Macedonian Culture and Its Audiences: An Analysis of "Before the Rain" by Keith S. Brown

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Macedonia and the World Stage.
This was, however, not the limit of what the Before the Rain offered to the Macedonian imagination of cultural identity. The film was screened in Skopje only after sharing the Golden Lion in Venice. It acquired status, then, in the sense that it had already occupied a stage of international attention. Macedonian audiences in 1994-5 were thus watching something that had been watched (and deemed worth watching) in the wider world. They were enjoying not simply a film, but also the fact that the film had been watched, or would be watched, by many others, elsewhere. Even those Macedonians who criticized the film did so with this international audience in mind. The limits of the “imagined community” (Anderson 1983) of any particular film audience, then, do not lie at the edges of any nation-state. Watching any film on general release is to partake of “world culture;” when the film watched is connected to a small country, viewers in that country can imagine themselves as equal citizens in the film world.

The Award of the Golden Lion was the beginning of the film’s public life as Macedonian. Its final flourish came on the eve of the Academy Awards ceremony in March 1995, when Before the Rain was one of five films nominated for the award of best Foreign-Language Picture. Along with others involved with the production of the film, Manchevski threatened to boycott the ceremony because the Academy were planning to refer to its country of origin not as Macedonia, but as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (O’Steen 1995). Manchevski rejected the emendation and thereby signalled a call for a decisive separation, in the world imagination, of Macedonia from Yugoslavia. The terms in which he did so, as reported by the journalist, put the relationship of Macedonia with Yugoslavia as rhetorically equivalent to that between the United States and Britain.

“In the larger picture, the name is a small thing” said Director Manchevski, “But it would be like calling the U.S. ‘the former British colony of America.’ It’s an insult to the people back there in Macedonia.”

(O’Steen 1995)

In this moment, it could be argued, on the eve of its final international recognition as national, the transition of the film itself, and of its director, were complete. From being a process of co-operation in production, overseen by a bicultural hybrid, it became a product of a single nation and a director from that nation. It did so in the forum of the Oscars, in which a country’s entry confers status on the nation as a cultural producer, equal in ontological status to all others.

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