Side program |

There are very few art forms that were in their beginnings considered a nursery of debauchery as was the case with film. In the early days of this medium, which was but a county-fair exhibition show at the time, everything about film was even proclaimed devil's work. Press wrote about girls who had been misguided and who, in order to become film stars, had had to do things they would otherwise not do, stainless as they were. In any case, hot breath of the church that was hovering above cinema for years had to stop sooner or later. Of course, the ultimate taboo of Western European culture – sex – was waiting for its film break. As early as in 1903, Aleksandar Lifka organized in Zadar what was called 'serate nere' – black nights – for gentlemen only. He must have shown something from what is today known as Saturn Films catalogue. Those films had double purpose – to inform viewers with the charms of women's bodies and to educate them at the same time. Immediately after World War I, such screenings contributed to the introduction of censorship in film industry. However, while everything was done to eliminate sex from public discourse, the growing presence of sexually transmitted diseases forced numerous filmmakers to make so-called educational films about sex and sexuality. In Zagreb, it was the School of National Health that performed this role as of 1927. This educational and health institution would organize generator-powered screenings of educational films in undeveloped regions.

The following films are important for our subject here: 'Ika's Fate', 'Endemic Syphilis', 'Sinners – Macina' and 'Anka's Fate'. While the first three address syphilis and its consequences, the latter one had a more far-reaching task. It warns about the consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior, promiscuity, abortion and alike. Nothing similar was made in our country for a long time after that. In 1938, German cinematography, burdened with Nazi ideology, produced a very interesting film – 'Perfect Marriage'. Its author was famous gynecologist Van der Welde used the then proclaimed morality and cult of body to openly speak about fertilization, conception etc.

However, like elsewhere in the world, cinematography will openly deal with sexuality only in the late 1960s. Most credit for that goes to German journalist Oswalt Kolle, whose series of articles, books and films widened the narrow view at human sexuality. About the same time, in 1968, film censorship was abolished in Denmark, which resulted in numerous, exceptionally successful educational films for adults – 'Jumpin' at the Bedside' and 'Come to My Bedside' were the ones that led the way. Naturally, pornography would often smuggled in under the named of sexual education, but the cinemagoers of those days did not seem to mind at all, liberal as they were. Why does it all sound like nostalgia? Because we live in the times when women's breasts are easier to spot in the street than in a modern (American) movie, because sexual education is neglected, because we know less than ever about sex, despite all the information available. No wonder there are more and more mainstream films with sexually charged scripts – but with sexually trimmed pictures. Zagreb Film Festival is putting an end to it! Come watch sex on film – come and get educated about sexuality through films. And after the screening… Gaudeamus igitur!


Daniel Rafaelić, programme selector