Želimir Žilnik: Short Films

Thursday, October 05

6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. CDT

Gene Siskel Film Center Theatre 1, 164 N State St

Zelimir Zilnik, INVENTORY, 1975. Courtesy of the artist.Želimir Žilnik, INVENTORY, 1975. Courtesy of the artist.

Join us for three programs of films by renowned Serbian director Želimir Žilnik, including his essential early shorts (Thursday, October 5, 6:00 p.m.), groundbreaking mid-career queer feature MARBLE ASS (1995) (Friday, October 6, 6:00 p.m.), and recent award-winning feature on the struggles of immigrants and refugees, LOGBOOK SERBISTAN (2015) (Saturday, October 7, 1:00 p.m.). Žilnik will introduce both MARBLE ASS and LOGBOOK SERBISTAN and discuss the ideas, people, and experiences that have shaped his singular process. 

For more than 50 years, renowned Serbian director Želimir Žilnik has produced a body of trailblazing and politically committed films. A key member of Yugoslavia’s rebellious Black Wave film movement of the 1960s and a pioneer of docufiction, Žilnik’s perspective was shaped by atrocity at the hands of Nazis, Yugoslavia’s turbulent history and dissolution, and periods of exile. Over the years, he has used his camera to explore the experiences of outsiders of all kinds, depicting complicated social and political realities from a distinctly human perspective.

This program brings together four of Žilnik’s most powerful and innovative short films, all made in the 1970s. Shot in Yugoslavia and West Germany, each captures the experiences of people living on the outskirts of society—from unhoused men in communist Novi Sad to villagers left to defend themselves against Nazis during WWII–-through reenactment, improvisation, repetition, and dark humor.

BLACK FILM is an early example of Žilnik's political engagement, expressed through his decision to provide shelter to a group of unhoused men in his family’s small apartment. While his guests enjoy themselves, the filmmaker presses social workers, government officials, police, and even ordinary citizens for a more permanent solution. When his camera captures their indifference, his film becomes an indictment against the powers that be. (1971, Yugoslavia, DCP, 14 minutes / In Serbian with English subtitles)

Residents of Jazak, a small village in eastern Yugoslavia, reenact the ways they resisted Nazi forces during WWII—hiding guns, cutting telegraph wires, sabotaging food, and caring for Partisan soldiers. Žilnik’s camera captures stories of atrocity and grief alongside those of solidarity and mutual aid. (1973, Yugoslavia, 35mm, 18 minutes / In Serbian with English subtitles)

A short structural documentary experiment that takes stock of “guest workers”—Yugoslavs, Italians, Turks, and Greeks—living in an old building in the center of Munich. (1975, West Germany, 16mm, 9 minutes / In multiple languages with English subtitles)

Žilnik takes his camera to Šabac Fair, one of the largest flea markets and festivals in the Balkans, to meet with the people who run it. Cutting between tradespeople, performers, musicians, and fair employees, Žilnik highlights its chaotic and cooperative community. (1977, Yugoslavia, 16mm, 30 minutes / Serbian with English subtitles)

Presented in partnership with the The Center for Eastern European and Russian/Eurasian Studies at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) School of Literatures, Cultural Studies, and Linguistics, and UIC’s School of Art and Art History.


Želimir Žilnik is an artist-filmmaker from Novi Sad, Serbia. He has made more than 50 feature and short films which have been exhibited internationally. 
Žilnik has been the subject of major career film retrospectives at Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2019; Cinemateca Argentina, 2018; Mar del Plata International Film Festival, 2017; Anthology Film Archive, New York, and Harvard Film Archive, 2017; Ankara International Film Festival, 2016; Doclisboa, 2015; Arsenal, Berlin, 2015; CINUSP, São Paulo, 2014; Thessaloniki International Film Festival, 2014; and more. His work has also been featured at Documenta, Kassel; Venice Biennale; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien; Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art; Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Renaissance Society, Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst, Oldenburg’ Lentos Art Museum, Linz; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Deutsches Historisches Museum and Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome; among others.



$13 General public
$8 Students with a valid ID
$6.50 Film Center members
$5 SAIC faculty & staff & AIC staff
Free for SAIC students

Unless otherwise noted, SAIC student tickets are released five days prior to showtime. Tickets must be picked up in person from the Gene Siskel Film Center box office. A student ID is required.


CATE events are presented with real-time captions (CART). Hearing loops, wheelchair accessibility, and companion seating are also available at the Gene Siskel Film Center. For other accessibility requests, please visit saic.edu/access or write cate@saic.edu.


Conversations at the Edge is SAIC’s award-winning media art series, organized by the Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation in partnership with the Gene Siskel Film Center and Video Data Bank. For more information, visit saic.edu/cate.