While some filmmakers use archival material to set a certain context for their stories and introduce documentation from the past (often without modifying the original footage), other audio-visual artists tend to question the collected images by dissecting or even reshaping them. Suddenly, the same archival footage may alter our historical and socio-political heritage or give new perceptions on what was. Applied to the case of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) – a country that is no longer an official country on paper since its tragic dissolution in the 1990s, but that is still alive in collective cultural memory – archival footage represents today one of the main tools to evoke, exploit, and reconsider prior events or facts, and to understand how these were initially articulated. For instance, by analysing mainstream media or popular series as well as feature films from the contemporary perspective, it is clear that the goal of produced “myths” was to condition the population through manners that today have new connotations. Indeed, thirty years after SFRY’s collapse and twenty years after the “Dark Nineties”1 appears as a reasonable time frame to discuss previous circumstances in retrospective. Simultaneously, the current socio-political system repeats some old patterns, which is an additional reason to look closely at archival material and avoid falling in the same traps designed by people who have the power to control official narratives and constantly revise history. According to Sanjin Pejković, documentaries that avoid critically studying the Yugoslav past can reinforce false or biased beliefs, especially among “generations who have not had the chance to remember the country, but are building their autobiographies through ‘mediated memories.’”2

The complexity of the phenomenon called Yugonostalgia – widely discussed since the early 2000s3 and still evolving as concept – therefore brings many ambiguous concerns, particularly in the field of found footage techniques. Specifically, how do (in)voluntarily forgotten moving images, such as private home videos or “formal” TV news broadcast on a national channel, reappear as attractive documents? Are these documents recycled, aestheticised, or fetishised and if so, how do authors arrange and edit them? After briefly evoking various contemporary productions that revive old audio-visual documents, my focus will be on a selection of video works by the artistic duo Doplgenger (Isidora Ilić and Boško Prostran). Forms of deconstructed or transformed memories will be discussed by situating the used documents as a paradox between denial, regret, and criticism; fiction and nonfiction; as well as the multiplying facets of history that can be manipulated all over again.

In feature films where (Yugo)nostalgia is rather commercialised and celebrated as a bittersweet longing for the past, archival footage is implemented to situate the fiction and bring back repressed or suppressed elements to the local audience. Hence, apart from scenography and costume design, archival footage contributes to the authenticity of the narration and triggers a series of emotions through its reminiscence, as the confronted audience recognises the moving images, perhaps even from their own experience. For example, in the opening credits scene of Stanje šoka (State of Shock, Andrej Košak, 2011), archival footage – mainly coming from Slovenia’s national public broadcasting organisation (RTV Slovenija) – leads us chronologically through the stages from socialism to capitalism, as the main character falls into a coma right before Yugoslavia’s disintegration. The first part of the footage shows well-known communist parades, red flags with a hammer and sickle, people on the streets celebrating Workers Day, Tito’s happy face, and productive factories. In another sequence, to mark the passage of time, we see condensed scenes of Slovenia’s, Serbia’s, and Croatia’s leaders announcing the end of the SFRY, followed by disturbing images – as familiar as the previous ones – of the wars in the 1990s and their consequences: bombed buildings, women fleeing their lands, mutilated children, cemeteries. Similar to subliminal messages, these flashbacks are extremely short, but melt into each other in a way that efficiently reminds the audience of these historical events.

Almost the same collage effect is found in the last episode of the TV miniseries Porodica (The Family, Bojan Vuletić, 2021), depicting Slobodan Milošević’s arrest in 2001. In a powerful scene, archival footage from the wars in the 1990s appears while we hear the Yugoslav patriotic song “Zemljo moja” (“My Country”) performed in 1975 by Ismeta Krvavac from the pop group Ambasadori – allegedly Tito’s favourite song, and a symbol of Yugoslavia. This type of subtle editing provokes “cognitive dissonance” because contradictory components are mixed together, forming a new meaning and generating discomfort.4

On a lighter note, in the opening credits of the TV series Crno-bijeli svijet (Black and White World, Goran Kulenović, 2015-2021), set in Zagreb in the early 1980s, we see a funky and playful collage of archival shots reporting daily activities in the city. Composed in fragmented screens, these images are accompanied by the musical background of the famous eponymous song “Crno-bijeli Svijet”, released in 1980 and performed by the Croatian rock band Prljavo kazalište. The lyrics refer to the banality of everyday life, describing a monochrome world, which is in direct opposition with the bright and happy colours of the images, typical for the style of the 1980s. The chosen footage is a mixture of ordinary citizens in public space, buildings, mass gatherings, cultural events such as concerts, political congresses, and similar happenings. Nothing disturbing about it, except some “hidden inside-jokes” for those members of the audience who remember waiting for hours in the queue for groceries, or seeing gas stations out of fuel. But even these details are difficult to catch because of the quick rhythm, suggesting that these problems were minor after all, since everybody was supposedly happy. Such a nostalgic introduction depicts the atmosphere of a certain lifestyle through clothes and public transportation, setting an adequate background for a feel-good comedy-drama. The exact same archival footage appears in the closing credits, although not fragmented but slightly blurred, contributing to the feeling of unclear memories.

