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Monday, 22 October 2012 10:02

Parada: an unlikely combination of war heroes and gay-rights activists

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True love can only exist between men. Micky Limun, main character in Serbian director Srđan Dragojević's new movie "Parada," a veteran from the Bosnian war and owner of a Judo gym, would probably agree without hesitation, having met friends for life on the front lines. Micky is a Serbian war hero, a macho, a hooligan, a petty crook – and highly homophobic. Thus, he is not amused when his fiancée's wedding planner offers his services only in return for him protecting a gay pride parade in Belgrade. Not an easy task in today's Serbia.

The last actual Gay Pride in Belgrade took place in 2010. 5600 policemen had to protect about 1000 activists against 6000 right-wing extremists. More than 100 people got hurt. For the last two years the parade has been cancelled due to security risks. The movie meets its viewers exactly at this point: in a macho society where the majority have resentments against homosexuals, and gays and lesbians are confronted with hostility and exclusion.

With a heavy topic like this, one would expect a niche film, a drama for intellectuals. Instead "Parada" is a comedy, and with more than half a million viewers in the Balkan states and several international awards, it is one of the most successful recent movies in the region. Being a Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian-Macedonian-Montenegrin co-production the movie seems to touch a common issue in the otherwise divided ex-Yugoslavian countries.

Fighting stereotypes - with stereotypes

Stereotypes so ridiculous that they turn characters into caricatures still dominate public opinion - and the screen. You can question the movie for having all gays talking nasally and being unable to drink alcohol without splaying out their little finger and making a grimace. Dragojević has also been criticised for not showing a kiss between homosexuals. But even without this, the movie is full of sexual tension, portraying a region where a story about raping a zebra is met with less scepticism than the protection of the gay parade.

Watching these sometimes hilarious, sometimes shocking twists from a distance, one might be tempted to put it down to Serbia's special circumstances. But with the rise of right-wing movements in many European states, the issue of how to deal with a macho culture which disrespects minority rights becomes more pressing throughout the whole continent. Whether it is gay people, foreigners or women - the discrimination of any group threatens to kill our oh-so-highly-acclaimed European diversity.

There is hope, though: Dragojević contrasts the nationalist Serbs - all dressed in black, uniform, one-dimensional - with the colourful activists. In the end they might still be the minority. But they receive support from unexpected sides: the security for the parade is done by a Serb, a Bosniak, a Croat and a Kosovar Albanian. Thus, the story also becomes a transnational adventure, showing how reconciliation in the Balkan region can work, when ideologies are put aside - a lesson other European countries might want to listen to as well.

Even if Dragojević might have gone a bit over the top with the plot - you don't necessarily have to include a road trip, a dogfight and a father-son story in a gay-rights comedy - his very lovable, at second glance multi-layered characters can teach you a lot about tolerance and the fight for your own rights in the best way possible: by making you laugh. 

Last modified on Monday, 22 October 2012 16:34

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