Serbia: Father, Sdran Golubovic, 2020

By: Claus Mueller, Senior Editor

Premiering in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival, FATHER by Sdran Golubovic won several awards for its realistic portrayal of a father’s struggle to reclaim his children, removed from him because the local welfare officer declared him incompetent to take care of them. Nikola is an underemployed semi-skilled blue collar worker, denied the compensation he was owed when he lost his last job. Because of the seemingly insurmountable problems they face, his wife tries to kill herself and is admitted to the hospital. Both children are placed with foster parents. Without overtly expressing his anger and pain, Nikola decides to secure justice in the capital.


To get his children back, Nikola plans to appeal to the minister of justice in person, 300 kilometers away in Belgrade. Nikola, lacking any funds to pay for the trip, walks the entire way. Just as with his home town officials, he struggles to have his case heard in Belgrade. At the ministry, he gets some breakfast and promises of action by a well clad senior functionary. There is media coverage, and some provide him food while he sleeps in the entrance of the ministry. Golubovic sequences the narrative in a subdued and perfectly timed manner. Except for the emotions Nikola shows when he sees his children again, he remains immured in himself. The audience learns from the story that there is widespread Serbian unemployment, prevailing official corruption, contempt by officials for workers, little concern for the wellbeing of children, and no help when poverty strikes parents. After Nicola’s return home, the welfare official refuses to let him see his children, threatens to prosecute him, and claims to have more power than the minister. The official had apparently placed many children into foster care, collecting about a third from foster parents of what they received from the government. Nikola refuses to leave the welfare office until he meets his kids. When he returned home, his small house had been stripped bare of his possessions by the neighbor. They assumed Nikola had left for good but readily surrendered what he owned. Given the socio-economic context of contemporary Serbia, prospects for restoring his family are grim.


 

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