Although completely different in their genre, style, narration, budget, and crew size, two recent feature films insert archival footage in scenes where a television appears in the background: Toma (Dragan Bjelogrlić, 2021) and Kelti (Celts, Milica Tomović, 2021). In Bjelogrlić’s biopic about the legendary pop-folk singer and songwriter Toma Zdravković – personifying the dying country – live reporting news footage of tanks and soldiers progressively situates the beginning of the wars, whereas Celts delicately suggests cultural decline during sanctions and hyperinflation by using fragments of the talk show Minimaksovizija airing on RTV Politika, and the “oracle” Kleopatra predicting the future on RTV Pink.5

Television as a streaming device with a screen seems to be the perfect tool to discreetly place archival footage representative of the times in the narrative. The object itself is an artifact of the past, almost an antiquity piece from the 20th century. Incidentally, in the early 2000s, the collective Medijska Arheologija (Media Archeology) started collecting Yugoslav commercials emitted in the 1980s, extending their participative projects to music spots, political campaigns, and other media forms emitted in the 1990s.6 They were searching for VHS tapes at flea markets, asking friends and family members for old records, and were able to save some archival footage from TV stations that would have probably dismissed the material. Once reassembled and emitted one after the other, “a feeling of flux” was created in an experimental and educational way, removing any significance in the accumulated content, thus leaving the images to “instant oblivion”:

“If only one such ‘decontextualized chain’ is torn out of time and emitted ten or twenty years later, incredible associations suddenly open and contexts are created, which are indisputably documents of everyday life, but also documents of manipulative and propaganda technologies.”7

Nonetheless, even a conventional form of documentary such as Cinema Komunisto (Mila Turajlić, 2010), on Yugoslavia’s largest film studio Avala Film from its creation to its bankruptcy, reveals the illusion and the fictional character of the Yugoslav dream – thus, its own nostalgia – via archival footage of cult movies and their making-of. On the other hand, archival footage of Youth Day and May Day parades – briefly appearing in State of Shock – is the essential material used for the essay film Jugoslavija, kako je ideologija pokretala naše kolektivno telo (Yugoslavia: How Ideology Moved our Collective Body, Marta Popivoda, 2013), and it also appears in the intimate documentary Pismo ocu (A Letter to Dad, Srđan Keča, 2011). In both cases, we are confronted with a critical reflection on the progressive collapse of communism, bridging collective and shared experience with individual stories, led by voice-overs of the authors. While Popivoda only uses this particular type of “official” mass gathering (in addition to counterdemonstrations from 1968 and the 1990s), Keča includes various documents – in parallel with filmed interviews of family members and friends of his father – such as (re)discovered photographs, postcards, love letters, as well as home videos. Finally, home videos are predominantly used in another personal documentary: Rampart (Marko Grba Singh, 2021). Once more, the original footage remains unmodified, and it is through a poetic structure and thoughtful editing that we meet a strong family united during the bombings of Belgrade in 1999 in the house of the author’s grandfather who recorded everything with his camera.

However, whatever type of archival footage authors choose to work with, there are also examples of transformed material in post-production, as indirect and subconscious commentary. In the opening credits of the aforementioned miniseries The Family, several home movies of happy gatherings – birthdays, weddings, holidays, etc. – are assembled and purposely modified. Directed by Senka Domanović and edited by Olga Košarić, this associative montage gives us multiple levels of interpretation. Indeed, most of the faces of the family members are scribbled with dots of the same colours as the Yugoslav flag, while we hear the instrumental version of the famous song “Crv” (“Worm”) composed in 1994 by the front man of the cult rock band Ekatarina Velika, Milan Mladenović, symbolising the subcultural anti-war movement against the repressive regime.

