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January 29th Cinema Komunisto, the impressive documentary of young Serbian director Mila Turajlic , will premiere in Belgrade…

At the latest edition of the IDFA festival in Amsterdam, the movie was shown in avant-premiere, only four days after the final touches were made to the definite cut, to the international movie industry and press. By which it was received with a very warm welcome, given (e.g.) the fact that Brian Brooks from indieWIRE spotted the film as a candidate for the Sundance Festival, and Rivetingpicturtes from Chicago USA noting on her cinema blog: “Cinema Komunisto is a thoroughly and exhaustively researched film about Josip Broz Tito and his passion for movies. (…) Filmmaker Mila Turajlic spent 5 years researching archival films to put the doc together and it shows. (…). It’s an incredible piece of historical documentary filmmaking that is also an engaging and fascinating story.”

IFA-reporter Serge van Duijnhoven, a former war correspondent in ex-Yugoslavia during the violent nineties, interviewed the young and extremely gifted director during the avant-premiere in Amsterdam. It became a revealing talk about the meaning of cinema, the grand illusion of the communist filmstudios and the country they were made in, about the curse of not learning from one’s history and the envy for a former generation who had the privilige to live in the decors of this sublime illusion where still everything seemed possible and promising. Cinema Komunisto explores the myth that created Yugoslavia, President Tito, the man who directed this fictional story, and how the image and the reality diverged until it all collapsed, leaving behind rotting sets and film clips from a country that no longer exists.

After January 29th, the documentary will be shown at various major movie festivals around the world.


Mila Turajlic was born in Belgrade, Serbia in 1979. Bsc in Politics and International Relations, London School of Economics. BA in Film and TV Production, Faculty of Dramatics Arts in Belgrade. MSc  in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics

Interview took place at the IDFA 2010, Wednesday nov 25th – at Arti et Amicitiae Amsterdam and Pathé Cinema Muntplein16-17h

© Serge van Duijnhoven, IFA 2010/11 – all rights reserved

SvD: You were born one year before Tito died. Did it take somebody of your generation to make such an un-biased documentary about the legacy of cinema and culture that was produced during the communist era of Marshall Tito?

Mila T.: Well… in the first ten years after his death, Tito was still very much alive everywhere in the country where I grew up in. He was still on our classroom walls. We had to celebrate his birthday every year. The change was that after 1991, Tito was suddenly completely erased from everyday life. Almost overnight they took his pics of the wall, changed  them for Milosevic and Saint Sava. He became almost unrecognizable for people even younger than me. They did not know who Tito was anymore. Throughout the nineties and until 2007 you could not find out so much about life in Yugoslavia. And for me it was like when you grow up and you have a very distant memory of it from your childood, and you have a very strong wish to go back to that place and see it again. Because it is not very clear to you. You kind of smell it, but it is gone. And so I really wanted to go back to Yugoslavia. And the only way I could really go back to Yugoslavia, was by watching all those old Yugoslav films. Through them you could really feel the old Yugoslavia. It was a big motivation for me to try and find that country again.

Entrance Gate of Avala Studios in Belgrade

SvD: Did you do this with mainly a cinematographical or a historical interest?

Mila T.: Both. The real motivation for me to make this movie, was when I went to the Avala Movie Studios for the first time. It was during the 1999 Nato bombings, I was studying at Film School, I walked through the opening gate, and it was like walking into a secret garden. I looked behind a wall, and suddenly a whole world was revealed that I had never known existed. . It was immense, a ghost town of abandoned and rotting sets, out-of-date equipment, empty film lots and unemployed technicians. And nobody had ever told me anything about it. Everything was gone, and at the same time still there. The costumes, decors, everything was still in its place. Films had not been made there for almost twenty years. But there were still about a hundred people employed in the studios. Getting a salary. Doing  whatever they wanted to do. Smoking, drinking, talking, making objects of wood or clothes… It was incredible. It felt like a ghost town. I really got the urge right there, to further explore this forgetten Walhalla of film and of all those magnificent movies that were made there during communist Times. But when I started to do research I discovered that there was no proper book about Abala Films Studios. No film ever made. No study done into its meaning or history. No proper archive. There is nothing you can find about the films that were made there. One night I got to this point where I clearly realized that the filmstudios were a metaphore for how Yugoslavia was created and for how Yugoslavia collapsed. From the end of the Second World War the Story of Yugoslavia was given a visual form in the creation of Yugoslav cinema. In a sense the Avala Film studios are the birthplace of the Yugoslav illusion. For me they represent a promising point of departure – that collapsing film sets can reveal something about the collapse of the scenography we were living in. I realised that one could make a whole history of Yugoslavia through the story of these very filmstudios. Because the way they made films is kind of the same as the way they made the country. Yugoslavia ultimately was – as well as these magnificent films that were made there – one grand illusion.  A big story. With Tito as a storyteller.  That’s basically what he did. Tito told the Yugoslav people a really good story. A story people wanted to live in. And when the story-teller died, the country collapsed.

