Film: Bastards of Utopia, directed by Maple Razsa and Pacho Velez
Waterville, ME: EnMasse Films, 2010, 56 min.
Bastards of Utopia is the story of three young Croatian anarchists (Fistra, Dado and Jelena) struggling to change the world amid the aftershocks of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the bloody wars in the former Yugoslavia. Based on a decade of field work by Harvard-trained anthropologist Maple Razsa and co-director Pacho Velez, the film accurately documents an important period in the history of the Croatian anarchist movement, carefully places warm personal stories in relation to global anti-capitalist struggles, and astutely explores important universal questions. Classified as a documentary educational resource, the film is well suited for courses in subjects ranging from gender, anti-globalisation and social movements to ethnography and anthropology.
Anarchists are usually depicted as aggressive, masked militants who mindlessly cause trouble and destroy property. In contrast, Bastards of Utopia provides a more rounded insight into anarchists' everyday lives and activism, thus providing a balance between the personal and the political, the intimate and the public, the local and the global, the documentary and the critical. The film is organised around a number of central episodes. A smooth story-line provides an excellent background for presenting the best features of the film: small, often brilliant snippets of conversation, actions and everyday activities such as getting arrested at anti-globalist riots and cleaning the kitchen.
Immediately after meeting the protagonists, it is obvious that their relationships with the film-makers are ones of close friendship and solidarity. In the first episode, protagonists and film-makers embark on a journey to Thessaloniki in order to participate in anti-capitalist protests. The film critically analyses their motivations and it soon becomes clear that the protagonists are much more passionate about building social alternatives than about rioting. In the second episode they squatted an abandoned building and established an anarchist free shop. (Those familiar with the history of local anarchist movements will also notice that this is one of the earliest documented attempts of squatting in Croatia.) Learning the hard lesson that anarchist politics is always personal and that anarchist personality is always political, the film-makers leave Croatia for a couple of months--and return several...