Hence, more than offering consensus on a complicated shared past, archival material can exploit other sides of Yugonostalgia, namely through a critical analysis and a recontextualisation of progressive Yugoslav models that might be reintroduced to the modern situation. As engaged artists and researchers, the members of Doplgenger contribute to these future-driven projects by questioning education, feminist emancipation, self-management, etc. In the closing lecture-performance “Re:Vision #5” of the project Yugoslav Socialism on Film, Doplgenger referred to Walter Benjamin by stating that unlike the historian’s delivery of an eternal image of the past, the task of historical materialists is to deliver an image of the past that is the answer to every new now. Rephrasing the Communist Manifesto by declaring that the present controls the past by projecting the future, Doplgenger matched dialectical images from Yugoslav cinema – as artifacts of a former socialist society – with the contemporary context – as implicit disagreement with current policies. With such politicized aesthetics, the duo articulated one possible critical revision of the past from the perspective of two dominant streams towards socialism: its “dissident” critique based on anti-totalitarian discourse, and its “Yugonostalgic” romanticized and uncritical interpretation.8

When it comes to Yugonostalgia through specific lieux de mémoire,9 the video Snimak pejzaža bez predistorije (A Record of Landscape Without Prehistory, Doplgenger, 2020) is filmed in the circular building of the former Military Children’s Health Resort in Krvavica, Croatia. This devastated masterpiece of modern architecture was designed by Rikard Marasović in the 1960s. Today, it is protected and classified as cultural property. Built for the rehabilitation of military personnel’s children, its function changed to tourism in 1973. It accommodated refugees and the wounded during the war between 1991 and 1995, before being demilitarized in the early 2000s.10 A poem by the celebrated Yugoslav author Oskar Davičo, invoking forgotten words, inspired Doplgenger to connect the lost future of the site on the Adriatic coast with a written postcard from a summer vacation. The epistolary narrative is read by a female voice over a steady image showing the empty interior, filmed in its state as an abandoned ruin on tape. The aesthetics suggest its archival nature, especially with the glitch or broken-TV effect. The text is repeated three times, but it omits some passages each time, creating new meanings with its fragments, while the footage is modified through a series of coloured high exposures (from red to blue). Interestingly, the poetic voice of the narrator and the composition of these three dissimilar yet philosophically close readings suggest many nostalgic moments, such as: “The beaches are beautiful in the fall.” / “I often find myself hearing an old tune.” / “Nostalgia for the metropolis.” Concurrently, some sentences reflect rather moderate traces of anxiety: “Before the war.” / “Which war?” / “We are walking on the ruins of another time.” The sound of the voice is also manipulated in each of the readings, giving it a retro-futuristic taste that makes us wonder whether the voice comes from the past or from the future.

“Our goal is to deconstruct the narratives that are a template for our memory in order to question the present, which is a consequence of those past processes, our decisions and identities that were created in that way and that participated in building those stories. We are not looking for something exotic, but for events that are generally known in our context and region.”11

Indeed, based on the processing of “media fragments” as ideological symptoms, Doplgenger’s long-term project Fragments Untitled deals with television recordings that shaped collective memories and historical narratives in the former Yugoslavia. In Fragments Untitled #1 (2012), Doplgenger slows down footage of Slobodan Milošević’s “presaging” Gazimestan speech12 – footage used also in the film State of Shock and the miniseries The Family – and concentrates on the crowd. Around one million people attended the commemoration, among which were Serbs brought by Milošević’s League of Communists of Serbia, and workers who came to request better working conditions. Doplgenger makes a striking parallel between these people ending up “singing nationalist songs” with a situation where proletarian masses demand the abolition of private property, and in return gain fascism.13 The slow motion creates an extended and surreal audio-visual distance from the past. It suggests a bad dream, or, on the contrary, a condition of “re-living and reviving” the nightmare. Yet, one tries to understand what happened by taking the time to analyse every corner of the image. We are “caught in-between images, in denial, in the search for a document, or a monument, a trace of our experience.”14

A similar method is applied in Doplgenger’s Fragments Untitled #3 (2015). The cleverly chosen footage is an excerpt from the winning song at the 35th Eurovision Song Contest that took place in Zagreb in May 1990. In the original, while performing the song “Insieme: 1992” – written for the launching of the European Union – the Italian singer Toto Cutugno is so excited to have won that he leaves the stage and joins the audience to sing from the crowd. But he does not know where to walk and creates an amusing but messy constellation between static spectators, still sitting, and quick journalists who try to follow him with their cameras to catch the best shot. Their flashes produce an additional visual component to the spectacle. Taking advantage of such a chaotic act, Doplgenger radically transforms a “show meant for entertainment” into a “turbulent, warlike atmosphere.”15 The slow motion and the sound generate troubling thoughts, as we only hear the main lyrics (“unite, unite Europe”) and the silence of a quiet audience. Once the singer provokes mass movement, the images are not clear enough to understand what is happening. All we can recognize are active silhouettes and camera flashes matched with the rhythm of the song.

