Not every end is sad
In 1976, we celebrated Bitef’s ten exciting years. It was a truly festive event equally in terms of the number and quality of events and the importance and fame of its participants. It was also the Theatre des Nations.
However, Mira Trailović and Jovan Ćirilov were still not happy so they gave it a thought and came up with the idea that an appropriate birthday contribution would be films related to theatre. I used to work in the film industry, organised the FEST programme, knocked about theatres, translated Slovenian productions shown at BITEF, was friends with Mira and Jovan and it was probably only natural that they chose me to put this idea through.
I made a choice and got almost everything I had asked for including the SKC hall. It met with unexpected success. The programme began when Bitef productions ended, that is from midnight until 5 a.m. The hall was full and it was decided that Bitef on Film should become a permanent side programme.
It went on for 40 years.
At some point the audience began to dwindle.
In 1976 there were two TV channels in Belgrade/Yugoslavia and they did not broadcast round the clock. At that time there were no videos, DVDs, pagers, internet or mobile and smart phones, YouTube; we were not flooded with news and those who needed them had to make an effort to get them.
That 1976 I gave Christof Brummer, the cultural attaché of the German Embassy, a list of productions by well-known authors which I knew had been recorded. It was still a time of preponderantly 35 and 16 mm film tapes. Two months before Bitaf Mr Brummer came to my flat accompanied by his driver carrying TV sets and several unfamiliarly looking boxes of different sizes. He said: “This is video recorder.” I panicked and rushed off to the TV station to see Aleksandar Louis Todorović, a telecommunications expert. He explained that it was an emerging technology, that two or three people in Belgrade already had it, that there were several systems and several formats etc. I was taught to manipulate this new technology. It was, I believe, the first time that a video programme was shown in Belgrade. People used to approach me and ask what it was.
We went on: I to organise Bitef on Film and the technology to advance.
And we arrived to this day when it is easy to get the information, when it is preferable to watch programs at home, sitting on a couch with snacks and drinks. Many have become inseparable from their computers and smart phones. During concerts at Kolarac or in the theatre I have seen people comfortably reclining in their seats, playing with their pets and paying no attention to what goes on at the stage.
That is why the audience has dwindled and without the audience there is no and there should not be Bitef on Film.
When such a decision is made, it is only natural to wander off into the past and reminisce about what used to be. At home, I have my archive about all Bitefs on Film. I leafed through it and remembered many events, films and how I had got them, how they had been received by audience, what had been written about them. To my surprise, I realised something I had not been aware of: a huge number of films, great authors and a sea of information which Bitef on Film had offered its audience.
I closed my album. Pleased, I concluded that one segment of Bitef - Bitef on Film - had performed its mission successfully.
Not every end is sad.