerance, not just of gays but also of former enemies and people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. It remains to be seen, particularly in this atmosphere of inflamed homophobia, if that call will be heard.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