The Guardians Of The Formula (dir. Dragan Bjelogrlić) opened this year’s Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) in Tallinn on November the 3rd at the Alexela Concert Hall. A film that got five-minute ovation from the audience is based on true story and adapts Goran Milašinović’s book The Vinča Incident. The film which is co-produced by Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia discusses the less known involvement of Yugoslavia in the Cold War.
Dragoslav (Radivoje Bukvic) is a professor at the Vinca Scientific Institute near Belgrade working in secret on Serbian nuclear reaction. With a team of only four inexperienced students, Dragoslav is driven by the communist ambition to get ahead in the nuclear race. His antagonist – cheap Serbian fuel, temperamental safety alarm and government official Leka Rankovic (Dragan Bjelogrlić) who is there to ensure Dragoslav is under enough pressure to deliver the project.
Made to feel replaceable and driven to paranoia, Dragoslav takes it upon himself to deal with the annoying safety alarm, which is never a good thing… We meet Dragoslav’s emaciated team upon their arrival to French hospital with symptoms of radiation poisoning where Doctor Mate (Alexis Manenti) experiments with bone marrow transplants on mice. So far, all mice have died – both donors and recipients. But will these four scientists survive?
True story that Doctor Mate was the first doctor to perform bone marrow transplant on humans but for inexplicable reason, he has never received Noble Peace prize for his contribution to medicine. According to Bjelogrlić’s theory, the incident was swept under the carpet by Serbian and French secret services. Albeit based on true story, the film blends facts and fiction and writer used some creative license in portraying the characters. The event did happen and the first human bone marrow transplant too but due to the alleged secret services cover up. “Sadly, people never got to know about the kindness of French public towards those Serbian scientists”, said Bjelogrlić and his latest film thankfully sets the records straight.
The film is an impeccably delivered period piece that was very difficult film to make, according to Bjelogrlić. “First of all, we had to create to recreate two different worlds – East (the Iron Curtain of Serbia) and West (France) and we worked very hard to represent these two worlds through set design and costume. In addition to that, it was challenging to tie in together four or five plot lines. My job was to put all these elements into one end product and it was the biggest challenge,” admitted director.
The film is not dissimilar to Christopher Nolan’s hit Oppenheimer. We can almost say The Guardians of The Formula starts where the Oppenheimer finishes. Admittedly, it’s rather a coincidence. “We started preparing this film seven years ago. At the time, ‘Chernobyl’ TV series was popular on TV and people drew parallels between Chernobyl and Guardians of the Formula. Now that we have completed the film, Oppenheimer is popular and people tend to draw parallels and call is ‘Serbian Oppenheimer’.” Admitted director. He continued, “I think the most important thing is the public interest toward the subject. I hope people will take a moment to think what world do we all live in. I’m glad we finally can start talking about what happened in our very neighbourhood so to say.”
The film has received numerous awards including the prestigious Variety Critics’ Award at the Locarno Film Festival this summer and will continue with it’s festival circuit.