Private screening of movies at Tito’s residence. Jovanka, Tito. Left behind: Leka the personal projector of the marshall.

SvD: Everything connected to the period leading up to the secessional wars of former Yugoslavia, is charged with a heavy load of symbolism. Did it take somebody like you, from a younger generation, to value the things that were to be valued in a more unbiased way?

Mila T.: Indeed I enter this story as a member of a new generation of Yugoslav filmmakers, one that has hazy memories of a country that no longer exists. We come of age surrounded by the ruins of something that is nostalgically referred to as a golden era, but no one has yet offered me a satisfactory insight into how it was all thrown away. We were born too late, and missed that party, but we arrived in time to pay the bill for it. I dont have a stake in offending, accusing Tito or in defending Tito.  In that sense, I really have the liberty to step away and say hey this is a really good story. A funny story, a tragic story. And a story through which one can begin to understand some things better. I am less interested in how the older generations will perceive my movie – they are fucked up anyway. I am more interested in how my and even younger generations will perceive it. How we see it, who did not really get to go to the party. And when studying the archives, it is a proven fact that those older generations were definitely living much better than in other countries reckoned to be part of the Eastern Block or communist Europe. In Slovenia it is very probable that our documentary will be better or at least much differently received than in some other parts of the former Yugoslavia that suffered a lot in the nineties. In Slovenia Tito has grown to be some kind of Che Guevara or pop cultural icon than an austere historical figure. But in Bosnia or Croatia, I know we are going to get very devided opinions. And also in Serbia proper…Absolutely. It is going to be long, long journey with this film. No doubt about it.

Projector Leka at Tito’s statue: the marshall always at one’s right side

SvD: Tell me something about the esthetical point of view regarding your movie.  It is a very intricate working process that you used, with many layers.

Mila T.: One thing I decided very early on was that I wanted to try and use these filmclips of relevance in a way people dont usually use them.  I knew immediately that I wanted my main characters to communicate with the films. And the characters in the film to communicate between them. So I wanted to make this kind of dialogue between the present  and the filmclips and in between the different films, because it would help you see these films in a new light. It helps you to look through the image as well as at the image. And another thing I knew I wanted to do immediately, is use feature films to tell the history. So my whole idea was: can we tell the history of Yugoslavia only through scenes from feature films, without using archives. And for the most part we managed to do that. And when you really put together all these movies that were made in Yugoslavia, you actually get a really good time line of the history of Yugoslavia. Of how it was told on screen. So you get both the history and you get how they chose to tell the history. And once I started doing that, I started to collect films. I managed to find 300 of them that were relevant. Then I started to make a database with them. I watched the film, and then as I watched it I noted the timecode and what was happening. The dialogues, the scenes. Then I would choose the parts of the film that I found very interesting. I would rip them into a moviefile. And then I would make in a database a small card for it. Give the clips a name. Who you see in it. Close up or mass scene. If there is a dialogue.  Funny death. Love. Partisan-German theme Etc. I had about a thousand fivehundred clips in the end. And we used that a lot in the editing to find things. Cause my editor would say to me: now it would be great if we would have two partizans talking about the new Yugoslavia. I would enter New Yugoslavia, and I would find twenty or thirty clips where we would have that. This process of selection and categorization took about two to three years. The editing took one year. The whole movie took us four years to make.

