Directors recognise talent of Serbian actor Marko Janketic

Marko JanketicAs a frontrunner in the new wave of Serbian actors, Marko Janketić has won the support of leading directors, as well as some of the most sought-after roles in recent high profile Balkan films and TV productions.

Marko has graced acclaimed films such as Circles (Krugovi), Skinning (Šišanje), White, White World (Beli, beli svet) and The Box, and his Belgrade stage roles have included classics and musical theatre.

Cinema audiences can currently see Marko in A Monument to Michael Jackson (Spomenik Majklu Dzeksonu), which has been wowing international film festival audiences.

A Monument to Michael Jackson, from director Darko Lungulov, will screen as a serious contender as Best Movie at London’s forthcoming Raindance Film Festival.

“This is a film about the small people from Serbia,’ said Marko, aged 30. “It is a comedy but with a social message and a human heart,’ said Marko.

Swallowing the bitter pill of Balkan life

“It is like taking a bitter pill with a cube of sugar. I think that is always a good formula for a story.”

International critics and festival audiences have praised this charming and socially cutting tale of a man’s attempt to revive the fortunes of his small Serbian town and rekindle the spark in his marriage by erecting a statue of the king of pop.

“This is a story about people and their beliefs, their strengths and their determination to do things they believe in. Their self-belief actually makes them bigger than they are. It has a power of its own.

“I don’t think this is a lone case in our country. There are a lot of people who are like that in Serbia. People who survive on the weight of their belief and determination to live a better life.”

An educated Serbian nationalist with hatred in his heart

“I play the leader of a right-wing movement. He is a nationalist but he is also educated and intelligent. He knows how to manipulate people, but he is inspired by a hatred for everything that is not from Serbia.

Monument to Michael Jackson

“It was not easy for me to get into such roles. Personally I am very positive. I love people and life. But this film brings together a lot of great actors (Dragan Bjelogrlic, Ljubomir Bandovic and Mirjana Karanovic) and it was my honour to work with them. That made it much easier for me.”

Darko Lungulov is the latest in a growing line of prominent directors to have recognised Marko’s ability. “I have been lucky to work with talented directors such as, Srdjan Golubovic, Oleg Novković and Kosta Djordjevic, who have given me a lot of help.

“I like Darko’s movies. He makes films with strong, interesting stories and with good actors, which attracted me to working with him on this film.”

Marko was born into a world of stage and screen. His parents are the esteemed Serbian actors Mihailo ‘Misa’ Janketic and Svjetlana Knezevic, known throughout the former Yugoslavia.

Like father, like son for Serbian actor Marko Janketic

Audiences will get the chance to see Marko starring alongside his father as the pair play older and younger versions of the same character in Peti leptir, a fantasy film from Serbian director Milorad Milinkovic.

This is not the first time their paths have crossed though. In the drama Our Sons, Marko played a role that had been played by his father many years before. “That was quite a coincidence,’ said Marko. “The original idea was to play the youngest son but the director Tanja Mandic thought it would be better to give this role to a younger actor. So I took on the role of Gilet, which had been played by my father.”

Like many actors, Marko started out in theatre at an early age. He still loves the art of acting and works hard to enjoy a successful stage career alongside his film work.

Marko’s first significant film role was as Mali in director Radivoje Andric’s Tri palme za dve bitange i ribicu (1998). The story takes place in 1993 in a Serbia torn by hyperinflation. Football fan Milan lives with his friend and makes money by selling paintings to the new elite. He meets a nice girl who works a phone sex hot line and the two eventually fall in love.

After that role, Marko went on to appear in some well-received shorts (Najmiliji and Plan B), before winning the role of Tigar in White White World (Beli, beli svet).

Skinhead nationalist and Red Star Belgrade fan

It was in 2010 that Marko got his first taste of intense media attention with his  role as an ultra nationalist in director Stevan Filipovic’s uncompromising social commentary Skinning (2010). This hard-hitting film whipped up a storm in Serbia and within the diaspora for its portrayal of a society under threat from extremists.

Marko JanketicThen in 2011 Marko delivered a captivating performance – including a film-stealing monologue – in The Box, a film directed by Andrijana Stojkovic and based on the novel by Slavoljub Stankovic.

Marko’s portrayal of single-minded Bili, an avid Red Star Belgrade fan full of spirit at a time of impending sanctions and national anxiety,  drew  attention from directors who signed him up for roles in films and on the stage.

For most actors films such as Skinning and The Box are few and fair between, but Marko seems to have a knack of landing plum roles on high profile projects.

“Acting can be an uncertain and difficult career, that is true,’ said Marko. “There can be an amount of uncertainty over money and work and it hasn’t always been good for me. An actor is not always in a position to refuse a role.”

Practical guide to Belgrade, courtesy of Serbian cinema

That same year, Marko appeared in Practical Guide to Belgrade with Singing and Crying, director Bojan Vuletic’s modern love story about four couples from different cultures who meet in Belgrade.

After taking a break from film to appear in a lead role on the Belgrade stage performance of the musical Grease / Briljantin, Marko got the lead in frenetic Serbian comedy S/Kidanje, a film about three young characters of different social status, possessed by love for the wrong person.

Recognition of the hard work and acclaimed roles came again in Circles / Krugovi from director Srdan Golubovic, which clocked up the greatest critical and box office success for Marko, and opened new doors in his career.

This internationally acknowledged film draws heavily on the life of young Bosnian Serb Srdjan Aleksić, who was beaten to death by soldiers from the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) for attempting to shield his Muslim friend. Since his brutal killing, the amateur actor and promising sports star has been hailed as a hero in towns across the Balkans.

Young Serbian actor targets English-language films

International recognition for this film also heightened Marko’s ambition to spread his wings beyond the Balkans.

“Working in America is always an attractive option, of course,’ said Marko. “Every foreign actor likes to dream of Hollywood or doing an English language film. I would definitely like to keep that option open in my career.

“There have been a few offers already but I haven’t done any so far. I am waiting for the right project at the right time. I believe it will all come together wherever the works comes from.”

While America remains off the schedule for now, Marko has some significant films lined up for release in 2015. “I have just finished my last movie Otadzbina (Fatherland) with director Oleg Novkovic,’ said Marko. “It is my second movie with him, after White, White World (Beli, beli svet).

“Also, this summer I have done three more movies in which I have small roles, including  TV movie Bez stepenika from director Marko Novakovic.

“Now, I am preparing for an exciting role in a film and TV series in Serbia, but I cannot talk about that yet. You’ll just have to wait and see about that one…”

There remains just one question: Is Marko a fan of the King of Pop? “I was a fan when I was younger,’ said Marko. “For sure, Michael Jackson is one of the greatest pop icons. But I don’t listen to him so much now.”

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