"What distinguished Keca from the post-World War II generation of the 60s, the post-Vietnam generation of the 80s, and perhaps from his own post-Soviet Union generation, is a lack of accusation. Here is a director looking for a truth he does not seem to have found before making his film. Indeed, Keca is reluctant to tear conclusions from the sometimes shocking accounts of the people he interviews. In that, his film differs from the inculpating discourse of other films exploring the past. (...) Keca forces one to raise one's eyebrows in astonishment. Reality is banal. There might have been a war, massacres, and expulsion but after all, it's all about keeping one's house, driving a car, raising a family. Why one might go out to kill people is a second degree question. In Keca's film, it seems almost beside the point." - Moritz Pfeifer | read more »
"The National Film and Television School produced a bumper crop of documentaries in 2011, including this sumptuous visual exploration of Dubai. Director Keca balances the stunning landscapes of the city – from its beautiful but brutal sand dunes to the innumerable glittering towers of Babel that line the empty streets – with the earthy sweat of the people who live and work there, in glorious luxury or abject poverty." - Dylan Cave | read more »
"Srdjan Keca’s film is an intimate insight into his own family, an exploration of the past and a way to deal with his father's death, while it is also a struggle to understand both him and his story during the Balkan war. The film is unique also because it unveils recent history of the region - history hidden well from the rest of the world and still an enigma, or taboo to many people." | read more »
"In the modern digital age, VHS film can serve the same purpose Super 8 served twenty or thirty years ago: it inevitably provokes nostalgic feelings. Nostalgia does not stem from the attitude that "the old times were better". It is the result of the fact that we were younger in the past, and most of us remember our youth as our best days - even if objectively we were poorer then, or had some very negative experiences. Add old black-and-white photographs and you have fertile ground on which to build a very personal story about growing up, experiencing adolescence, and moving on to adulthood in the turmoil of the former Yugoslavia.
Keca's father was a volunteer in the Serbian army in the bloodiest massacre of the war in Croatia, the siege of Vukovar. Asking questions that go a long way towards explaining the issue of collective guilt, he interviews his father's friends and relatives who also volunteered to go to this slaughterhouse. They still stubbornly hold on to old opinions, perhaps unable or unwilling to admit to a different reality - and they didn't have an easy life after the war either, on the contrary - but the director asks the right questions, and not only in a verbal way. His attention to detail in the interviews he shot, including those with his mother, reveals a brave attitude and the courage to investigate deeper than the words his subjects say." - Vladan Petkovic in DOX #95 - Autumn 2012 | read more »
"Keca is aided by an impressive legacy of letters, photos, and video footage taken and saved by his father, though things get a little murky surrounding his father’s later participation in the war. Earnest interviews with Keca’s mother, his alcoholic uncle, and two of his dad’s oldest friends, compliment Marinko’s footage and propel the gripping narrative toward unexpected discoveries. Throughout, Keca engages a keenly poetic style as he narrates this profoundly personal essay; “Hey Dad, Mum still believes or wants to believe that you had to go... - WM | read more »
"Not for nothing is Keca commited to the French essay-filmmaker Chris Marker as his source of inspiration: Like many works of the great idol, A Letter to Dad also acts like a kaleidoscopic composite patchwork of impressions and intimate finds. Nothing seems to have been planned in advance, but rather assembled by the director from findings on an intuitive exploration: fragments like photographs, video recordings, letters, different locations and conversations with relatives and friends of his father. These he ties with a voice-over - similar as in Sans Soleil - presented as a letter written to his father.
