Belgrade Diary
The diary for the unmade film-Split.

What turned into not going to Belgrade in March turned into a new Documentary that started production in April 99 How Sweet is Life. When the Bombing started in the Balkans, EU traveled to Kiev, Ukraine to start production on How Sweet Is Life a character study of people existing in post-soviet times in Russia and The Ukraine.

20.2. 99
Emailed Aleksandar, one of the Co Producer from Low-Fi Video Collective in Belgrade helping to produce Split.

---Euro Underground > wrote:


What are they saying about the upcoming bombing threats in Yugoslavia?


Aleksandars Response.
God knows. We'll be in touch.

The Deadline passed and Milosovich bluffed out of getting bombed by NATO.
New Deadline. Tuesday 23.2.99. Clinton did not want to extend deadline instead he wanted to start bombing.

RAMBOUILLET, France, 23.2.99
With Kosovo peace talks verging on collapse, the ethnic Albanian delegation agreed Tuesday to sign an accord within two weeks after consultations. The announcement by the State Department allowed NATO to reinstate its threat to bomb Serbia if its representatives do not now sign the deal. But Serbian officials continue to refuse that demand and privately officials conceded even the ethnic Albanian pledge to sign may not be a sure thing.

Headlines say it all. We are waiting to proceed with production on Split. We have completed the scenarios and have the technical support from low fi video in Belgrade to co-produce Split. But we wait day by day and time is running out for the Serbs and us. Brian Ramisch from Chicago will be make the trip and this past week Justyna and myself where in San Francisco and met with Sasha who co-wrote Split with myself when he visited Chicago in November. Sasha committed to coming so the three of us will travel and hope to shoot the whole picture in 14 days. The picture will be shot in 16mm, DV and pixel. We wait with the world and it all hinges if we can travel on the Serbs. We hope to leave 12.3.99 and complete production and arrive back in the states on 24.3.99. We are hoping all of this is over and Split is in the can in the next month.

E-mail from Milos and Aleksander.
Hi, Mark! It seems there are some things working against us: Kosovo peace negotiations failed for now, and it is planned to continue on March 15th. Which means, the situation is very unstable and unpredictable until then. Maybe NATO will bomb us, maybe won't. But whatever happened, one thing is for sure: US Embassy in Belgrade is in the state of emergency. We have prepared a selection of Serbian shorts for sending to Joel in Seattle and to Jonathan Sarno in NY, and we have to transfer it to NTSC before sending, what we were supposed to do in US Embassy - but its personnel is ready to evacuate at any moment if necessary. It seems the crisis is to have its peak just about your coming, and we don't know what to say: if you come, you probably won't get killed by NATO bombs, but no one can tell what's going to happen (street riots, deportations etc.), and will there be anyone in US Embassy to help you in the case of any trouble. We told you what we know, and decision is yours. But whatever you decided, we'd love very much to see your films, and the date for the show remains the same (March 16-17th). Two days ago we've screened Independent Exposure, and it was the great success - there were many people unable to enter the theatre because it was completely overcrowded, and that's why we'll reprise the show on March 8th. Our audience obviously needs and loves to see the stuff like this, and we're sure folks here would enjoy your films. If you decided not to come, we can fully understand you, but we hope it won't be the end of our collaboration.
Milos & Aleksandar

Email response Euro Underground

Milos & Aleksandar

We are currently playing it by a day to day . We are ready to go but are currently considering the situation. I sent the material on pal videocassette last week it should arrive in Belgrade this week or the first of next week. When you finish the short Serbian film videocassette can you send me a copy at
Euro Underground
1658 N. Milwaukee avenue Suite 142
Chicago IL, 60647.

How is preparation for Split coming? We have about 120 minutes of film purchased and will shoot the rest on DV. Total running time 60 minutes. Our concerns are if we would be able to shoot and hopefully complete Split while we are there with all this turmoil going on.

Our collaboration is rock solid so if the situation does not allow for travel we will travel when situations get better. We are excited to shoot Split in Belgrade.


Albanians split, Serbs on move
Early Thursday morning contacted the low fi guys to possibly postpone travels for 12.3.99 - 22.3.99. To 27.3.99- 10.4.99. Because of the uncertainty of the situation. It would be one thing if we were only going for the show which must go on war or no war, and we would travel because if we are deported the show still goes on, no big deal. But we are trying to make a film under intense situation alone with barley enough film and 14 days to complete shooting. If they turn us away it will almost crush the project pushing it up to fall 99.

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, 25. Feb - With NATO's threat of force no longer in play and the future of Kosovo peace talks uncertain, clashes resumed Thursday in the Serbian province and signs of a severe split emerged in the ethnic Albanian side.

This seems like it never has any sign of certainty. At this point we will play it up to the original departure day and if this uncertainty persist we may go for it.

Email from Low-Fi guys.
Sorry for not writing for several days, but we were... ahem, hiding from mobilization. Which means, the situation is not quite cheerful here. It seems that both Serbs and Albanians go to war full steam ahead: Albanians with Serbs, and Serbs with Albanians and NATO. Besides on the whole political situation, this reflects on our preparation for Split. To be precise: no chance for the van (especially not military one!) and for the uniforms in such a situation - and especially not for the American citizens. If you lived here, you'd know about what kind of paranoia we're talking. And the last thing we want now is facing the Army authorities, which can't wait to send two young guys like us to Kosovo fights.

We don't know what to say about the date of your coming. Just wait and see - that's all what we can give as the advice. About the flexibility of the cast: theoretically, we hope there will be no problem about this. But there's one thing: if this situation persists, male members of the cast will surely avoid any appearance in public, and possibly hide themselves at some cousins, because of the mobilization. And this can be the problem for two of us, too.

If Kevin and Timothy firmly decided to come, send us please their addresses, for the invitation letter. Are they going to come at their own spend? We should be very glad to send you our cassette, but, regarding the situation, it would be impossible for us to send you NTSC. Can you accept PAL? We would like to see some more EU videos, but we didn't get the date in April. But May will be OK.

Milos & Aleksandar

Still waiting . Have bought almost all the film and gathering up last minute little things we need.

Received an email from Dragan a filmmaker that Euro Underground shows. He won first prize in 1998 for his video Jump no.13. A video shot at the Solitaire in Novi Sad , known as the suicide building.

Dear Mark, I hope you will have more luck with new dates; situation should be much clearer after new Serbo-Albanian conference (starting 15.3.99.) but that is also "?" Present state is unknown to common people and there is all kind of manipulation with facts... Maybe bigger problem is a flue epidemic in Belgrade and Novi Sad (of course we Andrej Vera & I got it.) . Hoping for the best,

Not much has changed the news keeps reporting the same news. Today we are going to shot a test roll of Hi-Con. We decided to do Koma's flashback. Which mainly consists of operation footage, which we will shoot in my living room and then cut this with images of operating rooms. So the peace talks continue.

PARIS, March 15 - Ethnic Albanians on Monday said they planned to sign an international peace accord on Kosovo, a move that would ratchet up Western political and military pressure on Belgrade. But as a second round of talks got underway in Paris, few held out any hope of a deal as fighting again raged in the Serb province.

Things are really starting to get intense. It looks as if there is no way we will get into Belgrade in March. Possibly late April or May. If full out war breaks out it may be postponed until the Euro Underground film festival tour in Fall. This is sad, but at the same time I am concerned about our producers and friends in Belgrade and hope for their safety

Received this email today from Milos & Aleksandar.

The situation is getting worse hour by hour. US Embassy is entirely evacuated from Belgrade. All the American citizens are invited to leave Serbia as soon as possible, and members of international Kosovo peace mission flew away (all 1,400 of them). Serbian army forces are getting ready for the conflict with NATO, and mobilization intensifies. Media broadcast the instructions how to behave in the shelters while bombing. Some "non-patriotic" journalists are arrested. People buy more food than usually and build reserves. Shit begins. This is current picture of a country where nobody is recommended to travel to, especially when there is nobody remained in your country's embassy. Very sorry to say this, but all the beautiful plans for shooting films vanish in the haze in such situation. We can't take the responsibility for what's going to happen to you, and we can't recommend you to walk around careless with camera when Serbia declares war to your country. It's too risky for you, especially when there is nobody in the embassy to protect you. Please do consider this.
Milos & Aleksandar

21. 3. 99
Mark Siska > wrote:

Milos & Aleksandar Our thoughts and hopes are with you. If you need anything from the US we can ship anything you may need if it gets bad. We will stay in touch. Mark

THANKS A LOT! We hope we'll be able to stay online in the days to come.
Milos & Aleksandar

BELGRADE, March 24 - NATO missiles and warplanes struck Yugoslav airfields, military installations and the country's main arms production center Wednesday evening in attacks aimed at forcing Belgrade to sue for peace in Kosovo. An initial round of cruise missile strikes was followed by waves of NATO ground attack aircraft and further missile launches from NATO vessels in the Adriatic.

What are things like in Belgrade Know?

Still breathing!

What been going on in Belgrade?

We had sirens a few hours ago. Everything is still OK. We don't hear any planes, missiles or detonation right how. There is people outside in the streets but the frightened ones are in the shelters. Right now we are editing a short documentary shot yesterday during the cancelled promotion of the new album by our friends(Band is Called JARBOLI).At that same time NATO fighters where on their way to Yugoslavia. That's all for this time.

How are things holding out?

Hi Mark!
We are still OK. But always under lots of pressure. We try to keep working(already made 3 shorts-some war inspired documentaries, video clips and conceptual art film).Just in order to keep our mind clean(if it's possible). Also we are getting pretty tired and bored of this situation. Unfortunately things become more and more complicated and senseless. We begin to have problems with will and motivation, but we hope that it is just temporary. Hard to work when you have NATO bombers over your head. That's all.

What turned into not going to Belgrade in March turned into a new Documentary that started production in April 99 How Sweet is Life. When the Bombing started in the Balkans, EU traveled to Kiev, Ukraine to start production on How Sweet Is Life a character study of people existing in post soviet times in Russia and The Ukraine.
Click here to read about How Sweet is Life.