Thursday, April 8, 2010

Knjiga rekorda Sutke (2005) - The Shutka Book of Records

Aleksandar Manic


There is no place like Shutka. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of Macedonia, it is a town full of champions. In Shutka, according to Aleksandar Manic's peculiar and funny documentary, everything is a competition; and there is always a winner, even if the decision is disputed. There's the man with the most money, the woman with the strongest opinions, the guy with the best suits, the greatest lovers, the most powerful music producer, the best bed maker for circumcisions, the best trainer of ganders and the best trainer of pigeons, to name a few. At one point, a townsperson says, “Anyone can make a child, but not just anyone can make a champion pigeon.” Shutka seems to be without much local economy or municipalities. But there's also no trace of hardship. Sure, the people are poor, but they appear happy. Toward the end of the film, one character explains that everyone in Shutka is on welfare, but the town always finds money for weddings and circumcisions. In a sense, Manic's film could be seen as a lesson in making the most of what you've got. It's difficult at times not to question the film's veracity—is there really an annual competition to determine who in Shutka has the most, best and oldest cassette tape collection? But that ultimately seems unimportant (and all available evidence suggests that Shutka is real). What matters is the town's passion and that everyone on screen is just so fully alive. This madcap, yet deeply humanistic documentary film celebrates the idiosyncratic characters that make up Shutka, a small Macedonian town which is home to the largest Roma (Gypsy) community in the world. Its fiercely combative inhabitants compete to have the biggest cassette collection, most suits, strongest gander, fastest dove and the sweetest canary. They also declare they have seen the scariest vampire, are the most sophisticated, and are possessed by the most determined genie. We meet tattooed Uncle Muzo, who compiles the first Roma dictionary and composes love songs; Cousin Jasha and Didara, The Terminator, who both specialise in exorcising evil genies; and Uncle Suljo, the satellite dish selling vampire hunter; some of a host of fascinating oddball characters. Still steeped in their superstitious culture, their love of competition, music and laughter is beautifully captured in the cheerful interviews of our irreverent guide, Doctor Koljo. Over the past 20 years, the migration of the Roma from Eastern Europe into the wealthier western states, mainly Germany or Great Britain, has been perceived as both a social phenomenon and a problem. Western governments have been compelled to spin out strategies as to how to keep the migrating Roma away. Though located in one of the poorest regions of Europe, Shutka is a place apparently nobody wants to leave. After its premier in its home country, The Shutka Book of Records has quickly gained a cult following and the press honoured it by calling it one of the best films ever made about the Roma.


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