With innocence and reticent images from Balkan landscapes recorded by the brother Milton and Janaki Manaki, Macedonian cinema story started its more than hundred years of history, which officially happened in 1905 according to historians. What is more, it was precisely Milton Manaki the first cameraman in the Balkans.
Despite that promising beginning, the first decades of the 20th century, Macedonian cinema did not have the same success as other European countries, and the Manaki brothers weren’t recognized as they deserved. Neither is easy to find a successor for their steps.
The war as changing factor
By the 20s, the civil war in the country divided in two its society and it’s remarkable the number of foreign filmmakers who travelled to Macedonia to report the war with crude images from a conflict which was devastating the country. However it didn’t stop the eagerness of directors such as Georgi Zankov and Arsenie Jovakov, who produced in 1923 a revealing documentary called Macedonia.
Following the steps of fellow Soviet countries, educational campaigns served as a platform to support and boost the filming industry. From those days, a crude and astonishing documentary about malaria filmed in 1932, and the legacy of Blagoja Drnkov with movies as Bombing of Bitola and The Gliders’ Meeting in Skopje (both from 1940), are the most remarkable.
After the FIFIMA –an institution founded to promote the production and distribution of Macedonian films- the industry made an important improvement. With scripts treating historical issues such the civil war and the two World Wars, the cinema of Macedonia has characterized for reflecting realities with deep fidelity and cruelty.
From that ‘movement’ -which lasted almost three decades- the most prominent filmmakers were Trajce Popov, who directed Macedonian Blood Wedding (1967) and Kiro Bilbilovski, director of Frosina (1952), one of the most important movies in the country’s cinema history and which script was written by the Macedonian national anthem composer: Vlado Maleski.
Winds of change: from war to modern passions.
Tired of the monotony of subjects in the films in the seventies, an important group of writers and filmmakers decided to try their luck with different arguments. In fact, one of the first challenging titles from that era was Branko Gapo’s Times without War (1970), a poignant movie which tells through biblical analogies the story of a father and his son face contrary destinies
In the next years the tendency continued with films such as Vladimir Blazevski’s Hi-Fi (1987), based on a Goran Stefanovski’s novel, in which a father released from jail that goes to live in his son’s flat, turned into a music studio. In addition, the film combines subjects like communism, unemployment and the new arriving technologies.
Almost a decade later, Milco Mancevski directed the most infamous movie in Macedonian filming history: Before the Rain (1994). The film is a coproduction between national and American companies won a Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival the same year and was also nominated to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Movie.