The Racial and Ethnical Camp of Želimir Žilnik’s “Kenedi” Trilogy

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Milisava Petković, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Germany


    Želimir Žilnik’s semi-documentary movie trilogy on Kenedi – Kenedi Goes Back Home, Kenedi – Lost and Found and Kenedi is Getting Married – in a humorous and seemingly exaggerated manner explores the serious issues of European identity politics and policies which allow the abject treatment of asylum seeking Roma population. The movies follow a young man Kenedi on his way from Germany, where he grew up, to Serbia, where he was forcefully sent in 2002 in the “process of readmission” and further to numerous other countries through which he repeatedly attempted to reach the EU again. The fun and queer character of the movies is based on the great vitality and adaptation capacities that Kenedi exhibits in diverse environments. This however by no means diminishes the seriousness of Kenedi’s existential struggles, labor and even sexual exploitation and marginalization.
    Žilnik’s artistic strategy consists of fictional additions to the documentary material, through which he highlights the ethnical travesty and shifting of gender roles as survival strategies. The movies focus on the Roma teenagers who are not only being displaced despite their will, but are radically deprived from an inhabitable place of “origin” – not remembering Kosovo, expelled from the EU, with no connection with Sebia. Their identities are being constructed from outside and are always already loaded with stigma and non-acceptance. Paradoxically, this enables Kenedi to easily identify with diverse ethnical identities and quickly acquire new languages and behavioral patterns. He performs race, ethnicity and gender at will, with occasional incidental slippages from the roles or deliberate embracement of stigma. Such self-distancing and performative juggling with diverse roles proves to be a great survival strategy in increasingly conservative European national contexts. The humor, irony and theatricality open the debate towards a largely underexplored area of racial and ethnical Camp cultural production.