A flourishing documentary film scene in a country full of contradictions. This year’s Country Focus is dedicated to Croatia, the most recent state to join the EU and a former Socialist Republic of the Federation of Yugoslavia.
While the deserted factories left behind from the socialist era hardly fit into the picture of tourist hot spots, they can also be ignored as necessary. That’s not how things are treated in this documentary programme though. “Ideally, the films are supposed to show the sheer force of the documentary film medium when it is applied with courage – as an active intervention into given situations”, commented Borjana Gaković, curator of the Special Programme.
Personal search for traces and current close-ups
And such situations have a history. In NAKED ISLAND, the director breaks the silence within her family. In the 1950s, her grandfather disappeared for three whole years. The film shines a light on how those declared “enemies of the people” were persecuted in Tito’s Yugoslavia as well as how dealing with this policy within families still causes pain to this day. This cinematic intervention works in two different directions: outwards, towards society, and inwards, as a personal strategy for the filmmaker to deal with her own past.
“There is an undeniable interest in engaging with the history of one’s own parents and grandparents in intensive, critical fashion”, added Borjana Gaković.
AFTER PARTY is entirely rooted in the here and now of Croatia today, telling the intimate story of two lovers in the process of separating who say everything and give each another their all one more time. THEY JUST COME AND GO documents how someone still needs to clear up after the partygoers on the beach the next morning. Goran Dević observes everyday moments in the midst of upheaval in THE STEEL MILL CAFÉ: during the Socialist era, the town of Sisak was home to a flourishing steelworks. Now the couple who own it are shutting the pub there after decades and are about to head to Germany.
Independent film initiatives in a vital documentary film scene
The vital, multi-faceted Croatian documentary film scene started firing on all cylinders from the end of the 1990s onwards. The internationally-active production company Factum was founded, followed a few years later by the documentary film festival ZagrebDox and LiburniaFilm Festival in Opatija. The Zagreb Academy of Dramatic Art (ADU), where generations of renowned documentary filmmakers have received their training since the 1960s, has also functioned as a veritable talent factory. To maintain as great a degree of independence in documentary film practice as possible, numerous independent film initiatives have also been set up over the last years.
We will announce the schedule of all festival screenings with our complete film programme on 10 October.
PARADE by Arijana Lekić-Fridrih
The film PARADE was the result of one such initiative. In black and white images, Arijana Lekić-Fridrih captures people waving flags sitting on folding chairs they’ve brought with them as they wait for the anniversary celebrations for a military operation to begin. The tanks roll up. The war is now at a distance, but still very much in sight. The abstract electronic music makes the (absent) sounds of the masses resonate and echo all the more piercingly as a result.
Even if the films in the Country Focus do not address them directly: the consequences of the Yugoslavian Wars and the frictions and contractions related to the systemic changes they brought about are burnt into them.
In cooperation with the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.