Exotica Yugoslavica

19Feb07

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I am of Croatian origin and in my family there was sometimes mention of a famous Mexican film from the fifties, but all they knew was the title of a song that was included – Mama Juanita. This being a much beloved sentimental song in former Yugoslavia… it must have been covered a bizillion times since under the title Jedan dan zivota.
Now, thanks to Miha Mazzini’s wonderful website on Yu-Mex I could shed some light on the Yougoslavs’ mysterious fascination for Mexican folclore: The film in question is Un Día de vida . It …

…became so immensely popular that the old people in the former republics of Yugoslavia even today regard it as surely one of the most well known films in the world ever made although in truth it is probably unknown in every other country, even Mexican web pages don’t mention it much. – Miha Mazzini

One could argue that they treat all national phenomena in much the same way. Also of interest are the musings of a sociologist who took the reception of the film as an example for the many similarities between Yugoslavia and Mexico.

But what striked me most was that its director was Emilio Fernandez , who made some very memorable appearances in Sam Peckinpah’s movies. In the “Wild Bunch” he played the General Mapache and it was a memory from his childhood that inspired its famous anthill-intro.

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Emilio Fernandez in Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

The following paragraph has Alejandro Jodorowsky recapitulate – in his inimitable English – an anecdote about Fernandez:

They want to kill me (The audience after the screening of Fando & Lis). Because Mexico making pictures of cowboys, very awful, very Mexican. And I came to them with a way to do pictures, and they have a shock. They think it was pornography what I did. That it was a sacrilege. And then they start to want to lynch me at the Acapulco festival and then I need to come in a car, they bring me out to save me. And the director, Emilio Fernandez say, I will kill him. He have killed all ready two guys. And it was true, he could kill me. And that night I sent two whiskey bottles, and he was very happy and we become friends. He forgive me and help me, etc. That was the biggest conflict. more…

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