In the Frame

Marathon Runners of Film Memories
In this city and its vicinity, in its streets and squares, in kafanas, at the quay, at the old railway station, in the brewery, museum, gymnasium, some of the most famous Serbian and foreign movies were made, scenes we keep returning to. ”I Even Met Happy Gypsies”, ”Who’s That Singing Over There?”, ”The Marathon Family”, ”Balkan Express”, ”I’m Poor but Angry”, ”Professor Kosta Vujić’s Hat”, ”Mamma Lucia”… Does Pančevo keep the trances and memories of its unforgettable roles?

By: Miloš Lazić
Photo: Željko Sinobad

In the year of 2010, during the preparations for the ceremony of the Days of Pančevo, someone got the idea to present the town through the story about the ”seventh art”, film, on the seventh day of the celebration. The suggestion was reviewed, measured and accepted, and dedicated to two enthusiasts – Radiša Stanišić and Nenad Živković, who later gathered a team of extraordinary associates – in the last moment, without too much hope that the job will be completed successfully in such a short term.
They finally presented themselves before the organizers with an exquisite publication Pančevo in the Objective, with all 54 movies, including motion and motion-documentary films, TV dramas and series shot in the city and in its surrounding from 1956 to 2010. The booklet was printed in (only) 400 copies, half of

them in English, so today it is a true bibliophile and cinephile rarity. Thus an idea was born to publish a new, amended edition. The two enthusiasts, already dangerously infected with the job, continued their search, which took them to all kinds of places, from Kinoteka and archives of production companies, through the Archives of Pančevo and Serbia, to the correspondence and interviews with people who participated in the projects. Sometimes they dug through so-called flea markets, where, with a bit of luck, one can find valuable memories. They continued their research for their own sake, so to say.
In their attempt, they widened their search to television series and added films shot in Pančevo and its vicinity after 2010. The result was astonishing: they added more than two hundred works of local or foreign authors to their existing list. Those newly filmed as well as those which they somehow missed before. So many ”film works” for a city of about seventy thousand souls is not really common!
In order to fathom the volume and difficulty of this work, we should imagine a search for a common paper poster announcing a movie more than six decades ago, as well as for saved photos from the shootings and saved anecdotes that followed it?!


Film critics have written or will write about films, while stories, already turning into legends, will be carried about locations in Pančevo and its vicinity. For the time being, they are saved from oblivion, and as for the future…
It is difficult to imagine how the people of Pančevo, about thirty thousand of them at the time, felt when they saw Curd Jürgens and Geneviève Page, great movie stars in 1956, in the streets of their city, during the shooting of Michael Strogoff, first film adaptation of Jules Verne’s adventure novel The Courier of the Czar from 1876!? According to the idea of scenographer Leon Barsak and Kosta Krivokapić, the movie was mostly shot in Deliblatska Peščara and in the streets of Pančevo. The entire project was a Western German-French-Italian-Yugoslavian coproduction, and the host, with its film industry still in development, offered only technical support, actors, stunts and locations. However, it was a sensation in a country which barely escaped from the other side of the ”iron curtain”, as well as the fact that it was the first time that foreigners hang around in Yugoslavia, or Pančevo, Peščara and Belgrade, without ”professional guides” and similar benefits then provided by the Service. The ice was broken!
By the end of that decade and Stole Janković’s Partisan Stories, only four movies were filmed. One a year. Seemingly few, but during those four years world filmmakers noticed Pančevo, with its incredibly well preserved baroque architecture, as a movie Eldorado, an exterior indicated from the above by their Great Director of Life personally.
By that time, the interiors were mostly filmed in ”Avala Film” studios in Košutnjak, in the legendary ”Filmski Grad” (”Movie Town”)… but then they determined that Pančevo, besides the exterior, has a lot to offer to filmmakers in the interior as well. They realized that equally beautiful and well preservedinteriors are hiding behind the wonderful façades of old edifices. However, the trivia that the ”Kragujevac” kafana near the old train station was the first to gain world glory among many places inPančevo. The famous scene in which Bekim Fehmiju breaks glasses with his hands and cuts his veins in front of amazing Olivera Vučo in SašaPetrović’s I Even Met Happy Gypsies was filmed there. Local experts in this subject swear that more film tapewas used in ”Kragujevac” than anywhere else! The same interior wasused for filming important scenes for movies I’m Poor but I’m Furious, Professor Kosta Vujić’s Hat and others… Today we’d certainly speak about terabytes of digital shots filmed there, if the kafana hadn’t changed its appearance, almost its purpose as well, and closed its doors.


