The essence of the Parade is distilled into a series of slides which open the film. They explain that many in the former Yugoslavia use pejorative nicknames for each of the other nationalities in the region. But everyone uses the same offensive word for ‘gay’.
As this powerful opening statement suggests, The Parade (Parada) highlights the widespread intolerance throughout Southeastern Europe.
The film revolves around a nationalistic Serbian gangster called Limun. His fiancée refuses to marry him unless he agrees to protect her wedding planner, a gay man called Mirko, and his fellow marchers in the gay pride parade. Limun reluctantly agrees. When all of his Serbian friends abandon him in the endeavour, he embarks on a road trip around the former Yugoslavia accompanied by Mirko’s partner Radmilo. The unlikely pair recruit Limun’s “friends” from the war: a Croat, a Bosniak and a Kosovo Albanian.
In recent years, Serbia has come under fire from human rights organisations for its conservative stance on homosexuality. The Serbian government has repeatedly failed to protect its gay community who have tried to stage gay pride parades year after year. The last pride parade took place in 2010 and resulted in the injury of 207 people. The country’s lack of gay rights is seen as a major obstacle to Serbia’s potential EU accession.
The Parade tackles the sensitive subjects of homosexuality and national tensions in ex-Yugoslavia with a hilarious lack of sensitivity. But its crass characters and rude language don’t detract from the essential message of the film, which is simply that the differences between people are not as important as their basic humanity.
Limun comes to this painfully obvious realisation in a painfully obvious way, uncharacteristic of the rest of the film which is much more artfully written. He has a very sudden epiphany that his new gay friends are the same as so-called “normals” like him. This does, however, only emphasise how difficult it is for many in Serbia to realise this themselves.
The film stresses the systemic nature of homophobia in Serbia, exposing a police force so reluctant to protect the pride parade that the head of the police brutally attacks Limun for trying to help. Earlier in the film, he tells the pride supporters: ‘If we offer human rights to faggots and dykes, even Gypsies and Albanians will ask for them.’ It is not just homosexual people who are persecuted in Serbia.
What is especially noteworthy about the Parade is the way in which the film addresses the war. In Croatia, Limun toasts with his friend to every year of the war, reminiscing as though the years of strife were a time to be cherished. Limun and Radmilo drive around the Balkans in a pink Mini Cooper, a vehicle perpetually subject to abuse. The car experiences a pile-up of graffiti, from ‘peder’ to ‘chetnik’ to ‘State of Kosovo’, all of which its occupants finally learn to ignore. Eventually, the main characters realise that neither sexuality nor nationality is important.
The Parade is an excellent film. It hits all the right notes, with brilliant comedy throughout and a poignant, tragic ending. Gay rights are still a contentious issue, and the film could not have been made without acknowledging the sometimes devastating difficulties homosexual men and women experience in Serbia.
It is a great addition to London’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival and hopefully its London premiere last week will encourage further viewings. It is a film that should be seen by everyone, gay or straight, Serbian or not.
For more information about the film, visit the Human Rights Watch Film Festival website.
Photos courtesy of Filmstar.