Nikola Tesla’s legacy is woefully undervalued and his influence on future generations deserves to be more widely recognised and remembered worldwide.
That is the strongly held view of award winning Serbian filmmaker Zeljko Mirković, who plans to cement the man’s influence in The Nation of Tesla, a film about the role of Serbs in the great American story (www.OptimisticFilm.com).
“Tesla is not taken as seriously as he should be, especially in America and outside of Serbia,’ the documentary director told Wild Rooster.
“Tesla stands for freedom of ideas, freedom of mind and endless possibilities to make Earth better for all people.
“He fought for free energy and for free communication, both of which are important parts of true freedom, but most people are unaware of his ongoing and significant impact on their lives.”
Like many people born in the Balkans, Zeljko felt the presence of the Serb scientist from an early age. “It would be hard to pinpoint the first time I learned about him, but I have been a big fan of Tesla since I was a child,’ he said. “Other kids had Beatles or Rolling Stones posters on their walls. I had Tesla posters.”
“Nikola Tesla has been declared a pop icon of the 21st century, a visionary, peacemaker and magician. Eleven films about him have been made and there have been many books and comics written about him. Even a hymn for Tesla was composed in America.
“There are a lot of people working through films, education and the internet to bring Tesla in to the mainstream. So we are headed in the right direction.”
Commitment to Tesla’s legacy
It is this commitment to the man’s legacy that has driven Zeljko to embark on The Nation of Tesla, a documentary film and interactive project to showcase and archive the influence of Serbs in science, culture, film, media, sport, politics, business and other fields.
“Our aim is to inform the international public about the qualities of the Serbian nation and to confirm the nation’s potential once more,’ said Zeljko. “Among the Serbs in America today, there are six Academy Award winners, three Pulitzer Prize winners, two congressmen and a state governor, as well as about a hundred professors, directors, actors, musicians and sportsmen.
“We have managed to make Hollywood a Serbian village and to have more than 2,000 students at American Universities labelled ‘the new Tesla’. Of course, no one can compare to Tesla, but there are a lot of smart, important people who have done great things.”
Corporate moguls and a former Prime Minister
A number of successful American Serbs have already been interviewed as part of this film document: Former Yugoslav Prime Minister and businessman Milan Panic, media editor Rushka Bergman, financier Michael Djordjevich, and energy consultant Branko Terzic, as well as David Vuich, chairman of the Tesla Science Foundation, backers of the Nation of Tesla project.
“The stories of these quality people who were once a part of the Serbian nation will show the deep historical connection and cooperation between Serbia and the USA.”
Zeljko hopes that these stories will encourage a new generation of Serbs abroad. “We want to motivate our diaspora to be proud of their Serbian origin and to foster a sense of belonging to an American society in which they play a significant role,’ he said.
To illustrate his point, Zeljko recalls a number of people who have made a contribution to the growth and achievements of America.
“June 2014 marks two centuries since Djordje Sagic, later named George Fisher, officially moved to Philadelphia as the first Serbian immigrant to the USA,’ said Zeljko.
“Djordje fought for the independence of Texas and New Mexico. He was also a customs director, judge and founder of the first Serbian organisations and churches in California. He was followed by a million Serbs who settled mainly in the Chicago area and in Pennsylvania.
Two centuries of Serbs in America
This first settler was just the beginning, though, as Zeljko explained. “In the two centuries after conquering what once was Native American land, a huge number of Serbs have become a part of the history of the USA as successful and meritorious citizens and heroes in the US army.
“The first pages of that history were written by a stowaway Djordje Sagic, along with bishops Dabovic, Mardarije, Nikolaj and Dionysius, scientists Mihailo Pupin and, of course, Nikola Tesla himself.
“Then there was the patriot Mihailo Ducic, poet Jovan Ducic, King Peter II Karageorgevich, Prince Andrew and Princess Elizabeth, chetnik dukes Djujic, Jevdjevic and Djurisic, basketball genius Pete Maravich, Academy Award winner Mladen Sekulovic (aka Karl Malden), writers William Jovanovic, Charles Simic and Steve Teshich, as well as politicians Mike Stepovich, Helen Delich Bentley, Branko Terzic, and Michael Djordjevic. The list just goes on.”
Coinciding as it does with the one hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I, it was inevitable that filming The Nation of Tesla should addresses the role of Serbs at that dark time,’ Zeljko explained. “The mobilisation of 16,000 Serbian immigrants to the USA during the World War I, organised by President Woodrow Wilson and the scientist Mihailo Pupin, is an important part of the history of the American-Serbian relationship and The Nation of Tesla will show that.”
The director hopes that this latest project will mirror the success of his award-winning film The Second Meeting, a story of humanity, hope and reconciliation. That film documents the incredible relationship that grows between a Serbian military man and the US pilot he shot down during the Balkan conflict of the late 1990s.
The outstanding international reception for that acclaimed film contributed greatly to securing interest and financial backing for The Nation of Tesla.
“That project had a positive impact for Serbia and it has enabled us to attract similar support for The Nation of Tesla,’ said Zeljko. “We started with support from the Serbian Ministry of Culture and the US Embassy in Belgrade, and we have been working with the Tesla Science Foundation throughout.
Long term impact for Serbia
“The Library of Congress in Washington DC is also supporting us, as well as many people from the Serbian diaspora who have seen the huge potential of the project and are ready to personally contribute. We expect other organisations to contact us via Optimistic Film once they recognise the long-term value of the project.”
The project will need this level of support as, not only has Zeljko set himself the task of documenting interviews with successful Serbs talking about their contribution to the American dream, he intends to take it much further.
“We will supplement the project with an interactive platform where people can suggest names, add stories and upload videos of characters who have achieved remarkable results in their own various professions, in their own countries,’ he said.
“I hope the Nation of Tesla digital platform will allow people who share in this idea to come together to create a document for new generations and to celebrate opportunities for a brighter future.
“This is a very complex task, but we expect this project to be a great tie between people from Serbia, the USA and beyond, and for the interactive platform to establish a wonderful base for a fruitful global network.”