Midweek Madness in Belgrade

Time has become one of our most valuable commodities. As our busy lives get ever more packed and always-on gadgets take over, we often find ourselves time-strapped. It is not only dashing around London that this modern strain tells on me. When in Belgrade I notice that my time is also in quite short supply. Whether my stay is for a few days or up to a fortnight, it is never enough.

During my time in Belgrade, my schedule is chock-a-block with business meetings and catch-ups with friends. Even though I visit the city quite often, there is always more for me to do and too little time in which to do it. From the moment I leave my hotel for a breakfast meeting to the time I stagger back to my room in the early hours, my days are crammed with appointments. Every time slot is filled from morning to night, with mealtimes used as additional opportunities to meet.

This past week in Belgrade was a case in point. It was a whirlwind of new business meetings and get-togethers to rekindle friendships formed during earlier visits. But even though I was efficient with my time and juggled my meetings as best I could, I still missed a few people whom I would have liked to see, purely because my schedule was overbooked.

Let me give you an example. Tuesday night kicked off my mid-week mayhem. At the end of a long day of back-to-back business meetings, I made a last-minute deal to meet with young actor Marko Janketić (Šišanje/Skinning,Beli Beli Svet and The Box). What started as a chat over a few early evening drinks soon spun out into a dash around Belgrade bars well into the early hours, hooking up with other actor friends along the way, including Miloš Biković, whom I had previously met during the filming of Montevideo Bog Te Video. Clearly, Marko, the son of actors Mihailo Janketić and Svjetlana Knezević,has carved an impressive name for himself and, clearly, his popularity does not lessen when he is on the town with friends.

After a few hours sleep, Wednesday began with a breakfast meeting at the Mr President hotel, before I had to dash to Republic Square to meet a writer and journalist. In the afternoon I spoke with a publisher about a possible book deal, followed by coffee with Šišanje director Stevan Filipović, to talk about how we will be collaborating on some forthcoming projects. Afterwards, I headed to Supermarket to meet the editors of Branding Magazine, and then went straight into a meeting with the head honcho at Wannabe Magazine. Without time to catch breath, I was in a car to the other side of town for early drinks with Serbian Olympic swimmer Milorad Čavić. He is training hard for London 2012 and we spoke extensively about his hopes to bring home the gold medal. An interview with Milorad will appear on my blog soon.

That would be enough for any day but my hectic schedule still had more meetings in store. After enjoying a few hours chatting with Čavić, I dashed back into town for the opening night of the Auteur’s Film Festival (Festival Autorskog Filma). I had been invited by uber-cool Serbian band Zemlja Gruva, whom I had previously seen live in support of Amy Winehouse during the summer. Opening film Shame, from young British director Steve McQueen, has wowed festivals around the world. I can only assume that this uncompromising sex addiction movie is an acquired taste as, despite undeniably breathtaking performances from the wonderful Carey Mulligan and the powerful Michael Fassbender, it left me cold.

The same could not be said for the ninety-minute concert from Zemlja Gruva. Clearly this band has been putting in the hours as their sound and performance has moved on leaps and bounds since the summer. They performed a tight set of brass-tinged funk and ska-influenced numbers that even had me and my friend and former Mr Macedonia Gjorgi Filipoff getting down to the rhythm. After refreshments backstage, we joined the band in their van and, after stopping for some much-needed pizza, we hit out on an hilarious adventure around some of Belgrade’s less well known haunts and bars, in search of ever later nightlife. Finally, we ended up at Plastic, more through lack of options than by choice. Sometime later, at 5am to be precise, Gjorgi and I said farewell to the band and rolled into bed. My schedule had already changed and, in just four hours, I was due at an out-of-town breakfast meeting, to start the roller-coaster again.

As I said, my time in Serbia is always too short and I inevitably have to disappoint a few people whom I cannot fit into my schedule (sorry Bogdan, Uroš and Andrijana). I always have a damn good time with the people I meet though, which makes up for my disappointment at not seeing everyone. My other consolation is that I return so frequently. At this time, I recall a saying among some great stage performers: You should always leave them wanting more.


Marcus Agar has been commissioned by Wannabe Magazine to write a series of observations. Click for Serbian (with translation by Ranko Trifković) or an interview in English or Serbian.

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