Lazar Stojanovic was a student at the Belgrade Academy of Dramatic Arts in the early 1970s when he made his thesis film, Plastic Jesus. The narrative centers around a Belgrade-based avant-garde Croatian performance artist and structural filmmaker (Tom Gotovac, playing an ironic version of himself). Stojanovic’s filmed footage is interspersed with black-and-white archival scenes of Yugoslavia between World War II and the late 1960s; this juxtaposition between the free-spirited protagonist and Nazi and Yugoslavian war propaganda forms a commentary on individual freedom of expression, Yugoslavian society, and authoritarian governance. As Josip Broz Tito’s government experienced radical shifts, the film was confiscated as subversive, Stojanovic was thrown in jail along with other student reformist leaders and artists, and scenes were redacted. It was not until 1990 that the film was released, proclaiming, “Plastic Jesus was filmed in 1971, arrested in 1972, convicted in 1973 and set free in 1990.” This is the film’s New York theatrical premiere.
Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film.