Hey Babu Riba (1986) from Tuna

Hey Babu Riba (1986) is a Yugoslavian "coming of age" film set in the mid 50s. As the film opens, a wealthy man has his limo driver stop for a paper written by Yugoslav expatriates. He spies an obituary for a woman which causes him to notify several other men in all parts of the world, and eventually to return to Yugoslavia for the funeral. The four obviously close friends meet at her graveside, and are persuaded to return with a rich acquaintance to his luxury yacht. Thus begins the film, which is entirely told in flashbacks with a timeline which is not entirely linear.

The four friends, together with the dead woman, grew up inseparable, and formed a rowing team, competing in "fours," with the young woman as cox. The beloved Mirjana (Gala Videnovic) was called Esther by the others for their love of Esther Williams, and all things American. All four of the young men were madly in love with Esther, but she had no romantic or sexual interest in any of them.  The infatuation of all four guys with Esther was easy for me to understand, given the looks and performance of Gala Videnovic. The 50s were especially turbulent times in Yugoslavia, so the film introduces many colorful characters, including the woman who runs the local black market (Danica Maksimovic), with whom all four of the boys lost their virginity.

Near the beginning of the film, we learn that the four men literally rowed Mirjana to Italy to join her diplomat father when political complications prevented her from obtaining an exit visa. The friends were jailed for their efforts, and her father refused to help them when they would not say which of them made her pregnant. Most of the film centers around the question of "who knocked her up", but it is really the journey, not the answer, which is the core of the film's appeal. In the end, the film is really about unconditional friendship.

The subtitles are not especially well done, but they were sufficient to follow the story. Sort of. The narrative structure is a little hard to follow, to be honest, but I was far more interested in the characters and the Yugoslav society than I was in the identity of the father.



  • beautiful widescreen transfer of a great-lookin' film



  • Danica Maksimovic shows breasts, as does Gale Videnovic.
  • An unknown shows full frontal as a hooker.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.9/10, but that score is based on a mere 84 votes.
  • It grossed $140,000 in a brief run at the arthouse circuit.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a high C+. Must see for those who enjoy foreign films. The film has a great look, and stayed entertaining for 112 minutes.

Return to the Movie House home page