HOW TO MAKE A FILM,
Being a political idiot has its advantages.
By Jasmina Tesanovic
Back in 1999, while my hometown of Belgrade authority was even obliged to help me shoot (for
was being blown up by 19 different countries, I was example, while the river bridges on the Danube
writing and uploading a diary. One day, a producer were being blown to pieces).
from German national TV phoned me. She’d been Soon a new, daily problem emerged: get-
reading my online journal (Diary of a Political Idiot) ting electrical power. NATO efficiently bombed
and thought it might make a good film. the power plants on a regular basis, so we ran
Unfortunately, since her country was so busy from one power-plant coverage area to another.
bombing mine, she couldn’t give me any practical Conveniently, the NATO bombing schedules were
help. However, she thought that if my film somehow regularly published by CNN.
got made, she could promote and distribute it, and Local volunteer/citizen voltage hackers soon
show it at film festivals. learned how to climb broken power poles and
Immediately, I said yes! What a great occasion reconnect the wiring, and we learned how to follow
to make a meaningful European art film, without them and plug in our equipment. This meant that
those tiresome commercial restrictions, backers, my film’s plot and scenery were strictly associated
producers, and other artistic brakes that every with available wattage.
true cineaste fears! Most of the film’s extras were hobos, derelicts,
First, I found a cameraman who had somehow and animals, because nobody else wanted to show
survived Bosnia with his equipment intact. He was up every day for a project that might well have no
a Serbian CNN stringer, which was perfect since tomorrow.
everyone in 1999 thought that wars could only be After 19 days of hectic shooting, our German
won by and/or through CNN. sponsor impatiently asked for a final edit, con-
Because everything around me was a “military cerned that the war might end at any moment and
secret” under the Milosevic regime, I had no “right” we would lose our target audience on German TV.
to shoot a film at all. So I declared my own life to be So we had to make do with the editing, too. A local
the intellectual property of the world-famous Bel- Andy Warhol fan volunteered for the job. His film
grade cinema archive. Once the archivists had given studio had been heavily damaged by a famous
me the all-important movie permit, the military missile raid on the Serbian national TV building,