Although Keca does question facts in some places, his fathers unclear motives for voluntary participation in the war and the subsequent divorce being turning points, A Letter to Dad is far from any political or moral intentions. Instead, it has become a film that always seems to emphasize that the most important of all is what the first glance shows, pragmatic objects and their personal or collective historical significance for the people. | read more »
Play-Doc Interview: Mirage
"In a very simple, understated way, Keca, in the language of cinema, traverses past and present, weaving some kind of bridge between the two with his lens. (...) There were many expert and subtle storytelling touches, particularly notable in the way in which he crafts the interviews with the three most important men in Marinko's life: his best friend, his business partner, and his brother, the filmmaker's uncle. All of them tell Srdjan outright that they can't, and won't, talk about certain things regarding the war. And then, to a man, they each proceed to deliver deeply emotional soliloquies about their own experiences, and those of Keca's father, a man they profoundly loved and respected. He even gets them, in essence, to direct their own scenes: "OK. Now you hold the camera. I'll start the engine, and we'll go slowly," says his father's friend as they're shooting on his boat. (...) This is rich storytelling, and the jury prize is a well-deserved nod to a deep thinker, one that has left behind a career in theoretical physics (of all things), to pick up a camera. Gracefully edited by Katharine Lee, Srdjan and Marinko Keca, father and son, crafted this film together in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Romania over the course of twenty-two years, almost three-quarters of the filmmaker's lifetime. As Srdjan notes at one point, both men hide behind the camera lens, their mutual concealment perhaps tying them complicitly together as fellow travelers through the ravages of their region's past." - Pamela Cohn at Dokufest | read more »
"… Srdjan Keca’s After the War (Serbia) [is] a 47-minute documentary produced at Atelier Varan Belgrade. Shot in southern Kosovo in the mountains above Prizren, the documentary took months to complete and was completed only after repeated visits had been made to mountain villagers to win their confidence. In an isolated corner of Kosovo live an Islamic minority of Slavic origin, the Gorani, a people without a country of their own. What had kept them together and protected them for centuries was their homeland, the Gora mountains of southern Kosovo, located today along the borders to Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania. Unfortunately for the Gorani, Muslim in religion, they chose to fight mostly on the side of the Serbs in order to avert an onslaught by Serb police units. Today, surrounded by the Albanian majority, the Gorani are faced with the alternative of emigration — or reintegration, provided those dark memories of the Kosovo War can be forgotten. To Srdjan Keca’s credit, he documents the uncertainty of a people’s predicament without taking sides." | read more »
"One of the most remarkable and moving documentaries filmed in Serbia since 2000. Rummaging through the memories of his father, the protagonist comes across some details that shed a different light on his parent, who at one point in his life decided to participate as a volunteer in the siege of Vukovar. A “triviality” that many would rather omit from a casual friendly chat and even more so from a documentary. But Srđan Keča boldly explores and reconstructs the period of his life which had coincidentally remained in the “blind spot” of memory. Keča actually does at the individual level what is necessary to occur at a larger level in Balkan societies. And film is the medium used to communicate that message.." | read more »
"Interestingly, the film last year that most closely resembles the Ghost Protocol of Tom Cruise and Brad Bird is a small documentary called Mirage (2011), by a young Serbian director Srdjan Keca. This film also takes place in Dubai and is a documentary of testimonies of workers around the world ending in the new Asian metropolis in search of survival, a bit like what happened in The World (Shijie, 2004) of Jia Zhang-ke. But of all the images in the film It highlights a particularly powerful. A huge sequence level (which should occupy one third of the film) in which the camera sits in the seats of a train that runs heavily throughout the city. Thus we see the dramatic skyline that is forming in this miracle emerged in the midst of an infinite desert, due to the whim of the masters of the oil. The image is spectacular as well as breathtaking and serves countershot the frenzy of the adventures of Ethan Hunt. Finally, after all, both are composed mostly of two elements: skyscrapers and sand." - Miguel Blanco Hortas | read more »
"In the film Srdjan Keca marks himself as a visual artist of some stature, composing a long-form portrait of a city that goes some significant way beyond the sneery cliche’s and opposing PR feeds that have defined Dubai in recent years. The picture is humane and penetrative, suggesting levels of documentary access and trust that are seldom achieved at this level of film-making. It is as he claims, an iconography; austere, stark and lacking in the kind of perspectivism that often just serves to create self-serving drama in less thoughtful documentaries. There is a startling lack of judgement in the camera, and what little there is that smacks of a moral stance is outweighed by the overriding sense of careful puzzled observation. The film is steady but never settles, it shifts uneasily, with a laboured gaze but the sincerity of that view is never compromised. It is a work of startling insight and impressive control which in its sanity, exposes the madness and sadness of its midas-like, prematurely aged subject." | read more »