Leading lights from Serbia’s artistic community have joined a growing list of international celebrities to pledge their backing to Belgrade Pride. Serbian actress-turned-director Mirjana Karanović and film-maker Stevan Filipović have been among the first to come forward to support the week-long series of events, which will culminate in a planned parade through Belgrade’s city centre on Saturday, 6 October.
As a campaigner for human rights and freedoms, Serbian director Stevan Filipović (Skinning/Šišanje) has been critical of the way his country’s authorities slapped an undemocratic ban on Belgrade Pride in 2011, following years of violent attacks and bullying for gay people. He is fearful that former ultra-nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic and his regime will be unwilling to step up for the rights of all Serbians to gather in peace, which will paint Serbia in a negative light.
Attitude of Serbian Politicians is Poor
“Obviously, the attitude of our politicians reflects very poorly on our image abroad and is bad for our people at home,’ said Stevan. “I recently spoke at the Exit Festival on the Friends of Pride roundtable, and they have my full support for this year’s events.
“Belgrade Pride has become a focus point for all the neuralgic points of Serbia today. It has united all the ‘dark forces’ against it – conservative nationalists, the hooligans, the Orthodox Church, basically everybody whose only problem with Milosević’s wars was the fact that he didn’t win.”
The Situation in Serbia is Ridiculous
Prominent Serbian actress Mirjana Karanović (Grbavica/Esma’s Story) also believes that the time is long overdue for Serbia to make itself more inclusive to the country’s LGBT community. “I think the situation about the gay population in the region will get better but I do not know when. It is inevitable,’ she told Wild Rooster. “It is ridiculous that anybody thinks that it can be stopped. It is a question of civilization.”
Mirjana pointed out that Serbia has shown itself to be immature in how it deals with fundamental issues such as human rights and democracy. “We are in a teenage stage,’ she said. “Not only in Serbia, but the whole region. We behave like teenagers.
“We are raging, we are rebellious but we don’t know against whom, just against any authority. We are so loud and we will always point to somebody else’s faults but never to our own. We are just teenagers.
“Britain is in a really mature stage, like a forty-year-old person with experience of parliament and democracy. Of course, English society has its own fights but you observe democracy. We are in a different stage. Here, in Serbia, democracy is something that somebody gives to you and it is for good. They think it gives them freedom.
“Unfortunately, in Serbia people think that democracy is everybody’s right to say everything and to behave how they wish without any rules or consideration for others. Democracy involves a lot of compromise, especially for minorities. Democracy is the system where minorities have the same rights, but that’s not what we think here.
This is Not Democracy
“I asked some people about freedom and democracy and they said, ‘this is when you can do whatever you want. You can do everything’. I asked, ‘does this mean you can go on the street and kicked everybody in the butt?’ That is not freedom. That is not democracy.”
While the Belgrade Pride Organising Committee struggles to exercise the constitutional and human right of public assembly, Mirjana believes that support should come from all sides, as all minorities should benefit from this battle. “I am glad that gay organisations took the lead in the organisation of this sort of event in Serbia,’ she said.
Stand Up and Fight
“Everybody else should help them, and I will help them in any way I can, but this is their fight. They have to stand up and fight for their rights. We cannot fight their battles.”
She hopes that by banning last year’s event, Serbian authorities actually might have galvanised popular opinion in favour of the Pride Parade. “In my experience, banning a thing can be good because it forces you to react, to push back,’ she said. “I remember in Yugoslavia in the 70s or 80s, when banned books, films or theatrical productions became very famous because the government didn’t allow their publication. That woke many people up and forced them to do something.
“Worse things are happening now because, in the nineties, Milosević didn’t ban anything in culture. He learned the lesson from the communists: if you pay attention to something or somebody, you give them importance. He was very clever.”