New Croatian cinema is alive and kicking. Filmmaking is more versatile and propulsive than ever, with exciting things happening in animated, experimental and short films. After gaining independence in the early nineties, many feature films were mainly focused on exploring the grave realities of war and the post-war period. Only now, 20 years on, do filmmakers feel free to turn their eyes to realities other than those of the world they live in. The time has come to put private and personal stories on the screen and a young generation of film directors is finally managing to do exactly that.
This year was marked by a deeply personal, heartfelt look at the creative process in Vis-a-vis, the second feature film by 31-year-old Nevio Marasovi?. The most important fact about this well-made buddy comedy which is actually full of pain, is that it was made completely without state funding. The key problem of Croatian cinema is its heavy dependence on government support. Marasovi? mines some benevolentl irony from this fact, since his protagonist is obvioulsy a version of himself: a young film director trying to make a feature film in a Kafkaesque social environment.
Creative freedom is easier to obtain when making shorts. Croatian cinema has great independent experimental animators and one to keep the eye on is Dalibor Bari?. The work of this prolific collage artist, experimental filmmaker and graphic novelist explores psychedelic realms in which voyeuristic impulses run in an endless loop. This year he premiered his Amnesiac on the Beach, in which animation is combined with live action footage in an exploration of memory and the stories we tell ourselves.
Great things happened in Croatian experimental film as well, with debutant Tomislav Šoban’s hybrid film The Tinniest which mixes different film genres to an imaginative whole telling a moving story of a missing boy. The film started out as an amateur project and turned out to be one of the most important movies made over the past couple of years. The complex usage of film language brougt a fresh vision while also regerring back to the modernist tradition.
The unifying thread between all these filmmakers is that they are still in their thirties, mainly making films without funding from the state. True film enthusiast, they just can’t help thinking and making moving images, no matter the circumstances. More importantly still, they are true auteurs who create recognizable visions of reality. This is a great feat, especially as they are hindered by socio-economical circumstances which leave little for those who want to put their dreams on the screen. Those who have the dedication, strength and passion to do so despite this, will lead the way into the brave new world of Croatian cinema, which is just starting to see worlds outside the grave realities of its society.
Višnja Penti? is a critic of film, art and literature, as well as a literary translator and coordinator of Cinema Club Zagreb.