What I focussed on in my documentary, were films that play a part in creating an official narative  of the former Yugoslavia. It was a very known fact that Tito loved cinema and watched a lot of movies. But I wanted to go beyond the anecdotes. I wanted to go down into the story or reality behind these anecdotes. That is why the process of making the documentary was like a detective story in itself. I had to find the traces and evidence of a myth that was once supposed to be real but that had evaporated into air. I found some very powerful and telling traces. Living and material. I found them in the archives. I found them in the people I portray in my movie as main characters of the plot. For example, the main private cinema-projector of Tito who was on standby for 24 hours during thirty years and each day had to choose and project interesting movies for the marshall and his wife in their residences or even during their travels on the Galeb. I found the proof that Tito was very much actively involved in the way Yugoslav epic movies were coming together. I found Tito’s handwriting on some of the scripts scribbling instructions to the directors: a little bit more of this, a little bit less of that. This scene is not accurate, this is how it really was… About 750 movies were shot and produced at the Abala studios during Tito’s regime. Of this huge amount about 300 covered the partizan genre of the second World War and the slavic people resisting the Italian and German occupation. Of those 300 films you only see Tito in one film in a very clever way through archive. And then you see him once again in 1971. Tito did not allow to be shown in these films, as a matter of principle. What is the reason of this? I have no idea.

SvD: In your movie there is a very interesting and revealing fragment of Tito in the company of Richard Burton, on the set of Sutjeska in 1972, talking in rudimentary English, and making a little joke about the airplanes flying over during an intricate movie-scene tip-toeing their wings (“The Germans did not greet us after the bombing, back then! “). And when the joke is made, Burton laughs and waves his head away – distracted by something or somebody else – even though we see Tito still wanting  to finish his joke or add some other comment to the Hollywood actor.

Mila T.: For me, this very scene is the most incredible moment of archive in the movie. At this very moment everything seems to tumble topsy turvy. Suddenly it is not the dictator who is the main star on the set. It is Burton who is the star. Tito becomes like a little shy boy who wants to say something else to the great actor who is standing in his vicinity.  A really incredible moment. And one of the rare if not only instances recorded on film in which we see Tito not as the president, Marshall, war hero or world leader. But as a humbled little child aspiring to be near the world of stardom and fame. It is a moment of revealing truth, almost transcendency. To all people who saw this scene, it sent shivers to their spine.

SvD: Another revealing moment is the one in which we see Orson Welles praising Marshall Tito in the most superlative way imaginable, saying: “If one chooses to determine greatness in a man by leadership, it is a self-evident fact that Tito is the greatest leader on earth.” Was this after Welles had drunk one or several bottles of stara srbska slivovica or croatian stock?

Mila T.: Not at all. Orson Welles had a longstanding relationship with Yugoslavia, which begins in 1924 when world traveler Welles was only nine years old and taken to Dubrovnik by his father, Richard Welles. During the war, Welles was one of the  very first public figures to argue that not the cetniks but the partizans deserved US support in their struggle against the fascists of Mussolini and Hitler. The country furthermore played an important part as well in Welles professional career as his private life, since it became the place where he would not only film The Trial and play in roles in David and Goliath, The Tartars, and Austerlitz (1959-1962), but would also meet his muse and longtime companion Oja Kodar. Between the years 1967 and 1970, Welles would again find himself based in Yugoslavia, (and welcomed by President Tito), while he was filming his own projects in that country, including The Deep and the The Merchant of Venice. Welles appeared as an actor in The Battle of Neretva, which was magnificently scored by his longtime friend, Bernard Herrmann.

Orson Welles came back to Yugoslavia in 1967 to picture Dead Reckoning starring Jeanne Moreau, he sincerely believed  that it was this left wing paradise, the exemple of how you could create a successfull socialist alternative to a capitalist state.

The other and foremost reason Welles favored Yugoslavia was that he had found out that directors could get money there to make films. That the state would support directors in inequivocal ways to realize bigger productions for which loads of material, actors, extra’s and props had to be mobilized, catered and furnished with lodging… Orson Welles came to Avala and offered to make two movies at the studios at the same time. To shoot one film in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I think Orson Welles had a very simplistic view of the hero-partizans and Yugoslav-communism embodied by Tito, but I also think it suited him. Let us not forget that Orson Welles was among the very first to publicly argue that the USA should offer support to the partizans instead of the cetniks in the battle against the fascist occupiers. The comment in honour of the Marshall is very genuine, in the sense that Welles probably really thought that of Tito. Furthermore he might have said it so explicitly, because it might help him realize some of his projects he could not get done elsewhere.

