Balkans unbowed in film production stakes

This month’s Screen International feature on film in South-eastern Europe casts yet another light on Scotland’s relatively low level of film production, especially when you take account of our relative wealth compared to the countries of the former Yugoslavia.  Of course the decades of pre-1989 cultural and economic seclusion behind the Iron Curtain (even the more porous variety fostered by Tito) and the usual continental advantage of a language barrier to US product provided an excellent bulwark against Hollywood domination and helped foster a relatively healthy domestic market.  From that background have emerged acclaimed film-makers like the Serbian Emir Kusturica, Bosnian Ysmila Zbanic, Macedonian Milčo Mančevski and Slovenia Maja Weiss. Now it seems a number of eagle-eyed UK companies are active in co-productions in the region and one recent co-production was supported by the Irish Film Board. 

Just as dedicated public bodies for film in the UK become an endangered species, SI reports that around the Balkans “Until recently, institutional support in the region was minimal but film centres are opening up and at the regional forum hosted by Screen International and CineLink at last year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, national film bodies agreed to set up a joint pavilion at Cannes this year.”

The fact that Bosnia Herzegovinia can produce the same number of features a year as Scotland, with a GDP one tenth the size, is surely food for thought.

Scotland and South Eastern Europe compared            
       Prod.s.         mean m.pop $bngdp
  pop. (m) gdp.$bn 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009      
Bosnia-Herzegovinia 3.9 17 3 6 9 7 6 6 1.6 0.360
Croatia 4.5 62 10 14 13 11 13 12 2.7 0.200
Macedonia 2 8 2 2 5 1 9 4 1.9 0.480
Serbia 7.8 42 12 14 25 30 24 21 2.7 0.500
Slovenia 2 50 10 4 12 15 6 9 4.7 0.190
Scotland 5 173 6 8 4 4 6 6 1.1 0.030
Sources: Screen International issue 1725 with additional scottish data and pop/gdp figs. from the  
Screen Media Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University        

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