In 1961, architects and urban planners in Belgrade planned to build The Museum of the Revolution. It a project so ambitious and subverted what the city elites wanted that they decided to defund the project. Such a project would end up becoming ruins, but it was strong enough to be a temporary home for working class people in the city who are either of Roma or Serbo-Croatian origin. In a way, they symbolize the promise and failures of communism. But thankfully they exist as more than symbols in the documentary that has the same name as the museum that never opened. Two of of documentary’s main subjects, Vera and Milica, take the bus. They go to a place where Vera can send money for her partner who was then in prison.
Museum of the Revolution’s director is Srdan Keca, who originally planned for this film to be an installation to remark on the visuals anyone would see if the entered the museum’s ruins. For every scene with Vera and Milica, Keca adds scenes of the place where they temporarily stayed. The latter doesn’t always make for the best cinematic experience. Putting a mostly dark image on screen makes the film’s pace longer that its 91 minutes. Another thing about those scenes is that it relegates the people living there like shadows.
Thankfully, the film returns to Vera and Milica and occasionally, their Serbo-Croatian friend. The film portrays the three in all kinds of squalor. But there are others that show them with beauty and dignity, knowing that this is temporary for them. Milica’s also the secret star of this film, starting out as a child oblivious to her mother’s suffering. But she grows up to know that she and Vera need more to survive on Belgrade’s cold streets.
Catch Museum of the Revolution on Hot Docs on May 2.