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BERLIN – Gay-bashing and the aftermath of civil war are not the easiest subjects to turn into a comedy, but Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic manages to do just that with The Parade, in which a homophobic gangster and a homosexual veterinarian form an unlikely alliance to save a gay pride parade in Belgrade.
Laugh-out-loud funny, brilliantly acted and, towards the very end, also deeply moving, the film deserves all the attention it is sure to get at festivals and in some European arthouse-runs, but will prove a marketing challenge with mainstream audiences.
The Parade starts with a meet-cute at gunpoint, when gangster Lemon (Nikola Kojo) rushes his beloved pitbull terrier to the local pet-clinic and demands prompt service from timid veterinarian Radmilo (Milos Samolo). The two part soon thereafter, but are fated to meet again, as every major character in this film is so inextricably linked to everybody else that one quickly assumes Belgrade to be a small hamlet and not a teeming metropolis. When Lemon’s fiancée Pearl (Hristina Popovic) demands that he use his influence and muscle to protect a gay pride parade that Radmilo’s activist boyfriend Mirko (Goran Jevtic) is organizing, the former soldier suddenly finds himself ostracized by his peers and must now recruit his former foes from Bosnia, the Kosovo and Croatia.
Director Dragojevic handles this deft comedy with a sure hand and complete avoidance of political correctness – going so far as to explaining the racial slurs of the separate nationalities and the homophobic one shared by all in the title credits – but still manages to keep all characters sympathetic throughout the film. This involves some glossing-over, as he replaces the atrocities the war by funny stories amongst former enemies, but also involves brilliant touches, like revealing the latent homosexuality behind overbearing machismo, down to Lemon’s love for William Wyler’s Ben Hur and design touches in his office that would not even fly in West Hollywood.
He is also helped by a brilliant cast, led by Kojo, who endows the stoic Lemon with an undeniable decency and Samolo, whose efforts to hide his sexuality are funny and touching at the same time. Popovic also excels as Pearl, delivering a ball-busting performance as a gangster-moll longing for respectability.
Production values are top-notch, with Dusan Joksimovic delivering crisp and colorful images of a city still scarred by war and Igor Perovic’s score moving the action along rather nicely and keeping the more dramatic moments from becoming too dark.
Bottom line: Hilarious, raunchy comedy about a gay pride parade in Belgrade and a homophobic gangster charged with protecting it.
Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special)
Production companies: Mainframe, Sektor Film, Forum Film Ljubljana, Film & Music Entertainment
Cast: Nikola Kojo, Milos Samolov, Hristina Popovic, Goran Jevtic, Goran Navojec, Toni Mihailovski, Dejan Acimovic, Matasa Marcovic
Director: Srdjan Dragojevic
Screenwriter: Srdjan Dragojevic
Producers: Biljana Prvanovic, Srdjan Dragojevic
Co-producers: Dejan Jocic, Igor Nola, Vladimir Anastasov, Eva Rohrman,
Nikola Kojo, Mike Downey
Director of photography: Dusan Joksimovic
Production designer: Kiril Spaseski
Costumes: Stefan Savkovic, Jelena ?or?evic
Editor: Petar Markovic
Music: Igor Perovic
Sales agent: Wide Management
No rating, 115 minutes
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