The Art of Living
(TV Political Entertainment Programme)


Genre
TV Political Entertainment
Year of Production
1990 – 1991
Place of production
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Format
Political TV magazine; the first of its kind produced by an independent media in ex-Yugoslavia and broadcast on state TV stations.
Language
Bosnian / Croatian / Serbian
NB
English translation/subtitles presently not available.
Theme
Political, economic, social, cultural issues in (the former) Yugoslavia.
Research period
1990 – 1991
Outreach
Former Yugoslavia; broadcast by several TV and Radio stations
Concept
Three well known journalists/presenters interview three high-profile guests (presidents, politicians, decision makers, intellectuals, journalists, and businessmen) in front of an audience; live-TV.
No. of Seasons
1
No. of Episodes
8
Running time
60-75 min
NOTE
Episode 1 is not available (it was lost during the siege of Sarajevo). Guests Were Nijaz Durakovic, Alija Izetbegovic, and Srdja Popovic. Episode 7 is currently not available for viewing – guests were Branko Horvat, Stjepan Kljujic and Dusan Mitevic.
PRODUCTION
FAMA

FAMA TEAM

Executive Producers
Suada Kapic, Neven Popovic
Journalists / Presenters
Dragan Babic, Mirjana Bobic-Mojsilovic, and Aleksandar Tijanic
Associate
Strajo Krsmanovic
Set design
Izeta Gradjevic
Copyright
© FAMA International

Methodology

Because of their influence, those who watch, observe, analyse and explain meaning to the masses are considered a kind of elite; however if this elite use faulty methodology or have impure intentions, it can lead to disastrous consequences. We, the founders of FAMA, the first independent multi-media company in the former Yugoslavia, were fully aware of the sensitivity of the area in which we chose to invest. From the very beginning of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, we knew that documentation, of all types and forms, would play a vital role in the fate of current and future generations. In keeping with our own personal principles, our methods rely on fact, oral history and recorded documentation (documented documents). It is through our unique insight and gift of foresight that we have been able to develop a step by step methodology that 'makes the obvious visible'.

PHASE 1
Gaining insight. This involves watching events attentively with an open mind as an observer rather than a participant, in order to note significant elements of the observed phenomenon; then putting these elements together to identify early signs of any emerging dominant trends that might launch a new process of cause and effect.

PHASE 2
Continuing research through oral history. Those who participated in an observed event talk about their own experience of it, without commenting on other participants. These elements are recorded in photo/video format.

PHASE 3
Structuring the research. Putting first hand facts and documented documents of a particular event, period or phenomenon into a structure that transfers this knowledge in a form acceptable to an audience, devoid of any indicators that would point to a conclusion. Readers, viewers, students, researchers draw their own conclusions on the basis of the given format.

PHASE 4
Converting the structure. This phase involves producing a format suitable for mass production (maps, albums, films, encyclopedias).

PHASE 5
Creating a study pack. We have created an educational pack consisting of different sections that can be used for different levels of education, as our unique contribution to the interpretation of the period 1991-1999.

The Art of Living
(TV Political Entertainment Programme)

After the end of Communist rule and media control and censorship, we introduced free speech, uncensored questions, a laugh at the expense of politics and politicians. We asked dangerous questions to the then decision-makers some of whom, as we were later to learn, were also making war plans.

About the project

List of Episodes and Guests:

• Episode #1 - Guests: Nijaz Durakovic, Alija Izetbegovic, and Srdja Popovic
• Episode #2 - Guests: Stipe Mesic, Radovan Karadzic, and Stipe Suvar
• Episode #3 - Guests: Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, Milovan Djilas and Vasil Tupurkovski
• Episode #4 - Guests: Stevan Mirkovic, Momir Bulatovic and Vuk Draskovic
• Episode #5 - Guests: Bogic Bogicevic, Vane Ivanovic and Slaven Letica
• Episode #6 - Guests: Jovan Raskovic, Rasim Kadic and Dragoljub Micunovic
• Episode #7 - Guests: Branko Horvat, Stjepan Kljujic and Dusan Mitevic
• Episode #8 - Guests: Vladimir Velebit, Jovo Kapicic and Ljupco Georgievski

