My Uncle's Legacy

  • 1990
  • 1 HR 47 MIN
  • NR
  • Historical

It would seem, from the recent Yugoslavian productions that have received any form of international attention, that a major interest of the Yugoslavian people today is the 1950s, a period of political confusion during which Tito's isolationist policies had some very strong effects on personal lives. The filmmakers who grew up during this period have now...read more

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It would seem, from the recent Yugoslavian productions that have received any form of international attention, that a major interest of the Yugoslavian people today is the 1950s, a period of political confusion during which Tito's isolationist policies had some very strong effects on

personal lives. The filmmakers who grew up during this period have now had the chance to put their experiences on film and are doing just that, making entertaining and thoughtful films in a country primarily known for animation. Like Emir Kustruica's award-winning DO YOU REMEMBER DOLLY BELL? and

WHEN FATHER WAS AWAY ON BUSINESS and like Jovan Actin's HEY BABU RIBA, Krsto Papic's MY UNCLE'S LEGACY concentrates on young people and the effect the political climate of the 1950s had on their lives. As the film opens, an old man (the actor is very badly made up), dressed only in pajamas and

robe, walks through the busy section of a city. This is Uncle Stephan, who has disconnected his life-support system at the hospital and left his bed to ask forgiveness from his nephew, Martin. As Martin himself ponders events that have had a profound effect upon his life, the narrative lapses 36

years into the past. The year is 1952; Martin is a student at a state school and Uncle Stephan an important party dignitary and prime advocate of a collectivist policy of shared wealth and the abolishment of individual enterprise. Martin's grandfather, who raised him after his father died on a

small farm in the North, thinks the new policies ridiculous and refuses to join the commune his son has formed. With these two men's conflicting influences, an indication of the dilemma that exists for Martin is established immediately, and brought into the public arena at school, where he is one

of the brightest students and a devoted member of the Party's youth faction. However, Martin also likes to draw satiric caricatures, which he then displays on the school walls. This gets him into trouble when two of his prime targets, an attractive but dumb blonde and an ignorant oaf who are also

youth party leaders, join forces with a teacher--a slimy sort who has been sleeping with the blonde and is interested in advancing himself politically--to make life miserable for Martin. Their first efforts fail after Uncle Stephan intervenes to reveal the ridiculousness of the charges they bring

against his nephew. But when Martin writes his uncle a letter telling him that there are elements at the school who are destructive to Party ideals and not worthy of the positions they occupy, Stephan in turn writes to the local police inspector, telling him he feels Martin has shown signs of a

growing independence and needs to be taught a lesson. The inspector brings Martin in for questioning and has him spend a night in jail. No real harm is done to Martin until the inspector shows the uncle's letter, in confidence, to the teacher, who uses this to have Martin expelled from both the

Party and the school. In a humiliating inquiry, the letter is read in front of the entire school, Martin's head is shaved, and he is tarred and feathered. In the excitement, the oaf takes out a shotgun and fires at Martin as he leaves the school. A bullet ricochets off a rock and strikes Martin in

the genitals. Martin is castrated, and this is his uncle's "legacy." Back in the present, the mature Martin, now a successful writer and social critic, indicates that it is the memories of this time--when he was in love with a girl at the school who fled to Italy after witnessing his humiliation,

never to return to Yugoslavia--that has kept him going and provided the motivation for all his writings.

Notwithstanding its concentration upon political issues, MY UNCLE'S LEGACY is also filled with lively and likable (as well as not so likable) characters, whose personalities are woven together realistically and entertainingly. It is the people who become important and not the politics--itself a

political statement. Harm is done only through blind allegiance to empty, symbolic slogans that hide other ills, and by opportunists who use them to protect and further their own self-interests. In this respect, the film is a powerful critique of the Yugoslavian political system of the 1950s. MY

UNCLE'S LEGACY was a multiple winner at the Pula Festival of Yugoslavian Films and earned Davor Janic the Best Actor award at the Montreal Film Festival. (In Yugoslavian; English subtitles.) (Sexual situations, profanity, brief nudity.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: It would seem, from the recent Yugoslavian productions that have received any form of international attention, that a major interest of the Yugoslavian people today is the 1950s, a period of political confusion during which Tito's isolationist policies had… (more)

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