Draza Mihailovich in Film and TV: On the Set of the TV Series Ravna Gora

Ravna Gora is a Serbian television series produced by Radio Televizija Srbija (RTS) and Contrast Studios which will debut on November 2, 2013 on Serbian television. The series began filming on July 24, 2012 on location in Mokra Gora in western Serbia. The series will be a trilogy entitled “1941-1945″. The first part, Ravna Gora, will consist of 15 episodes each an hour in length. It is a historical dramatization of the events that occurred in Yugoslavia during World War II when the country was invaded, occupied, and dismembered by the Axis. The series focuses on the rival guerrilla movements led by Draza Mihailovich and Josip Broz Tito. This television drama breaks new ground and is unique in that it seeks to present a balanced, objective, and factually accurate depiction of those events. Stripped are the Communist propaganda and ideological falsifications, distortions, and manipulations.

On the set: Bosnian Serb actor Nebojsa Glogovac, left, as Draza Mihailovich on the set of the Serbian television series Ravna Gora, 2012. On right, Nenad Jezdic as Yugoslav Major Stankovic. Behind them is Djordje Ercevic with a group of Yugoslav soldiers.

The series is written and directed by Rados Bajic. Nebojsa Glogovac stars as General Dragoljub Draza Mihailovich, the leader of the Ravna Gora Movement, one of the most important guerrilla resistance movements of World War II. Petre Arsovski plays Dusan Simovic. Momir Bradic plays Slobodan Jovanovic. Lazar Ristovski is General Borivoje Mirkovic. Mirko Babic is Obrad Taralic. Olga Odanovic is Zivana Taralic. Marko Bacovic is Svetolik Taralic. Radoslav Milenkovic is Stanoje Taralic. Nenad Okanovic plays Milisav Janjic. Radko Polic plays Potpukovnik Rudolf Ukmar. Ljiljana Stjepanovic plays Vidosava Janjic-Vida. Dragan Bjelogrlic, who had played Milan in Pretty Village, Pretty Flame, Lepa sela lepo gore (1996), portrays Josip Broz Tito. The cinematography is by Predrag Jocic.

Draza Mihailovich is portrayed by Bosnian Serb actor Nebojsa Glogovac, who was born in Trebinje in southeastern Hercegovina, a city in the Republika Srpska (RS). A veteran TV and film actor, he played Crni in the 2012 Serbian TV series Vojna akademija, Oficir Prvoslav Gajin in the 2004 Lift TV series, and Zlatko Gavrilovic in the 1998-2001 TV series Porodicno blago. He starred in the 2006 film The Optimists, Optimisti, the 1998 film Savior, Spasitelj, with Dennis Quaid and Nastassja Kinski, and The Trap, Klopka in 2007, Serbia’s official submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008). Savior was produced by Oliver Stone and written by Robert Orr and distributed by Lions Gate Films with a budget of $10 million. The plot centered around an American mercenary, Joshua Rose, played by Dennis Quaid, who escorts a Serbian woman and her child to a United Nations safe zone during the Bosnian War. His objective in portraying Draza Mihailovich in Ravna Gora was to present him in a realistic way, based on the real man, as reflected by the historical facts, documents, and accounts of people who knew him. He wanted to dispel the negative Communist propaganda image which was largely manufactured and fabricated by the Partisan Communist dictatorship regime. He wanted to present the real man behind the image.

In an interview given to Blic, September 6, 2012, Glogovac stated that he sought to depict the real person: “Draza Mihailovich was a gentle, loving, interesting, extremely knowledgeable, courageous and highly respected man. He is nothing like the villain he is portrayed as.”

The image of Draza Mihailovich was a falsified and distorted image created by Communist propagandists and hacks. He wants to change how people perceive and understand Draza Mihailovich. The picture that emerges is one based on the facts and the eyewitness accounts and testimonies, not the faked and forged accounts by the Communist dictatorship.

Glogovac told Blic: “Most of what we knew and were taught is largely propaganda by the victor.” Draza Mihailovich was betrayed and abandoned by the Allies who switched their support to the Communist and Stalinist Josip Broz Tito. As the winners of the civil war, the Communists seized power and established a Communist dictatorship sponsored by Joseph Stalin. The Communist regime created and manufactured its own falsified history of who Draza Mihailovich was and what he stood for and what he achieved.

The story is about presenting the truth. It favors neither side but seeks to present a balanced, unbiased, and factual history of the events in Yugoslavia during World War II. The objective is to gain a greater understanding of the two guerrilla resistance movements that turned brother against brother. The majority of the Chetniks and Partisans were Serbs. The conflict was thus one of Serb versus Serb. For him, the film “provides an opportunity to apologize, forgive and reconcile with each other” so that everyone can move on.

Director Rados Bajic, left, above, with a camera crew on the set of the Ravna Gora series at the Sarganska osmica railway in Mokra Gora. Below, shooting a scene at the railway station with actors portraying Yugoslav soldiers in 1941.

He noted that Partisan veterans of the National Liberation War Veterans Association have protested the series even though they have not seen it. He sees it as them protecting their pensions, privileges, perks, and status acquired during the Communist regime. He sees this as understandable but emphasized that the truth needed to be told.

Rados Bajic was the director, writer, and star of the Serbian TV series Selo gori, a baba se ceslja, The Village Burns, The Grandmother Combs Her Hair, which ran from 2007 to 2011. He played the character Radasin in 87 episodes during the five season run of the series on Radio Televizija Srbija (RTS). He wrote and starred in the 1982 TV movie Led, the 1987 film Na putu za Katangu, playing the character Jova, and the 1995 Yugoslav film Treca sreca playing the role of Sekula/Dragoljub.