MIRJANA BOBIC-MOJSILOVIC, SUADA KAPIC, ALEKSANDAR TIJANIC AND DRAGAN BABIC SPEAK TO "VREME" MAGAZINE ABOUT THE SHOW THAT SHOOK YUGOSLAVIA IN THE EVE OF THE WAR (29 December 2009)

Stjepan Mesic, Radovan Karadzic and Stipe Suvar on the stage. Aleksandar Tijanic is sitting beside Mesic, Dragan Babic beside Karadzic, and Mirjana Bobic-Mojsilovic beside Suvar. The atmosphere is relaxed, everybody laughs, only Stipe Suvar seems a bit worried. The conversation is often interrupted by laughter and applause of the audience who filled the theater to capacity, there are many people standing around. Karadzic talks about Yugoslavia, Mesic talks about peace. "There will be no war. It's all fairy tales and make believe", Stipe Mesic confides smiling to Aleksandar Tijanic.

This surreal scene which today brings a lump to your throat is also available on YouTube. It took place at the Academy of Performing Arts Obala in Sarajevo. It was February 1991, an episode of The Art of Living was being filmed.

The Way it Started: The Art of Living may not mean anything to those who were too young to be interested in politics at that time, but to those who started realizing that politics literally decided their fate, the name awakens memories of the last moments of a seemingly normal life, immediately followed by years of terror. Despite a sea of political talk-shows on all TV-stations of the former Yugoslavia after the famous 1991, The Art of Living has retained iconic status in the memory of many of us.

The idea for the show was born in Sarajevo at the end of 1990, after a book signing of What will happen to us by Aleksandar Tijanic. According to some of those who attended the signing, the atmosphere in the packed theater was hilarious although the topic was "deadly serious"; with a touch of black humour they describe it as "so extraordinary as if a war was about to start". "We tried to seriously debate – in our own way, to make the debate as open as possible, and we apparently succeeded as the audience was hacking with laughter, occasionally jerky, or hysterical, but the good humor indicated hope that maybe everything wasn't as black as presented in my book. What will happen to us was the question that hovered in the air, but people were fleeing from it," recalls Aleksandar Tijanic.

Dragan Babic and the series director Suada Kapic were also present. After the promotion, Suada Kapic noticed that a great TV show could be made with Babic and Tijanic interviewing two different interlocutors. "We stated that both of us were too brisk, in our different ways, and that we needed a third party, a woman. Someone mentioned Mirjana, and so that trio was agreed" – said Tijanic for Vreme.

Dragan Babic believes that creators of the show did not have any 'historical intentions.' "There was no intention of scrutinizing Yugoslav policies to see if there would be a war, or who was going to slaughter whom, instead we said 'let's have some fun, let's disturbe the people who rule Yugoslavia, let's make them talk without the usual political and historical truisms, let's talk about the art of living by asking them about their personal morality, let's talk about how people live, common individuals, citizens," recalls Babic. "But everyhing in this country turns into politics after ten minutes or so. At the end, the atmosphere steaming hot, it became clear that there was no chance for any discussion on private lives, and the series became a political one par excellence."

Suada Kapic, the director and producer of the show, reminds us of several very modern and (at the time) unexpected moves. "We established the first private, independent media company – FAMA International. We introduced independent journalism: journalists decided on both issues and guests. The way of funding was also a complete novelty: we were sponsored by entrepreneurs promoting their private companies. We ensured responsible, uncensored, independent journalism by designing and producing TV ads ourselves" – explained Suada Kapic talking about how it all started. "Viewers were introduced to difficult topics in a very gentle way. We showed that politics and politicians could be seen in a more relaxed way, having fun instead of being deadly serious the way it used to in Communist rule. At the same time we pointed out the dramatic changes in society."