The old train station in Pančevo could also be proclaimed monument of historical and cultural importance for the city. Stuart Cooper filmed his triptych Mama Lucia next to it in 1987 (originally The Fortunate Pilgrim), shown in the United States already the following year. Part of the space behind the old station in Pančevo was then turned into Bronx, formerly notorious New York block, with a railway passing its street. The appearance and spirit of the 1920s were then revived in this part of Pančevo. However, as it usually happens, this building wasn’t turned into a film (railway, beer, aviation or anything else) museum, but is now used by the railway for accommodating less important clerks. Only the old locomotive, resembling the one used during the shooting, reminds of Mama Lucia today, resting in the preserved part of the track next to the forgotten station building.
Memories of that movie, as well as many others, still live in memories of the people of Pančevo, who participated in the shooting most often as stunts. There is a story that Mika Antić, great Serbian poet and bohemian, also liked to participate in such ”clowning” – more for hanging with people than for the humble fee, which he always spent in advance. Besides the vicinity of a metropolis and good infrastructure, the filmmakers experienced the readiness of Pančevo people to be stunts in movies for a few pennies as a gift from heavens, because in their world – most often western cinematography, they had to pay incredibly high fees for hiring people for such work!
Only about two hundred steps further, next to the left bank of the Tamis and downstream from the old bridge, one can easily recognize the public bath, which played an important role of the ”Bel Epoque” kafana (written in Cyrillic letters”) in 1983, in Branko Baletić’s cult movie Balkan Express. The kafana still exists and belongs to the Association of Sports Fishermen ”Marko Kulić”, but the people of Pančevo gave it a code name ”Branko Kulić”. It is one of the cheapest ones in town, which is a good recommendation to regular and accidental guests. The terrace is actually much smaller than depicted in the movie, but the staff is unarmed and incomparably more polite.
Almost everyone probably remembers the scene from Slobodan Šijan’s The Marathon Family from 1982, when Bora Todorović playing Đenka, standing next to an advertisement pillar of an imagined little town, gives kids money for ice-cream to reward them for running through the city and shouting the important (marketing) message to people: ”The theater is open again!” The pillar doesn’t exist, it was only part of the scenography, and the narrow square in front of the Church of St. Carl Borromeo, one of the oldest buildings in Pančevo (from 1757), changed its appearance significantly. A garden of a new and pretty loud kafana is behind the church. Although this catholic church is still living, the monastery fraternity moved in 1991, searching for a more peaceful corner of the universe.
As if he had become very intimate with it, the same director used the same space three years earlier in the movie Who’s That Singing Over There? and Đorđe Kadijević used it in 2007 as exterior for his movie Last audience.
There is not a single important director of our past and present movie scene who hadn’t filmed in Pančevo or its vicinity, so their locations also most often overlapped. Miša Radivojević, for example, shot his entire opus here or in lower Banat. There are also both works of Šijan and Petrović, Šotra, Pavlović, Marković, Zafranović, Kusturica, Karanović, Vukobratović, Bajić (Darko), Paskaljević, Kadijević and many more, both local and foreign.
The adventure Radiša Stanišić and Nenad Živković have set off to could, therefore, last pretty long… Perhaps it could also start resembling a movie with an ”open ending”.


Besides the ”Kragujevac” kafana, the Tamis, old train station and the square in front of the catholic church, the focus of the objective was also the National Museum, dilapidated Weifert’s brewery, the Pančevo gymnasium, Nikola Đurković Street and the one dedicated to Vuk Karadžić. There is also the Headquarters Building, where the movie ”Aleksa Dundić” was shot, the first where the role of stunt was given to the Yugoslav Army cavalry division, the same one that showed its skills in Alberto Lattuada’s ”Tempest” (La tampesta), shot in the same year of 1958, and several other movies. There was also shooting in front of the Church of the Transfiguration, Old Market, next to the lighthouse at the confluence of Tamis, next to the now destroyed Pančevo port.


A traveler can be confused, even worried, with the absence of at least humble signs on the buildings of Pančevo and places that entered the history of cinematography, just basic info about the building and its role in a famous movie. It would be good, both for Pančevo and its guests. The sad fact that even middle-aged people of Pančevo don’t know where the ”Kragujevac” kafana is (its building is still across the old train station, dressed in a new robe and polished so that no one could recognize it, but still as a ”whole”).


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