After all the changes it has undergone over the past six decades – from a festival of Yugoslav feature film, to a festival of Croatian film to a festival of an international nature, the Pula Film Festival has confirmed, this year as well, that its concept, established and formulated, over the previous years, by its artistic director, film critic Zlatko Vidackovic, is fully justified and that it functions very well on three levels: the level of presenting the national production, the level of evaluating movies created as regional co-productions and on an international festival level as well. The mentioned regional level is especially significant as it constantly keeps confirming what all cinematographic people know well: that without production-wise and creative cooperation on ex-Yugoslav territory many projects simply cannot be financially realized, and in certain cases they would be artistically poorer as well.
In that sense, this year in Pula, the Croatian-Serbian cinematographic connection was dominant. Both of these films in the competition won awards: The Parade (Srdjan Dragojević for the screenplay and Hristina Popović as the leading actress) won the official jury award and Practical Guide to Belgrade with Singing and Crying (Praktican vodic kroz Beograd sa pevanjem i plakanjem), directed by Srdjan Vuletić, received the award of the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean Jury, FEDEORA.
Of course, the attention of domestic and foreign journalists, critics and film festival directors focused on films of the latest Croatian productions. Pula presented an entire production of 11 feature films and a selection of the best short films. The main characteristics of this year’s production were a diversity of the topics, styles and genres. However, there were no films of exceptional quality, but none fell below the level of low taste either. In fact, we saw three very good movies, even according to European cinematographic criteria, which made it a successful production year.
The most pleasant surprise was the film A Letter to My Father (Pismo caci) the debutant film of renowned documentary filmmaker Damir Cucic. A movie with a simple idea and consistent in style and form, but complex in the directing, acting and editing sense. A movie about the relationship between a son and father as a vivisection of their conflicts and hidden emotions which neither of them is able to express. The plot is triggered by a video message, which the son records and sends to his father. A complex film, full of hidden meanings, but simple in the emotion it carries.
The famous director of the middle generation, Branko Schmidt, known for his extremely critical, non-compromising and expressive films (Metastases / Metastaze, 2009), in his new movie Vegetarian Cannibal (Ljudozder vegetarijanac) once again criticizes present-day Croatian society. Of course, like in every good film, the criticism, in this case pointing to corruption and the connection between state services and criminal circles, is not a goal in itself, but it is rather founded in a well-guided story and well-defined characters, especially the main character, a doctor at a gynaecological clinic.
Finally, yet another well-known director of the middle generation, Arsen A Ostojic, has made a very good film drama Halima’s Path (Halimin Put), a movie with a delicate topic – the inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflicts before and during the war in Bosnia. With a classic, but consistent procedure, and with the brilliant support of photography director Slobodan Trninic, Ostojic creates an emotionally complex drama, which communicated very well with the audiences at the Arena.
Next year, Pula is marking the festival’s 60th anniversary. This will be a festivity surpassing Pula as a Croatian festival. These 60 years carry within them a lot of the creative energy of all the Yugoslav filmmaking.
Nenad Dukić, