Philosophical Theatre

Following a lengthy break caused by the pandemic, and several online editions, the Philosophical Theatre was back in Belgrade, in its physical form, at Bitef-Prologue, when Maja Pelević spoke with Svetlana Slapšak. This year it is back with Srećko Horvat, who had initiated this program at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, and then, working together with Maja Pelević and Ivana Nenadović, also launched the Belgrade edition in 2016. Since then, audiences eager for exciting discussions have had the opportunity to listen to leading philosophers, artists and activists, such as Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Boris Buden, Teresa Forcades, Tariq Ali, Julian Assange, and to take part in the critical thinking of reality. At this year’s Bitef Festival, Horvat will welcome one of the greatest filmmakers of our region, but also internationally acclaimed Želimir Žilnik - a pioneer of the Black Wave and a man whose work left an imprint on the Yugoslav film in the last thirty years of the so-called “transition” and crisis of capitalism. Although they have already interacted and talked in various ways, starting with the Subversive Festival ten years ago to the Burgtheater in Vienna last year, this is the first time that Želimir Žilnik and Srećko Horvat will make a joint appearance in Belgrade. In a discussion that will not only address Želimir Žilnik’s consistent auteur poetics, but also its social, political and ethical dimension, as well as its significance in the Yugoslav era and at present day, the two “social workers” and relentless critics of capitalism will also take a discursive jump into the present and future of  climate change.  The question is not only what consequences this 21st century cataclysm will have on art and film, but also what role in facing the future - and the possibility of a radical change - art and critical engagement can and should have.  

ŽELIMIR ŽILNIK, born in Niš in 1942, caused a stir already with his first film Newsreel on Village Youth, in Winter (1967). He is known as one of the greatest politically-engaged European filmmakers whose work has been celebrated in recent years at major retrospectives around the world. He has made over fifty feature and documentary films, he is an initiator of the docudrama genre and has won awards at both local and international festivals.  In his film June Turmoil he documented the 1968 student protests in Belgrade, which he also addressed, along with the subsequent turmoil and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, in his first feature film Early Works which was awarded the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1969. In the early 1970s, after the political establishment decided to deal with the radical tendencies in Yugoslav film and literally dispersed the Black Wave, Žilnik left Yugoslavia and emigrated to Germany, where he directed several independent films, including some of the earliest on the subject of migrant workers. Following new conflicts with the German authorities, Žilnik returned to Yugoslavia where he made numerous feature films in which he recognized and presented the initial symptoms of the growing social conflicts in the country. Starting the 1990s he continued to make films dealing with the diseases of post-socialist transition and with the issue of migration. Žilnik’s work has been featured in a series of collections in foreign contemporary art museums and in a number of foreign retrospectives held in the past few years all over the world. 

SREĆKO HORVAT, born in 1983 in Osijek, is one of the leading philosophers of his generation. He has more than ten books to his name translated into over 15 languages. Horvat’s latest published books are After the Apocalypse (Polity, 2021); Poetry from the Future (Penguin, 2019); Subversion! (Zero Books, 2017); The Radicality of Love (Polity, 2015); Welcome to the Desert of Post-Socialism: Radical Politics after Yugoslavia (with Igor Štiks, Verso, 2015); What Does Europe Want? (with Slavoj Žižek, Columbia University Press, 2014). He writes regularly for The Guardian and Der Spiegel, and cooperates with TV Al Jazeera and others. He was a co-founder of Subversive festival in Croatia (2008-2013), he is currently editing and running the Philosophical Theatre at HNK (since 2014) and is, together with former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, an active member of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) and of Progressive International. His latest book, After the Apocalypse, was just recently published in Serbian.