Orson Welles and Josip Broz Tito

SvD; one thing that is extraordinarily touching in your movie is the decay of the Avala studios that is reveiled to the viewer in all its monstrosity toward the end of the story. These shocking images of the rubbles to which this once so illustrous place of cinematographical devotion has fallen to, are the sad and unmistakable climax of the movie.

MilaT.: It is sad, isn’t it? Avala Films is now up for sale – and will most likely be torn down to build an elite business complex. As the studios disappear, I am not convinced that the best way to move forward is to pretend the past never happened.

SvD: “The house we were living in, was bound to explode”, one can hear the sad voice of one of the main characters whisper towards the end of the movie. Was this  confrontation with the ruins of one’s own childhood house, the sentimental focuspoint you were aiming for from the beginning of the movie?

Mila T.:  My overall feeling that is portrayed in my movie, is not one of nostalgia but one of deep sadness. The decay in the filmstudios is a very visual and very physical manifestation of what I feel inside. Here lies something grand that is now literarally rotting away. Somehting glorious that nobody cares about. Those ruins are our tragedy. I mean it is a tragic urge to which us Serbs are enclined over and over again. The fact that we so stubbornly want to erase the past at a given moment, and that we destroy what was built up during years of work, in order to start from scratch all over again. The partizans erased the past to start carte blanche a new era in Yugoslav history from 1945. Milosevic erased the partizans and started from zero in 1991. The Democrats erased Milosevic and started again from zero in 2000.  We are never building on top of things. We are never reaping what we sawed in a positive way. We are always destroying to start again from zero point scratch.

SvD: Is it a Serbian curse, not to learn from its past?

Mila T.: A curse it is. As well as a compulsiveness. Absolutely, yes.  Destroying the past in the name of a new beginning has become the hallmark of our history, and each new break with the past requires it’s re-writing. I can’t say I feel nostalgia for Yusoslavia because I was born too late to see it. And I can’t really say I feel nostalgia for Tito and his communist dogmas. But there is a very strong feeling in me that our parents and grandparents were lucky because they lived in a country that really had an idea, a purpose and an urgency. An idea of whom they wanted to be and belong to as a society, as a country. It gave the Yugoslav people a great sense of direction and purpose of living. I envy them fort hat. Because we live in a country (Serbia) where fifty percent of the people think that Milosevic was a war hero. And fifty percent think he was a war criminal. Fifty percent would be willing to start a new war in order to gain back Kosovo, and fifty percent think we should face reality and work on our future, fifty percent of the people think the future of Serbia lies within the EU and fifty percent of the country believes the EU can fuck off because Europe bombed the hell out of Yugoslavia a decade ago. So we are a completely devided society that has no consensus. About who we are, where we came from, what we did in the nineties, and where we need to go. If there is one thing Serbia could learn and benefit from, it is from this “let’s-do-this” mentality of the Yugoslav era. If there is one thing Serbia would really need at the moment, it is a shared sense of hope and a common direction in which to proceed. So that we could finally overcome our  division and strive that make our country such a lethargic place of poverty and inefficiency. Even to build a highway, the famous corridor 10 which would connect Europe to Greece through Serbia, proved impossible for us.

© Serge van Duijnhoven, IFA 2010/2011. All rights reserved.

Filmposter La Bataille de Neretva, painted by Picasso


Bircaninova 20a
11000 Belgrade
Tel/Fax: +381 11 3619 709



Technical notes

Country of origin: SERBIA
Year of production: 2010
Running time: 100 mins, 2 x 52 mins
Format: HDCam and DigiBETA, 16:9 aspect ratio, color
Language: in Serbian with English subtitles
Filming locations: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia

