Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fresh Prince of Bel Grade

Yesterday, the Embassy had arranged for a private tour of the Royal Palaces. My entire office went, and, on a very hot Friday afternoon, we were part of what turned out to be a fairly small group.

Just outside downtown, maybe 10 minutes drive, the palaces--there are two, the Royal Palace and the White Palace, were built in the 1930s by King Aleksander. After the war, Tito made them his residence, and they were subsequently co-optd by Slobodan Milosevic, who received Richard Holbrooke there many times during the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. After Milosevic was ousted, the palaces were returned to the royal family, and they now enjoy some sort of quasi-governmental status

The palaces would look familiar to anyone who has visited Biltmore or one of the grand mansions built in the US during Jay Gatsby's era. The Crown Prince, who one of my staff told me is nicknamed "Google translate" for his poor Serbian, was not there on Friday, and the guide told us that his absence would give us a chance to look at his office, which included a host of dusty bookshelves, family photos and a huge wooden desk.

"What kind of computer does the crown prince use?" I asked the guide.

"Oh, he mainly receives visitors here," she told me. "Most of the living is downstairs."

"I just wanted to know if he was a Windows or an Apple guy," I told her, as we were leaving.

"I think," she said, "he is Apple guy."

The next room was a screening room, where apparently Tito like to watch movies from an easy chair on the balcony. Everyone else sat below.

"What kind of movies did Tito like?" I asked.

"He loved westerns," she told me. "John Wayne."

The rugged individualism of  the Duke seems a little at odds with the collectivist philosophy of Yugoslavia, but I guess there's no denying the power of a good story, and the iconic value of a man on a horse, six-gun by his side.

Turns out there was a 2011 film, Cinema Kommunisto, that detailed Tito's attempts to create a Yugoslav film industry. The website for the film is here. It won best documentary at the Chicago Film Festival in 2011. Here is a Guardian article on the film from last year. I cannot find the interview with his projectionist. Perhaps Young Jeezy can help.

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