The series begins with the events of April, 1941 as Nazi Germany and the other Axis coalition partners attack and destroy Yugoslavia. King Peter II flees to London. This is the first part of the trilogy “1941-1945″. The first part will cover the period from April to July, 1941. The reconstructed narrow gauge Sargan Eight, Sarganska osmica, railway line in Mokra Gora was used to film the early scenes. The railway line is shaped like the number 8, running to the city of Visegrad in Republika Srpska, Bosnia-Hercegovina, with a planned extension to Kremna and Uzice. The line ran from Belgrade to Sarajevo until 1974 when it was closed down. The railway line was rebuilt from 1999 to 2003 by the Serbian Ministry of Tourism and the Serbian State Railway with the help of director Emir Kusturica, who constructed a nearby town called Drvengrad.

Djordje Zivadinovic as Yugoslav King Peter II Karageorgevich on the set of the Serbian television series Ravna Gora, filmed in the underground bunker complex beneath Mali Zvornik.

The series began filming in Mali Zvornik in the summer of 2012. The initial scenes featuring Irfan Mensur as Vlatko Macek and Macedonian actor Petar Arsovski as Dusan Simovic were filmed in the bunker. The film relies on 200 actors who will appear in authentic costumes of the period. Djordje Zivadinovic plays King Peter II Karageorgevic who assumes power after the overthrow of the Regency under Prince Paul. Slobodan Jovanovic, Black Chetniks leader Kosta Pecanac, Partisan Commissar Slobodan Penezic Krcun, Partisan Zivorad Zikica “Spanac” Jovanovic, Milan Nedic, Koca Popovic, Sreten Zujovic, Alexander Rankovic, Aca Misic, Dimitrije Ljotic, Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo, Ivan Ribar, and Chetnik Major Miodrag Palosevic will also be portrayed in the series. The filming locations will include Belgrade, Kragujevac, Rudnik, Zemun, and Srem.

Mali Zvornik is on the border with the Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia-Hercegovina, southwest of Belgrade, on the Drina River, across from its sister city, meaning “small bell”. The city was established in 1955 in conjunction with the construction of a hydroelectric station on the Drina River. The initial scenes of the series were shot in the underground complex where King Peter II met with his advisers and ministers in April, 1941 as the crisis with Nazi Germany erupted. The secret underground bunker was constructed in 1931 for Yugoslav King Alexander I. The bunker, shaped like a cross, consists of 78 rooms and hallways that can accommodate 3,000 to 5,000 people in a space of 2 kilometers. There is a chapel, an altar, and a fountain. The bunker was never completed due to World War II. The bunker was the last place where King Peter II stayed before fleeing to London in April, 1941.

The first scene filmed was of the last meeting of the Yugoslav Government in April, 1941 held at the command bunker where King Peter II listens to Yugoslav Prime Minister General Dusan Simovic, played by Peter Bian, and Vice President Slobodan Jovanovic, played by Momir Bradic. Vlatko Macek and General Bora Mirkovic had left the meeting. King Peter II was 17 years old at the time of the German invasion. Actor Djordje Zivadinovic is 22 years old.

The scenes with Nebojsa Glogovac as Draza Mihailovich were filmed next as the Ravna Gora guerrilla resistance movement emerges in Serbia. Draza Mihailovich created a sensation in the United States and in Great Britain and electrified nations seeking a symbol of resistance and defiance.

Rados Bajic, left, the director and writer of the television series Ravna Gora on the set during filming.

Director and writer Rados Bajic has stated that the series seeks to achieve a reconciliation and deeper understanding of the tragic civil war that erupted between Serbs during World War II pitting the Chetniks against the Partisans, both groups made up principally of Serbs. In an interview in Vecernje Novosti, June 30, 2012, Bajic stated: “We have suffered as a people. We need to open our eyes, take off the cataracts and see clearly. … We have not learned the lessons of this great tragedy.”

Bajic sees the resolution of this conflict as necessary if Serbia as a nation and Serbs as a people are to go on: “[T]he fratricidal war between the Serbs once and for all has to stop. Chetniks and Partisans finally have to lay down their arms. With all due respect to our grandfathers and fathers, regardless of which side they were on, we owe it to our children. We have to get out of the trenches and the decades of deception.” He stated that he wanted to correct the injustice that was done to Draza Mihailovich: “I am very excited to be the first to talk about the great national injustice that was done to the patriotic movement of the Serbian people, led by Draza Mihailovich.” The Communists wrote the history of that conflict which was falsified: “We have been listening for 70 years to just one, counterfeit version of the war that the winners served us.”

The Great Powers decided the Mihailovich-Tito conflict and created the tragedy. The Great Powers continue to wreak havoc and misery on Serbia. He sees the resolution of this issue as leading to a better understanding of the impact that outside powers have had in creating the Serbian tragedy. Why do Kosovo Albanians get uncritical support from the international community for whatever they do? “Even when destroying and desecrating our sanctuaries and churches.” Why was the genocide of the Serbian population of Krajina not even reported? “We watched after the ‘Storm’ as 250,000 Serbs arrived on tractors in Serbia. And it was never a genocide? I do not understand!”

The theme for the series was proposed to Bajic in December, 2009 by Aleksandar Tijanic. It took four months for Bajic to decide to undertake the project.

This series will be a defining event in that Draza Mihailovich will be presented as he really was for the first time since World War II. More than a television series, this project will be a milestone in Serbian history, reflecting a sea change in how the past is perceived and understood.