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Zagreb Film Festival As It Once Was

In the mid- to late '70s, the punk rock explosion found a growing number of young musicians throwing off the constraints of big-budget production and 70s glamour as they struggled to bring rock & roll back to its rebellious roots. Other key synthpop influenced groups and artists from the early-mid 1980s include Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Tears for Fears, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Ultravox, Human Leaque, The Cure etc… In overall lessons of punk began to loose it, another breed of musicians took off in 80s. A new and different direction threw off the hegemony of the electric guitar in pop music, embracing electronic synthesizers which were cheap, easy to play, and presented a whole new aural spectrum.

Just like heroin in Belgrade in those days.

One of the 6th Zagreb Film Festival this documentary film won no awards, but definitely still sells tickets in Zagreb City Evropa Cinema. It is Serbian documentary “EKV –As It Once Was” about extraordinary life of ex Yugoslavian post punk electro band from 80s - Catherine the Great; also called EKV for short. And I am sure; it is unlikely that anyone outside of ex Yugoslavian borders can really know about this band. Even if one of members Bojan Pecar use to play with British band Mission in London. The documentary is exciting and emotional story about life and death, creation, love and hate, rise and fall of one of a biggest post punk electro rock bands in 80s on territory of ex Yugoslavia. Catherine the Great or EKV was one of the most successful and influential music performers coming out of former Yugoslavia. The bend’s trademark characteristics were subtle music in company with hermetic, introspective, and metaphorical lyrics and voice of a leading singer Milan Mladenovic.

During its existence, EKV built up a devoted following that greatly intensified and expanded after the death of its front man Milan Mladenovic in 1994, which caused the band to fall out. None of the members of the band are alive today. They all died, more or less from drug abuse within the 10 years, at the time of civil war in ex Yugoslavia started. Indeed, many authors and musicians today in all countries of ex Yugoslavia are still under influence of this band. All together the band EKV made 7 studio produced albums and couple of concert editions. They have left the biggest trail on nowadays music. The documentary was produced by PDV (owned by director of the film Dusan Vesic).

This is not the film about tragic destiny of members of one band. It is an explicit story about bizarre connection of the country that felt apart in 90s and rock’n’roll and electro new wave musicians in old Yugoslavia. The fall of this band culminated at the political crash and beginning of civil war in 90s in ex Yugoslavia. The speakers in film talk about conspiracy theory and drug trafficking from the communist top to a creative process of entire new wave generation of talented musicians at the time. The destiny of this band symbolized the end of the last generation just before old Yugoslavia felt apart and is the tragic, most intriguing and very important story about causes and consequences, glorious beginning and tragic end of entire generation.
Radmila Djurica


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