FAMA International produced the show, rented the studio, payed the crews, fees. Many people still think the show was produced by YUTEL, whose headquarter was in Sarajevo at the time. Actually, it was RTV Sarajevo to broadcast and re-broadcast the show, we rented their equipment and they provided airtime of 60 minutes.

We released two episodes a month for a year; the first one was broadcast in early January 1991. Dragan Babic thinks that a media technique of three different people sharing an hour, and each of them almost entirely managing their twenty minutes proved to be very successful. "The three of us being so different, each one-hour show presented three different choices, three different characters, three different points of view."

The Art of Living was filmed in Obala theater hall which was full every time. Tickets, which people considered a privilege, were not sold but given out. "Never in my life have I seen anything like it, it was a true public forum. This small, sweet theater was so crammed with people who partly came out of simple curiosity, wanting to see the guests, and to participate in the show. When I think of all those we hosted there ... and that was one more reason why the show was so hot. I believe it's not exaggerated to say that Sarajevo was hungry for that, we did come from Belgrade, but it was a Yugoslav show still. Yugoslavhood died in Sarajevo, I have no better explanation than that," Dragan Babic says. We hosted almost all the most important actors of the political scene of the former Yugoslavia: Alija Izetbegovic, Stipe Mesic, Radovan Karadzic, Momir Bulatovic, Vasil Tupurkovski, Jovan Raskovis, Stipe Suvar, the 'rising stars' like Vuk Draskovis, Ljupco Georgijevski, but also the old guard politicians like Milovan Djilas, generals Vladimir Velebit, Stevan Mirkovic, and Jovo Kapicic …

Behind the Curtain

Dragan Babic recalls many unusual, exciting parts of documentary history of this programme. "Some of these interesting things, as it often happens, were hushed up as small inconveniences. At one point I asked Vladimir Velebit, a man who really knew a lot, whether Hebrang indeed commited suicide in that incomprehensible way, hanging himself with a belt from a radiator pipe, or he was killed. Sasa'a guest Jovo Kapicic was sitting next to Velebit. Velebit calmly answered that Hebrang was killed, and just then commercials started and we never returned to the issue, but during the break a conversation broke out between Velebit and Jovo Kapicic who fiercely defended the version of Hebrang's suicide, but Velebit very coolly replied that it was nonsense, that Hebrang was killed. "

The three journalists were completely free in selecting their guests, and as far as they can remember they always supported each other's choices. They point out that getting guests was easy, given that almost everyone was keen to appear in the show, "which was amazing at the time." It seldom happened that someone would refuse to be a guest, but Janez Jansa did, for instance.

Reactions were great, and the show quickly gained many fans. Although we didn't have so many TV viewers, there were many newspapers across the country which printed the transcripts of the shows. "It was simply impossible for us to pay for a coffee, lunch or dinner in Sarajevo. I was once in a bar with Kemo Kurspahic, the editor of Oslobođenje, and 26 whiskies arrived at our table in less than five minutes, the waiter said everyone from surrounding tables wanted to buy us drinks," recalls Aleksandar Tijanic. "The number of those who were against war was not small at all. Yugoslavia, or Yugoslavhood, aside, what I mean is against the violent break-up of the country. It took plenty of effort on all sides to organize the war. "

Asked which guests have impressed him the most, Dragan Babic mentions Milovan Djilas and Vladimir Velebit, noting that it was so long ago and that he hasn't thought about it for many years but that Momir Bulatovic first came to his mind. "He's one of those extraordinarily skilled and long-winded Montenegrin politicians, more verbose than Machiavelli or Richelieu, or Goebbels. These politicians have a way of wrapping anything so skillfully in their syntax, without saying almost anything. Their narrative is very kind and smooth, but you cannot read a thing from it. It is sealed."

