Serbian director Ognjen Glavonić’s debut The Load is set in 1999, when NATO was carrying out airstrikes against Serbia. “But for me it’s not a reconstruction of the past, a film about what happened. It’s a film about today’s world, about what one generation left to the next one, about articulating history and whether it’s possible to speak the truth about it and take responsibility for it,” said the filmmaker during a post-screening Q&A of the Balkan Echoes section drama, which is about a lorry driver tasked with bringing a mysterious cargo from Kosovo to Belgrade.
The discussion also took in censorship in Serbia. “Officially there isn’t any, and politicians can use you as proof of freedom of expression. But economic censorship does exist. For instance, most cinemas were afraid of our film because of the subject matter and it hasn’t even been screened on television yet. So the people we wanted to address most haven’t seen it,” the director said.
Glavonić faced most pressure when The Load was accepted for the programme at Cannes. “Then the media had to write about it. From the premiere in Cannes to when it was first shown in Serbia in November it was as if people were competing to see who could insult us most. They even wrote reviews without seeing the film. But as soon as we entered cinemas at home they started to ignore us. I think the same thing would happen to anybody from the former Yugoslavia who brought up unpleasant truths from the Balkan War,” he said.