Credits list

Written & Directed by MILA TURAJLIC




Director of Photography GORAN KOVACEVIC



Graphic designer JELENA SANADER


Additional camera JELENA STANKOVIC

Archive research MILA TURAJLIC




With the financing support of





Developed within the framework of











door Serge van Duijnhoven

België is een staat die sedert 1970 permanent in de renovatiestijgers is geplaatst. Waar kabinetten enkel tot stand komen als ze in het holst van de nacht worden gesloten na het tekenen van compromissen die zo ingewikkeld in elkaar steken dat geen kat de inhoud ervan nog werkelijk kan begrijpen. De huidige politieke crisis is in dit opzicht geen uitzonderlijke situatie maar een gedurige constante van een chronische bestuurlijke ziekte. Of de kanker ook terminale gevolgen zal hebben voor het bestaan van Belgium as we know it? Daarna wacht de totale bestuurlijke chaos met de strijd om Brussel en een afwikkeling van de boedelscheiding waarmee vergeleken het gekibbel over BHV “klein bier” heette te zijn.

Een serieus probleem waarvoor de Belgische democratie zich momenteel reeds gesteld ziet is het feit dat de Belgische bevolking na al die jaren van politieke impasse zijn interesse voor en vertrouwen in de politiek grondig is kwijtgespeeld. Regering of geen regering – het zal de gemiddelde Belg een ziel zijn. Crisis is de normale toestand geworden in het land. NVA-medewerker en voormalig Terzake-journalist Siegfried Bracke schreef eerder in De Morgen (DM 28.09 p.16): “De kloof tussen de Belgische democratieën is zo groot dat vrijwel niemand, zelfs niet de typische Walloniëkenner, echt helemaal kan begrijpen hoe de andere kant “voelt”. Met niet aflatende ijver voedt de Brusselse pers het vijandbeeld over Vlamingen die als Serviers-aan-de-Noordzee niets meer of minder aan het voorbereiden zijn dan de meest verschrikkelijke armoede en ellende voor al wie “Schild en vriend” niet deftig kan uitspreken.” Dave Sinardet, politoloog aan de Universiteit van Antwerpen, bevestigt dat het “blokdenken” momenteel eigenlijk het grootste probleem vormt om in België ueberhaupt nog tot oplossingen te kunnen komen die het regionale of provincialistische belang overstijgen.

Dave Sinardet

Sinardet voorziet dat het virulente “Wij-Zij denken” van de huidige politieke kaste op termijn wel eens katastrofale gevolgen kan hebben als men de eigen principes nimmer in een ruimhartiger perspectief zal weten om te buigen. De atmosfeer zal steeds meer verzadigd raken met onvrede en ongeduld. De mensen zullen – zoals altijd in het geval van historische omwentelingen die onafwendbaar lijken – krampachtig trachten de tijden te versnellen. Wie zal bij de boedelscheiding van het land – ook als het zogenaamde stapsgewijze confederalisme à la De Wever nog een aantal jaren kalmpjes voortgang vindt – aanspraak kunnen maken op de F-16′s en kernwapens van Kleine Brogel? Wat als er een paar heethoofden hun beheersing verliezen en gewapenderhand franstalige burgemeesters uit de rand rond Brussel gaan verdrijven om BHV na zestien jaar palaveren eindelijk kiesrechtelijk te splitsen zoals de grondwet het voorschrijft?

Gelukkig worden de Belgische conflicten uitgevochten met fietstochten in het ommeland, met IJzerwakes, barbecues, debatten, onderhandelingen en vooral veel geniepige plaagstoten. Niemand roept op tot bloedvergieten. Daar staat tegenover dat men daar in het voormalige Joegoslavië anno 1989 ook nog collectief van overtuigd was. Op de Balkan is er een gezegde dat luidt “dat er maar een steen nodig is om duizend scherven te maken”. We passen maar beter op dat die ene steen niet wordt geworpen. Voor je het weet wordt er echt bloed vergoten.

België zal pas werkelijk ophouden te bestaan op het moment dat het land geen premier meer vindt die deze ondankbare c.q. onmogelijke taak nog voor zijn rekening wil nemen. Het land zal niet exploderen maar imploderen oftwel oplossen. Dat is iets waar mijns inziens Bart de Wever ook bewust op uit is. De Wever droomt ervan om op de Belgische politiek de werking te mogen hebben van een  bruistablet. Je gooit een tablet in het glas – het begint te borrelen en bruisen en binnen afzienbare tijd resteert er van het tablet niets meer dan wat spetters aan het oppervlak. Het Belgische vraagstuk voor eens en altijd opgelost in een fris glas medicinaal bronwater. Iedereen wordt er gezonder van.

