euronews talks films and Balkans with Slavoj Zizek

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euronews talks films and Balkans with Slavoj Zizek

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Of all Europe’s thinkers, Slavoj Zizek is one of the most outspoken. The Slovenian’s philosophical works include thoughts on such diverse topics as Lenin, the Iraq war, cyberspace, globalisation and Alfred Hitchcock. Euronews caught up with him at the Sarajevo Film Festival, seen as a key event in rebuilding the Bosnian capital’s self confidence after the conflict of the 1990s. Zizek gave his thoughts on cinema and the Balkans.

euronews: Welcome Mr Slavoj Zizek. As a guest of the Sarajevo Film Festival, what do you think is the role of movies and cinema in today’s society?

Slavoj Zizek: Firstly I am still an old-fashioned Marxist so I think that cinema is today a field of ideological struggle, some struggle is going on there and we even can see this clearly with regard to post Yugoslav horrible war; we have some of the films from here which are authentic but unfortunately the biggest successes were not authentic. By this I mean for examples Emir Kusturica’s “Underground.” I think that film is almost tragic – I would not say misunderstanding falsification – in the sense that: what image do you get of ex-Yugoslavia from that film? A kind of a crazy part of the world where people have sex, fornicate, drink and fight all the time; he is staging a certain myth which is what the West likes to see here in Balkans: this mythical other which has been the mythical other for a long period.

euronews: How do you explain this phenomenon?

Slavoj Zizek: One, you can say ironically that the Balkans is structured like the unconscious of Europe – “Das unbewuste Europas.”

Europe puts and projects all its dirty secrets, obscenities and so on onto the Balkans which is why my formula for what is going on in the Balkans is not. People usually say they are caught in their old dreams, they can not face ordinary post-modern reality. No, I would say they are caught into dreams but not into their own dreams – into European dreams. You know the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze had a wonderful saying where he says: “Si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l’autre, vous êtes foutu” – if you are caught into another persons dream you are you are f*****… you are finished – so the cinema should precisely show (this sensibility), the fact that eccentric folkloric at some places may appear we are all part in a global world.

euronews: Sarajevo is also a symbolic city for multiculturalism – but you have your very own opinion about multicultural tolerance, haven’t you?

Slavoj Zizek: I think here we had enough of this multicultural ideology, which for me at least is often an inverted racism – namely for example when people come here – typically multiculturalists would say: “Oh I want to understand how you are different.” No, what you should understand is that fundamentally they are not different here – just different things happened to them and to make it tolerable for us who were happy to avoid the war, in the West we made them different. We need today codes of discretion, not more understanding. I think we should totally object to this liberal blackmail; we should understand each other – no the world is too complex we can not – I hate people, I don’t want to understand people. I want to have a certain code where I don’t understand your way of life and you don’t understand mine but we still can coexist.

euronews: Why can one also perceive here (in Sarajevo) disappointment after the arrest of Radovan Karadzic?

Slavoj Zizek: The true tragedy is – as some intelligent Bosnian politician pointed out, that Karadzic basically succeeded – His basic program was that a big part of Bosnia should be reserved ethnically cleansed for Serbs – this is what effectively happened: The Republika Srpska is 51% of the territory and they have less than 10 % of others, non Serbs, this was Karadzic’s program. So the irony is: this is like Cesar died, Cesar won… for this it’s too late – this is the hypocrisy: you condemn the guy, the project succeeded.