Doplgenger Fragments Untitled #3

Almost a week after the music event, the first official incident between Croats and Serbs happens at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb between supporters of Dinamo and Red Star – two major Yugoslav football clubs, respectively from Zagreb and Belgrade. The so-called Maksimir Riot coincides with Croatia’s elections in favour of independence. Doplgenger further examinates the images of this never-played football match in their recent work: Fragments Untitled #6 (2022). In the continuity of their well-developed techniques, Ilić and Prostran dissect the original footage in an inventive way that again gives a sensation of weirdness. This time, there is no slow motion, but two elements contribute to confusion and angst. The first is the absence of the hooligans, as we see only policemen – quite poorly equipped, or simply unprepared – running around, fighting against an invisible force, and sometimes uniting to protect themselves against firecrackers, stones, or bottles thrown at them. The second element is, again, sound: as we do not see the agitators, we also do not hear them. Instead, the emphasis is on the militia’s footsteps, the creaking of their boots on the stadium lawn, the propelled objects. Here and then, extracts of Boris Mutić’s words (the commentator) are introduced in front of a black screen, and only then we hear the shouting in the background. His voice is confused yet calm, advising to “be prepared” but warning to remain intelligent in the editing of the footage. Unsurprisingly, the “media war” began the very next day, as the incident caused tense relations between TV Zagreb, TV Sarajevo, and TV Belgrade – all reporting on the same event with reversed narratives.

Both of these events symbolise Yugoslavia’s end – or the beginning of a collective massacre – and similarly to Doplgenger’s previous works, the juxtaposition of images with extrapolated noise creates a chilling atmosphere despite tragicomical moments:

“(…) something that is more than well known to us as pictorial material, something that we do not think can surprise us in any way with its appearance, suddenly appears as something foreign, alien, strange, perverse, warning, threatening, even frightening.”16

Doplgenger Fragments Untitled #6

Now that access to archival footage is easier in the digital era, as is manipulation of the material with tools that anybody can use (or tools to be developed further, such as deepfake), being obsessed with collective and/or individual pasts can bring new interpretations of our histories. In that sense, reinterpreting Yugonostalgia means not only talking about Yugoslavia as a myth or utopia. It also activates discussions around Yugoslavia’s issues, difficulties, and thus its official dissolution. Therefore, as we can see through audio-visual forms with included archival footage, evoking Yugonostalgia means evoking the 1990s – including nostalgia for that period – which brings us to current socio-political questions and to problems inherited from these pasts.


  1. Vjekoslav Perica, “Heroes of a New Kind: Commemorations and Appropriations of Yugoslavia’s Sporting and Pop-Cultural Heritage” in Post-Yugoslavia: New Cultural and Political Perspectives, Dino Abazović and Mitja Velikonja, eds. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), p. 105.
  2. Sanjin Pejković, “Displaced Film Memories in the Post-Yugoslav Context,” Contemporary Southeastern Europe, Volume 4, Issue 2 (2017): p. 92.
  3. See works by Nevena Daković, Nicole Lindstrom, Maja Maksimović, Mitja Velikonja, and Zala Volčič.
  4. Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (California: Stanford University Press, 1957).
  5. This privately owned TV channel, launched in 1993, is today one of the most powerful pro-government broadcasters, spreading all sorts of misinformation and indecent distractions such as reality shows.
  6. The members – Jovan Bačkulja, Dušan Grlja, Ivica Đorđević, Nebojša Petrović, Boško Prostran, Aleksandra Sekulić – were inspired by Siegfried Zielinski’s term described in Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006).
  7. Boško Prostran in a conversation with Jovan Bačkulja in Medijska arheologija: Devedesete, Aleksandra Sekulić, ed. (Centar za kulturnu dekontaminaciju, Arhiv alternativnog filma i videa, Dom kulture Studentski grad: Beograd, 2009), p. 15.
  8. Doplgenger, “5/5 Za jednu drugačiju istoriju jugoslovenskog filma: samoupravljanje, film i kulturni modeli,” lecture-performance at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southeast Europe, Jugoslovenska kinoteka, Belgrade, 26 December 2017.
  9. Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past, Vol. I – Conflicts and Divisions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).
  10. Slobodneveze, “(Dis)Trust the Storyteller: The Case of Krvavica Children Health Resort,” Slobodne Veze/Loose Associations, 1 October 2021.
  11. Mirjana Dragosavljević, “Doplgenger: Fragmenti boljeg života,” Mašina, 19 January 2016.
  12. Given by Slobodan Milošević in June 1989 at the Gazimestan monument of Kosovo field, marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.
  13. Dragosavljević.
  14. Doplgenger, “Fragments Untitled,” Journal of Art and Media Studies, Issue 9 (April 2016).
  15. Randi C. Terjung, “Fragments Untitled #3,Videonale, October 2021.
  16. Stevan Vuković, “Doplgenger / Neimenovani Fragmenti,” Supervizuelna: Magazin za savremenu umetnost, 11 February 2016.

About The Author

Miljana Niković (Belgrade/Berlin) is an architect and researcher experimenting with audiovisual forms and words combining multiple languages. She is currently working on her doctoral thesis and archival video project about filmed urban spaces through collective memories. Her video-poems have been screened at various international film festivals and cultural events.

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