Bart de Wever: more than just a pound of flesh?                 Bart de Wever: More than just a pound of flesh? 

De Wever heeft de rechter flanken in het Vlaamse spectrum leeggezogen. Het belangrijkste programmapunt van de NVA – de oprichting van een Vlaamse natiestaat – is het minst populaire punt van de partij. Het separatisme is daarom omgekat in de ateliers De Wever tot confederalisme. Een term zo vaag dat die alles en niets kan betekenen. Tovenaarsleerling De Wever – in Vlaasmse kranten onlangs nog vergeleken met Mozes (Als Mozes spreekt luistert Zijn Volk) – is in het warme licht van spots en camera’s met zijn honderd kilo’s verworden tot het Vlaamse troeteldier par excellence. Intelligent welbespraakt recht voor zijn raap koppig boertig en vooral “ene van ons”. Een vadsige koning, dat wel, maar een die niet gespeend van zelfspot zijn persoonlijke défauts op gewiekste wijze in zijn voordeel heeft weten om te zetten.     Haat men of vreest men De Wever aan franstalige zijde?

Mij doet Bart de Wever nog het meest deed denken aan het karakter Shylock uit de komedie The Merchant of Venice van William Shakespeare. Ook de Wever is een ambitieuze man die in een wraakzuchtige obsessie zit opgesloten. We bewonderen zijn onverbiddelijke logica, maar komen erachter dat er al snel enkel onverbiddelijkheid overblijft. Terwijl de franstaligen smeken om solidariteit, slijpt De Wever zijn mes op zijn schoenzool. Hij is net als Shylock een figuur die de wet tot op de letter uitgevoerd wil hebben en die zich niet realiseert dat hij in zijn drammerigheid de grenzen van de wet zelf overschrijdt. In plaats van een testament-executair van een rechtsbeginsel, verwordt hij tot een slachter van de Belgische staat.

Laat het hem maar proberen, de boedel van het land te scheiden met zijn gewette slagersmes van de responsabiliteit en de constitutionele hervormingen – zoals Shylock koste wat kost het volle pond uit de borstkas van Gratiano meende te moeten snijden. Dewever eist, net als Shylock, dat het vonnis geschiedde. Het recht en de geschiedenis moeten hun beloop krijgen. Over de mogelijke gevolgen heeft hij minder nagedacht.

Portia: “Want daar u recht eist, mag u zeker zijn,

Dat u meer recht zult krijgen dan u lief is.”

Maak u dus klaar om ’t vlees eruit te snijden,

Maar stort geen bloed, en neem niet meer of minder

Dan juist een pond, want neemt u meer of minder,

(…), dan sterft u

En al uw goederen worden aangeslagen.

–         vert. Willy Courteaux


De heikele vraag dient opgeworpen of het seperatisme tussen noord en zuid in dit land inmiddels een onomkeerbaar momentum heeft weten te bereiken. En of er ueberhaupt nog politici zijn in het ganse spectrum die bereid en in staat zijn om over de eigen schaduw heen te stappen. En een hand te rijken naar de anderstalige medeburgers van Halfland België. Zijn de vershillen onoverkomelijk geworden? Of eigenlijk altijd al geweest?

Op het eerste gezicht is alles anders aan de overzijde van de taalgrens. Naast de verschillende talen die men spreekt bezitten de gemeenschappen geheel verschillende omroepen die programma’s maken waar de andere taalgemeenschappen nooit en te nimmer naar zullen kijken. Vlaamse prominenten zijn onbekenden in Wallonië. En andersom. De franstaligen hebben een heel andere muziekvoorkeur dan de Vlamingen. Voorts is ook het politieke landschap aan beide zijden van de taalgrens volkomen anders van aard. Behalve de Groenen die met Ecolo een front vormen in de federale politiek zijn alle partijen langs regionale en gewestelijke principes steeds verder van elkaar verwijderd geraakt. Toch ligt het er natuurlijk maar net aan welke ascpecten van de culturele beleving je naar voren wilt brengen.

