The Roads


«I found my way, it is up to you to judge if it is the right one, » Sava Šumanović

Production company: Avala film, Belgrade, 1958
Screenplay: Aleksandar Petrović
Director: Aleksandar Petrović
Color consultant: Danica Stajić
Camera: Nikola Makdak
Film editing: N. Habić
Director assistant: M. Borota
Camera assistant: L. Kekić
Musical collaborator: Lj. Popović
Film director: Vlastimir Jovanović

Film about the life and work of the great Yugoslav painter Sava Šumanović, arrested for being ethnically Serb and executed by Croatian fascists in 1942. The film begins with a brief interview of the artist’s mother who remembers the morning when the NDH police (from the Independent State of Croatia- World War II fascist puppet state of Germany) came to arrest her son and take him by his favorite road, which he painted constantly, inspiring the title of the film, The roads .

Awards, distinctions, festivals:

  • Grand Prixfor Best Director 6th Pula Yugoslav Film Festival, 1959
  • Grand Prix– Vth International Film Festival – Tours, France, December 1959
  • Short Film Festival, Oberhausen Germany,1959
  • 10th International Festival of Short Films and Documentaries, Venice, Italy, 1959
  • Bergamo Film Festival, Italy, 1959
  • Biennale de l’Art, Paris 1961
  • Documentary Film Festival of Rennes, November 1992 (Programme spécial), France
  • Europe around Europe Festival, Evreux, Normandy, France – march 2007
  • Europe around Europe Festival, Paris -Normandy – march 2011


This film depicts the work and the tragic life of the Serbian painter Sava Šumanović. This artist, little-known in France, is one of the great masters of Yugoslav painting during the period between the two world wars. Through his work, Šumanović established a bridge between Yugoslav art and the most important artistic events of that time, especially cubism. After a brief stay in Paris, he retired to his hometown Šid. His paintings, which are the pinnacle of Yugoslav art of the time, are part of the best works of European art. In 1942, Šumanović was taken hostage by the Croat fascist Ustasha who led him to execution by the road he represented in many paintings.

Aleksandar Petrović shoots The Roads to introduce this great painter remained unknown to the world . Šumanović, cut off from his loneliness and his intimate tragedy in the heart of the Pannonian plain, has created a work of an invaluable artistic value. Aleksandar Petrović had a degree in Art History and was an art critic for several years. His knowledge and passion for pictorial art allowed him to express his subject in an his own authentic way.


Press review:

« In fifteen minutes of the film we see more, we feel more, we discover much more of the painter whose paintings we see than in a day of studying the didactic text from the catalog of an exhibition. This film is an enchantment from the hands of a master. Dušan Makavejev « Srećna  šetnja » Politika, March 22, 1959

Aleksandar Petrović talks about The Roads

Film-roll footnotes

FILM TODAY – 1950-1965 NOVI FILM (New film) (Edition Film Institute Beograd)

« They say it’s very bad for a director’s film to look alike: « Him again! He repeats himself… » the simplest way to avoid this is to choose different themes with totally different characteristics and places. However, it can happen that the material you fight with will awake you; it seems to you that you have not sufficiently discovered its mystery yet.

This is how the film The Roads was born.

It would be unfair from me to link the continuation of my work with only my interest in this kind of cinema.

It is true that the paintings of Sava Šumanović- this serious and tragic man and painter, had seduced me for a long time. There are few examples in Art History where we find so much resemblance between on the one hand the character and his destiny and on the other the human drama of an artist and his art. I may take a lot of freedom, but I think I will not be so far from the truth if I say that there is something Faustian in this personal and artistic tragedy of Šumanović.

This man who burned his own brain trying to « paint the painting » in order, as he used to say, to give us « the eternal pleasure and joy for the eyes », died in a senseless way. His disappearance was absurd just like dust and clouds are. My goal for the film was to show that these open eyes that disappeared in the Srem plain are still alive and persist through the beauty they have revealed to us. I thus had a deep human reason to approach the direction of this film…

This strong tempered man, however discreet and sensitive, had in his personal life, in the subjective human drama, all sorts of pitfalls on his artistic path. Life and art, in this specific case, really became and lasted as one. That is what I wanted to put in the focus of my film. In « The Roads » the evolution of Šumanović’s destiny was essential for the understanding of his artistic work… What is most important: the camera allows to reveal a picture within the specific artistic particularities of the paintings, and the editing organizes the details which will show a part of the biography and the conscience of the artist.

It is not uncommon to see in Šumanović’s paintings a pattern of roads and trees, as well as some mirrors. However, he painted a picture in 1928, at the beginning of his illness, in the center of which, and without any particular connection with the main pattern – the landscape- he drew a black dog running.

It is undeniable that these few patterns have a psychological root in Šumanović. For me, it is obvious that Šumanović’s whole life was a journey to sunny lands, an Eden of the most beautiful landscapes of Šid, and likewise, that the lines of his personal and artistic journeys were closely related. Was it by chance that Sava Šumanović was strolling along a tree-lined road and staying alone for hours in his moments of nervous breakdowns? How pathetic and symbolic is that he was taken to his execution by these same roads? In my film, it seemed logical to try to discover a deeper documentary meaning to these roads through dramaturgy and editing.

As you can see, I often used purely photographic means in the staging of the film The Roads. I directed the sequence of Šumanović’s madness in negative with the paintings that we had the opportunity to see previously in « normal » vision in positive, and those presented in negative discover a new meaning. In summary: I understood madness as the negative of a normal psychic state and I directed it technically as such.

It is very difficult to talk about an artistic medium if you don’t speak the same language; transfer the image only into text and sound into film. It is for this reason that these notes should be understood as the memory of the creation of my two short films. It goes without saying that based on my personal experience, I wanted to reach, here and there, some general values.

« To give life » to still pictures, even if it represents convincing evidence of the possibility of transformation into a film should be a mean, not a goal. Because the sole observation that a “still” picture can move through editing is not evidence of an artistic result; such a cinematographic phrase should at the same time be a kind of key that will open the door to the subjects of life that these documents hide.

That’s how the movie Petar Dobrović, was made, and later on The Roads, my favorite of all. » (1958)

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