'Mamarosh': Film Review

Wonderful lead performances and sly touches of droll humor enliven this festival award winner.

A middle-aged projectionist and his elderly mother escape war-torn Serbia in Momcilo Mrdakovic's black comedy.

“I’m a Serb and a coward,” announces middle-aged film projectionist Pera (Bogdan Kilick) at the beginning of Momcilo Mrdakovic’s deliciously droll black comedy. Concerning the travails of its central character and his loving mother in the aftermath of the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, Mamarosh combines a warm humanism with incisive characterizations and wonderful doses of sly humor. A multiple award winner on the festival circuit, the film could well find an art house audience when it lands domestic distribution.

As the story begins, Pera is still living with his elderly mother Mara (Mira Banjac) in Belgrade, where they run a small film theater. Coping with rampant corruption -- “Don’t be ashamed of your poverty,” a policeman tells them after receiving their petty bribe for letting them off for a minor offense -- they find their livelihood taken away when the army confiscates their film projectors.

Having won a Green Card lottery, Pera and his mother attempt to move to the U.S. -- New York City, specifically -- only to have her entrance denied when a custom official explains that “a mother is not considered a close relative.” They manage to stay in the country anyway, holing up in a small apartment with a friendly fellow countryman who made the transition years earlier, and the mother even manages to become a minor celebrity when she’s given the opportunity to showcase her country’s traditional dishes on a local television cooking show.

Pera is not so lucky, finding that his profession has become virtually extinct with the advent of digital film projection. Applying for a job at a Times Square multiplex, he’s told by his prospective boss, “There’s no film … it’s a video projection of software content.”

 “What an awful phrase,” Pera replies.

Reminiscent of Cinema Paradiso in its sentimental paean to the glories of projected film images, Mamarosh is consistently engaging, filled with such touches of surreal humor as when a bear is seen emerging from the trunk of a car after a crash. Director-screenwriter Mrdakovic provides a palpable warmth to the proceedings, with the characters responding to the numerous obstacles placed in their path with wry good-natured humor and mutual affection. Diklic and Banjac are wonderful in the central roles, delivering understated turns that make movingly clear the close mother/son bond that enables them to survive in the toughest of times.

Production: Paprika film, Corazon International, Mythberg Films

Cast: Mira Banjac, Bogdan Diklic, Anita Mancic, Bane Vidakovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Goran Radakovic, Misa Samolov, Dragan Bjelogrlic

Director/screenwriter: Momcilo Mrdakovic

Producers: Fatih Akin, Klaus Maeck, Igor Turcinovic, Momcilo Mrdakovic

Directors of photography: Janos Vecsernyes, Dusan Ivanovic, Gerard Brigante

Editors: Vessela martschevski, Nemanja Tasic, Rade Popovic

Production designer: Nicolas Locke

Costume designers: Sofija Mesicek, Bojana Nikitovic

No rating, 106 minutes

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