At breakneck speed, the documentary tells the story of the band ”The No Smoking Orchestra” formed twenty years ago by Nelle Karajilic, who wanted to seek out the universal aspect of local stories. ”No Smoking” became a cult band performing music in a hard-to-classify genre, called Balkan punk music by some. Today, the band finds inspiration in deeply rooted Balkan traditions that are a mixture of folk, jazz and Gypsy music.More than ’just’ another documentary on a band, it is an anarchistic essay on the relationship between music and the world it reflects – and which created it in the first place. The film is composed of material of a different quality and value, and at first the story seems to spread in every possible direction. Scenes from the band’s performance at Olympia in Paris in 1999, establish the film’s pulsating beat. The film interweaves black and white archive footage, private home movies, scenes from the shooting of Kusturica’s feature film Black Cat, White Cat and a photo call with an Italian photographer taking pictures of the band members. The total chaos of this gluttony of imagery makes sense as the viewer starts to grasp its underlying purpose.
The result is a multi-layered narrative that features the story of the band as a group and the story of the members as individuals with personal lives and backgrounds. Kusturica (also guitarist in the band), films each musician sitting in the bus as they travel on their European 2000 tour. They describe their music and the way in which they search for new rhythms and sounds. Private home movie sequences of the band members add an intimate peek into their childhoods.
The editor and sound designer Svetolik Mica Zajc has shaped the rich and heterogeneous material with a fine eye and ear for contrasts that engender new meanings. Everything has a purpose in the film, every image has significance and is more than ’just an image’.
The post-war reality is very present in Super 8 Stories. The war is evoked through images of the bombed houses and bridges in Belgrade, but nothing is said about how the members survived this period as a band, e.g. whether they were able to continue playing or whether they experienced internal conflicts. This may be the film’s weakness, because so much is left out here. In the production notes, however, one learns that “No Smoking” left Sarajevo just before the war broke out and moved to Belgrade to become a “world band”.
The film makes no attempt to depict the actual evolution of the band’s music. We have no opportunity to compare earlier concert performances to the one at Olympia. But “No Smoking’s” music clearly reflects an entire world of cultural and ethnic influences, and this alone makes the documentary entertaining and worthwhile to watch.
© EDN/ModernTimes (previously published in DOX Magazine).