TriBeCa 2011: White White World
by Sanela Djokovic
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Composed as a modern-day Greek tragedy (very closely echoing Oedipus) White White World: The Miners’ Opera is fueled by extremes and excess. Extreme desperation and self-destruction, excess alcohol and substance abuse, sex and spitting. The despondent characters, reflections of the corroding old mining town of Bor, Serbia, are engaged in a tumult so deep it could only end tragically. While most of the characters are hard to like or sympathize with, director Oleg Novkovic’s bold execution has us— much like the Greek dramas— eager to indulge and ready for redemption.
King (Uliks Fehmiu), a former boxer, made a small fortune abroad and now owns a bar in Bor. A stoic, confident and detached man, King begins an affair with lonely and unbridled Rosa (Hana Selimovic)— his former lover Ruzica’s daughter. At the same time Ruzica (Jasna Djuricic) is released from prison, having served seven years for killing her husband Animal, who was King’s former boxing coach. King’s lack of feeling for Ruzica compels her to start a simple life with Whitie, but when she finds out about her daughter’s affair, their world begins to crumble.
At times, White White World feels cluttered by non-sensual fleshiness and roughness. And despite electric performances from Fehmiu and Selimovic, King’s apathy and Rosa’s blind desperation are hard to swallow. The performances from Jasna Djuricic (Ruzica), Marko Janketic (Tiger) and Boris Isakovic (Whitie) are more poignant, because they exhibit their frailty more often. But, that frailty, and the heart and soul of this picture, come from each character’s musical soliloquies that sound like old folk songs, but are actually their own contemplative poems.
An excerpt from Ruzica’s song: “Since I was a young girl/ I’ve been walking to my grave/ ‘Cause I have nobody/ Nobody to walk with me that way.” These musical interruptions serve as proof of soul, not just shadow.
The city of Bor itself is a significant character in the film. Award-winning director Oleg Novkovic says Bor “used to be a symbol of industrial prosperity, now it is just a crumbling contaminated city full of drugs with people living on the edge of existence with no jobs and no air to breathe.” It sets the perfect stage for its troubled inhabitants and for the calamitous ending.
White White World takes the drama of Oedipus and places it in front of a social context that breeds pain, suffering and profound longing. It is not a very well-balanced feature, but it is driven by an uncontainable and magnetic fury and sorrow that will be exciting for some, outrageous for others.
Sanela Djokovic is a writer living in the Bronx
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