#FNCCities: Želimir Žilnik

Želimir Žilnik (b. 1942, Niš, SRB) is a Serbian filmmaker who became famous for his radical, independent film practice in the late 1960s during the Black Wave era of Yugoslav cinema. His works are characterized by his socially critical views and solidarity with movements against the status quo. In the 21st century, he has been celebrated with major retrospectives around the world and is now considered one of the most important politically engaged European filmmakers of the present day. He reveals the mechanisms of exclusion and oppression with a particular focus on issues of migration.

Žilnik graduated in law from the University of Novi Sad. After graduating from high school, he was a program director at the Youth Tribune in his hometown of Novi Sad, a multidisciplinary cultural center. Between 1977 and 1990, he worked for various Yugoslav public TV stations, reaching a large audience with his political cinema. After making several socially engaged and critical documentaries, his first feature film ‘Early Works’ received the Grand Prix at the Berlin Festival and a lot of trouble with the authorities of the former Yugoslavia, which led to several years of forced guest work in the Federal Republic of Germany.

After problems with censorship in Yugoslavia, Žilnik spent the mid-1970s in Germany, where he produced and directed seven documentaries and one feature film. These films were among the first to deal with the foreign workforce in Germany and are still shown today in various retrospectives and symposia.

Since 2010, his work has been shown in programs at art institutions around the world: including documenta 14, Kassel; Biennale di Venezia; ICA London; Nottingham Contemporary, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Museum Moderner Kunst, MUMOK, Vienna; Centre Pompidou, Paris.