Srdan Keca’s quiet observational documentary “Museum of the Revolution” is set in the purlieus of a onetime utopian building project: a monument to Yugoslavia that was meant to serve as a socialist gathering space. The structure was abandoned in the late 1970s, and today its unfinished basement level has become the dwelling place for a small community of unhoused people.
The film opens with archival footage of a midcentury construction site, but soon pivots to showcase a series of haunting images of the museum as it currently stands: dark, dank and littered with debris. Successive scenes focus on three inhabitants of the space: an older woman named Mara, a boisterous child named Milica and Milica’s weary mother, Vera, who earns money scrubbing the windshields of cars stopped at motorway red lights.
A lot of the film unfolds without speaking. Minutes pass as Mara and Milica amuse themselves together or enjoy time alone. The dialogue we receive offers snippets of the women’s life stories: we learn that Mara is estranged from her daughter, that Vera’s husband is incarcerated and that child welfare services tried to take custody of Milica at least once before.
Keca often captures the women during spells of waiting, and builds a mood of transience by depicting them across seasons, spaces and hours of the day. This is an engrossing documentary, and one that raises questions about the ethics of intervening (or not) in the lives of people struggling to get by. That these queries hover unresolved may leave viewers uneasy, but it also positions us alongside the subjects, waiting for a solution that’s yet to arrive.
Museum of the Revolution
Not rated. In Serbo-Croatian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters.