Whose Is This Song? (2003) – a Journey to the Origins of a Haunting Melody


A common theme on the ever tempestuous Balkans – we love our neighbors, we share a similar culture, that exciting mix of the Byzantine and Ottoman traditions interwoven with peculiar local variations. We understand each other very well, even when we don’t speak the same language, because we all understand the language of the warm Balkan heart, the delicious Balkan food and a glass of good rakiya (one more of that, please). Then we hear a familiar melody, and we all start to sing the song – everybody in their own language! And then we go at each other’s throat, sometimes in a friendly, and sometimes in a not so friendly way – “Why are you stealing OUR song?! The song I grew up with can’t be yours!”

That scenario, that is actually very real, is the opening for the wonderful documentary “Whose is this song” by the Bulgarian filmmaker Adela Peeva:

In a tavern in Istanbul, I was with friends from various Balkan countries – a Greek, Macedonian, Turk, Serb and me, the Bulgarian. And there I heared the song I want to tell you about. As soon as we heard it, everyone of us started to croon the song, each in their own language. And everybody persisted that the song originates from their own country of birth, and then we started a fierce fight – whose is this song? I knew since childhood, that the song is Bulgarian. I wanted to learn why the others claimed to be theirs too“, says Adela.

Official poster for the ,,Whose is This Song?”
credit: adelamedia.net

Right after that, Adela sets off on a journey through the Balkan countries, on a mission to find the true origin of the haunting song. She visited Turkey, Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria, and everywhere she goes, the film director finds people who believe that the melody originates from their own country, sharing the legends about how the song was born. And each version of the song has its own name, corresponding to the different lyrics to the melody. In Bulgaria it is called “A clear moon is now rising”; in Bosnia “Look at me, you Anatolian girl”, in Serbia “Blond hair”; in Macedonia “Hey girl”, in Greece “From a foreign land”; in Turkey – “On the road to Uskudar”. Somewhere a tender love song, elsewhere a military march and a story of the national glory.

Do you want to learn about the true origin of this beautiful melody? Take the journey with Adela Peeva, watching the profound documentary that was nominated by the European Film Academy for “Best Documentary Film 2003” – Prix ARTE, and won the “Prix Bartok” Ethnographic Film Festival award in Paris, France 2004, Gibson Impact of Music Award Nashville Film Festival – USA, 2004, the award “Silver Knight” on the International Film Festival “Golden Knight” – Russia, 2005 and the Best Film and Award for Innovation International Ethnographic Film Festival – Sardinia, Italy 2006, among others.

As far as we know, last time the movie was screened at the University of Chicago. If you see an info near your cinema, do not miss this trip filled with humor, suspense, sadness and surprise for each of the Balkans country’s.


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