'Tito and Me': A gentle view of hero worship

April 14, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Zoran is not exactly the healthiest boy in the world: In fact, when he gets hungry, he's apt to take a spoon and literally eat the walls. A phlegmatic, sour child, a great puzzlement to his artistic parents, he lives in a crowded flat in Belgrade and for one pleasure: to serve the great Tito.

The time is 1954 and the place is Yugoslavia, and Zoran, like many a youth before and many a youth after, has fallen prey to the dominant media figure of his time, who happens to be a

dictator and not a rock musician -- though Zoran's behavior will be familiar to any modern American parent.

Zoran is the central and presumably autobiographical figure in Goran Markovic's "Tito and Me," a charming Yugoslavian memoir that documents a boy's hero worship. The film, to be shown tonight at the Baltimore International Film Festival (7:30 p.m. at the Baltimore Museum of Art), is one of those gently ironic memoirs, bittersweet and amusing. At the same time, it stays away from the true meaning of Josip Broz Tito, as wily and cruel a tyrant as the century has produced.

Its only political point is perhaps more delicate than the Titos of the world deserve: that totalitarianism is more than government, it is culture. Tito's carefully managed charisma has penetrated the nooks and crannies of Zoran's household.

Zoran is played by a wondrous child actor, Dimitrie Vojnov; one of the amazements of the film is how he can be so remote and yet so adorable. He limps through his adventures with a forlorn look on his face and without a particle of energy -- except for his beloved leader, to whom he writes an unabashed paean and, astonishingly, wins an essay contest.

The movie's central narrative chronicles Zoran's "prize": a trek // across the nation to the village where the great man was born, in the company of 50 other "pioneers."

"Tito and Me" contains one other extra-filmic virtue: It is virtually the last film made in Yugoslavia before the country disintegrated into ethnic warfare. To look upon those beautiful landscapes is to feel an inconsolable sadness over what is being lost over there.

"Tito and Me"

Starring Dimitrie Vojnov

Directed by Goran Markovic

Released by Kino International


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