Tijanić considers this show a kind of precursor to something that has unfortunately never been repeated. "It was not possible to repeat that pre-war atmosphere, the deep inquisitiveness, and the language we spoke. All the major media in respective republics were for the breakup of Yugoslavia. YUTEL wanted to preserve the then existing Yugoslavia. The platform for success of our program was the priciple that, with or without Yugoslavia, all the same to us, there should not be a war. We reminded of Radio Luxembourg on PA system at military barracks. "

Aleksandar Tijanic remembers several very good conversations. "Rasković was fantastic, and Djilas; general Mirkovic was excellent, Karadžić as well; Mitevic was also brilliant – we hosted him after 9 March, and as he was telling us that there had been no repression against journalists I reminded him that that was not true, as he himself had forbidden us to work. 'Now, that is true, but I wish you were a gentleman enough not to say it,' he calmly replied. There was not one unpleasant conversation or interviewee, at that time even Alija Izetbegovic seemed, at least in public, very conciliatory. I think he was aware of what would happen in Bosnia if a conflict occured. "

Mirjana Bobic-Mojsilovic was most impressed by Stjepan Mesic. "Even today, whatever he says, and no matter whether I like it, I remember what a charmer he was and what a real gentleman, regardless of what he wanted, or thought, or what he had to do later on. He was witty, very charming, I have to say. People of high ntegrity make the most interesting guests, regardless of whether you like what they say. "

Paths and Memories: The lives and destinies of guests of The Art of Living veered off in different directions. Some of them have left the stage forever; Stipe Suvar, Alija Izetbegovic, Dusan Mitevic have died ... Radovan Karadzic is held in the Hague Tribunal Detention Unit, Stjepan Mesic has completed two presidential mandates. Some, like Bogic Bogicevic, are almost forgotten. Lives and destinies of viewers who used to fill up Obala theatre hall were forever defined by the dark years of the siege of Sarajevo, which began a year after the show ended.

FAMA Today

"We initially intended to make FAMA International the CNN of the Southeast Europe," said Suada Kapic. "But turn of events directed us towards documenting, classification and editing documents referring to the 1991-99 period, with a particular focus on the siege of Sarajevo. Since then, FAMA International has finalised several projects in various formats. We documented three different periods in the breakup of Yugoslavia – the 1991-1992 war preparations, the 1991-1996 war, the post-war period of 1996-2007.

Recalling the last months before the Yugoslav "big bang" and their work on the show, Dragan Babic said: "As naive as I was, I believed that was the beginning of a liberation now called a parliamentary democracy, a market which would give a chance to the media, to us, to speak our minds freely. I believed no one would abuse us, or blackmail us, or underestimate us. At that moment I was convinced that the time has come for us to get rid of historical, political and all other pressures, and that we would have an opportunity to start creating independent media. That was my strongest failed impression of that time."

Mirjana Bobic-Mojsilovic has the fondest memories of the period "when everything seemed perfect." "I consider this show the brightest moment of the Yugoslav TV and political talk-shows; it had people of completely different opinions conversing without an ugly word. Everybody was on their best behaviour, there was still some dignity of the television somehow. I'm convinced that such a show has never been or ever will be produced again: there was something modern and noble in it because none of us could be blamed of having any Serbian projects. We were absolutely Yugoslav-oriented, but obviously at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

Aleksandar Tijanic concludes: "There were reactions to almost every question, there was applause, and murmur, and laughter. There was everything save any kind of offence against anything or anyone. The audience never uttered an insulting word to anyone and yet I got a clear idea of what it meant to live on the volcano, lava flows and steam rises from below us, and we all stand on boards thinking 'the board will endure, the board will not endure, we shall be saved, we have no parachute, somebody will extinct the volcano"... This atmosphere is engraved in my memory, the atmosphere before a war, the same atmosphere of Vienna, or Berlin, that we had previously read about. As time goes by, I'm more and more convinced that it is this atmosphere that has made the show and created interest in it, and that the show is an authentic and honest document, a testimony of a time when people were hoping against hope, knowing that there was no escape. "