Friday, March 5, 2010

Whose Is This Song? (Chia e tazi pesen?) (2003)

My friend Mirjana has pointed out the existence of this very interesting documentary by Bulgarian director Adela Peeva. Listening to a song she knew since her childhood as Bulgarian being performed in Istanbul in Turkish, the director starts a small Balkan Odyssey through Turkey, Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia only to end up at the Bulgarian-Turkish border region in her native Bulgaria. A song that apparently encapsulated common aesthetics and, more importantly, a shared yet diverse culture, where borrowing and translation make it impossible to argue about cultural ownership and origins proved to carry in it all that divides the peoples of Southeastern Europe. Not only people tried to claim it as exclusive property of their own nation but they often angrily dismissed counterclaims as nothing more than theft. It reminded me Freud's remarks about the 'narcissism of minor differences', the accentuation of antagonism towards those who look, sound and feel so similar to us ...

But still, despite the pessimistic conclusion of Peeva's Odyssey, despite the dialogue of the deaf that this documentary captures so beautifully, despite the usurpation of the song by nationalist and religious fanatics, the whispers betraying the, admittedly imperfect, coexistence of several centuries still persist. As does the fact that many of those who identified with the song have used its melody and lyrics (in its many languages and reincarnations) to express their love, to invite others to love them, to celebrate the 'simple little things' that really matter.

The full documentary can be seen at

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