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REVIEW: South Wind (Južni vetar, 2018) January 23, 2019

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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Serbia has the most vital of all cinema industries of former Yugoslavia due to two reasons. One is rather simple – as the most populous of all those countries, it has the biggest audience pool for its films to thrive on. Second is in Serbian filmmakers not forgetting that the ultimate purpose of films is to entertain people willing to sacrifice their increasingly scarce time and resources and visit theatre. So, it is simply more likely that the audience would reward a Serbian than the film made by other countries’ industries. One of the latest film to achieve that aim is South Wind, 2018 crime thriller directed by Miloš Avramović.

Protagonist, played by Miloš Bikovć, is Petar Maraš, young man who, like so many in his troubled country, found way out of poverty on the wrong side of the law. He is specialised for thefts or luxurious cars and his career, aided by excellent driving skills, benefited from being associated by small but efficient organisation led by “Emperor” Dragoslav (played by Dragan Bjelogrlić), experienced and well-connected gang boss who serves as something like a father figure to young man. Life seems good for Petar, who just bought new nice apartment for his girlfriend Sofija (played by Jovana Stojiljković) and even dreams of running his own racetrack. However, his life is about to shatter when he accidentally stumbles on a Mercedes Benz that seems too good opportunity to miss. He steals the car only to realise that it was involved in international drugs smuggling operation, and that the cargo belonged to Golub (played by Nebojša Glogovac), vicious Belgrade gangland boss. Maraš is forced to hide while Sofija, his family and friends become target of intimidation, which also include corrupt police led by Inspector Stupar (played by Miloš Timotijević).

Avramović, who also produced and co-wrote the script, said that the inspiration for South Wind came from his own experiences of growing in Mirijevo, crime-infested section of Belgrade, during 1990s when he “saw the world without heroes”. However, its plot is rather generic and hundreds of pages could be written about ways this film was inspired by other examples of the genre. While the content might not be that original, the form and the way it is presented could be seen as refreshing, especially when South Wind is compared to other films that are made in countries of former Yugoslavia. The choice of genre itself puts South Wind clearly in the domain of commercial cinema and its authors never shy away from it. Instead, the film is filled with old mix of crowd-attracting ingredients that include gunplay, fights, explicit sexual activity, black humour and, last but not least, car chases, which is something of a rarity in films made in this part of the world. Budgets might be significantly lower than in Hollywood and major cinema industries, but Avramović proves to be quite capable director and makes this film work. Soundtrack, based on traditional folk and more modern turbo folk songs, also adds a lot to the mix.

The greatest asset of South Wind, is, however, the cast. For some observers, Biković, who has recently built status of a film star in Russia, might look to attractive for the role of street criminal, but he plays his role more than competently, although he is overshadowed by his older and more experienced colleagues. They include late Nebojša Glogovac in his last role, in which he excels as psychopathic villain; Dragan Bjelogrlić who gives very convincing portrayal of an “old school” gangster forced to adapt to new times; and, finally, Srđan Todorović (best known as the protagonist of controversial Serbian Film) as one of Petar’s unfortunate partners. This also includes Hristo Shopov, Bulgarian actor best known for the role of Pilate in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, appears in the small but effective role of Bulgarian crime boss. Probably the best role is played by Miloš Timotijević as cynical and corrupt police inspector whose schemes and shifting loyalties provide the film with somewhat unconventional but nevertheless “neat” ending.

While taking a cue from classic and more recent Hollywood gangster films, South Wind nevertheless is set firmly at modern day Serbia and deals with some that country’s issues. They include some social observations and interesting details, like protagonist’s background in former middle class family which was wrecked by years of war and post-Communist transition. The most interesting detail is in rather grim view of the close and firm connection between the organised crime and the government, best illustrated in the scene in which Aleksandar Berček, actor known for his resemblance to infamous Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević, appears as anonymous but all-powerful official who would ultimately sanction characters’ fate. Even more ominous detail is in the way criminals employ media to achieve their goals, thus framing Avramović’s vision of Serbia as “world without heroes”.

RATING: 8/10

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