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Slaughter Nick for President, the Movie ~ A Serbian Cult Hero Overthrowing the Single Story

by Laura on November 18th, 2013

Question: What do a 1990s Canadian TV actor … the dangers of telling a “single story” … the sanctions in ex-Yugoslavia, and (waaaaaiiiit for it) … adoption have in common?

I know, right? I toooootally didn’t expect it, either.

Photo courtesy of Globe and Mail.

“Laura, do you know who Nick Slaughter is?” my husband asked.

“Who?” I responded.

“I guess not.”

“Am I supposed to know?”

“We’re going to his movie premiere next week, and he’ll be there, too.”

“Sounds posh,” I said.  Not as posh as it sounds, but still a good time and free beer afterward.

“He’s staying at the hostel.” (As in Plaza Hostel Belgrade, check it out on Facebook.*)

 

The Premiere

I admit, I showed up thinking that guy’s name was Nick Slaughter.

Delta City Movie Theater, New Belgrade, Nov. 12, 2013. From L to R: Časlov, Ivana, Actor Rob Stewart, Writer Laura Dennis, Bojana & Miša

Nope, Nick Slaughter is a TV character.

The actor’s name is Rob Stewart. He’s a super nice guy who accidentally stumbled upon his cult celebrity status in Serbia, and made a movie about it.

Slaughter Nick for President shows Rob enjoying Serbian hospitality, his new-found fame, and the not-to-be-underestimated irreverent Serbian sense-of-humor, often playfully executed at Rob’s expense. But he’s a good sport about it.

Both Rob, and the uninitiated audience may wonder why it is that Tropical Heat (a cheesier Baywatch, if that’s at all possible)—and by extension, his character, Nick Slaughter—were so popular in Serbia in the 1990s, a time of oppressive U.N. sanctions and the equally oppressive Milosević regime. The people in the middle? Totally could not catch a break. 

Slaughter Nick for President attempts—and succeeds—in telling a different story, compared with the “single story” we get from Western media, American movies, etc.

What story is that?

 

Creating Multiple Stories

Oh, it’s the idea that all Serbs are war criminals, one of the first topics I wrote about on this very blog.

If you need more proof, think about the recent movie, Killing Season (no link needed. Trust me, it’s not worth watching), with Robert De Niro and John Travolta.

It features John Travolta <<< snicker >>> and a trite accent, playing a bitter Serbian ex-soldier, hell bent on exacting gruesome revenge on the damaged-but-noble hero, played by De Niro. A Serb portrayed as a war criminal?! Noooooo…….that’s not unoriginal AT ALL.

This, truly, is the danger of the single story.

An adoptee writer friend, Rebecca Hawkes of Sea Glass & Other Fragments, recommended novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s discussion of the danger of the single story. In her TED talk, Adichie emphasizes how necessary it is to tell many stories about a person, a country, a people.

It’s only then that we can clear up cultural misunderstandings.

 

The student protests most of us don’t know anything about

Slaughter Nick for President shows interviews with student protesters, punk band members, journalists and TV station producers. We learn that Tropical Heat became popular in Serbia at a time when people were trying to figure out how to survive, to not succumb to depression and despair.

Simply put, it was escapism.

The 1990s in Serbia were a shitty time. People who lived through it prefer not to think about, let alone reminisce.

Coupled with the sanctions and war, the 1990s were also a time of great unrest, with students taking to the streets in non-violent protests.

But you may be wondering … what were those tens of thousands of student protestors protesting against?

Yes, they wanted to oust Slobodan Milosević. But more than that, the youth of Serbia wanted to show solidarity with … Croatia … Bosnia … with places that where there was fighting, and the students wanted peace. They wanted to show Sarajevo that they stood with them.

There’s a more complicated story to all of this, but the film keeps it simple. Slaughter Nick for President is a fun and heartfelt addition to combat the single story that we see and hear in mainstream Western media. It’s a story about a resilient people, facing shitty times with their inat and dark, sarcastic sense of humor intact.

 

Wait, what about adoption?

Stay tuned for Thursday, when I pull this mumbojumbo together and connect it with adoption. Hey, I’m getting there, it takes time!

[Note: If you lived in Serbia, you already know, but others may be wondering why the movie’s called Slaughter Nick for President. I’ll explain on Thursday, as well.]

*  *  *

The DVD is not yet available for purchase. Sign up on at Slaughter Nick for President to receive updates.

* Full disclosure: Plaza Hostel is owned and run by my husband and his business partner. No, they didn’t pay me to say that.

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