Bestaat er eigenlijk nog wel zoiets als een “Belgitude” (proef dat woord voor het voorgoed van ons radar verdwijnt)? Een ziel die geheel naar de letter van Boontje op “gespleten en bescheten wijze” in verschillende kompartimenten van afzonderlijke Halflanden is verdeeld? Losse zielen die tot elkaar veroordeeld zijn bij de gratie van dat ene monstrueuze Brusselse waterhoofd van de Siamese tweeling- of drielingenstaat die sedert 1830 bekendstaat als le royaume de la Belgique. De presentatrice was nogal kort door de bocht met haar omschrijving van België als het land van bier, frieten én Suske & Wiske. Kuifje en pralines. Manneken Pis en dEUS. Eddy Merckx en Jacques Brel.

85 procent van de bevolking schijnt zich volgens academisch onderzoek allereerst nog steeds als Belg te willen afficheren. 22 procent voelt zich in de allereerste plaats een Vlaming. Hoogstwaarschijnlijk is er vooral sprake van een gelaagde (lasagne) identiteitsbeleving bij het gros van de bevolking. Men is zowel Hasseltenaar als Limburger als Vlaming als Belg als misschien afstammeling van een Italiaanse immigrantenfamilie die werkzaam was in de Waalse mijnbouwindustrie van (staats!)bedrijven als Union Minière. En die voor het pensioen van de oude stamhoofden dus afhankelijk is van federale (Brusselse) kassen.

De identiteitesbeleving van Belgische bewoners heeft de afgelopen decennia in elk geval radicale veranderingen ondergaan. Brussel is bijvoorbeeld een stad geworden waar letterlijk alle bevolkingsgroepen een minderheidsstatus bekleden. In dat opzicht is de hoofdstad van Belgie en Europa een geografisch en sociaal laboratorium van jewelste. Een levend experiment op een symbolische schaal van anderhalf-staat-tot-driehonderd miljoen. Brussel is de conditio sine qua non van het bestaan en voortbestaan van België. En van Europa als Unie met een agenda van vrede en gemeenschapszin. Maar Brussel is ook een podium van onverholen tweedracht en verachting. Brussel wordt nergens zo gehaat als in Belgie zelf. Zeker door hen die er iedere dag weer naartoe moeten om er te gaan werken in de sick buildings van de overheid. En die dagelijks de file trotseren om zich als loonslaaf te laten vernedereren in een of andere Kafkaeske nationale dan wel internationale instantie in wijken waar men zich uit vrije wil nimmer naartoe zou bewegen.

Brussel(s): het waterhoofd van de Siamese tweelingstaat Belgie

In de algehele stads-sceptische houding vinden Vlamingen en Walen elkaar weer uitstekend. Alleen de eigen klei is goed genoeg om ervan doortrokken te kunnen zijn. Brussel is en blijft het Sodom en Gomorra – het helse secreet waar je je enkel terugtrekt omdat je er fecalische zaken te verrichten hebt. Van een liefde voor Brussel is in gans België geen sprake. Ook niet – zeker niet – vanwege de Vlaamse en Waalse politici die er op en om de Wetstraat dagelijks met elkaar in de clinch gaan. In hun gezamenlijke haat jegens de bureaucratische internationale hoofdstad Brussel tonen zowel Vlamingen als Walen weldegelijk over een gemeenschappelijke volksziel te beschikken. Vlamingen en Walen zijn – of men het nu plezierig vindt of niet – weldegelijk familie van elkaar. Het wederzijdse onbegrip van onze landgenoten heeft het irrationele en allerminst ongevaarlijke karakter van een familievete. Of er bloed zal vloeien of de boel aan diggelen zal vliegen is een kwestie van tijd en – bijgevolg – vooral aan het vermeend gebrek daaraan. Die eerste steen-van-duizend-scherven zal niet eens uit haat of woede worden geworpen. Ongeduld volstaat. Men zal in dit land, zoals in alle tijden van omwenteling, de Tijd krampachtig willen versnellen. Wat er de precieze gevolgen van zijn, kan niemand voorspellen. Maar dat het zover zal komen, valt weldegelijk te voorzien.

©      Serge van Duijnhoven, Brussel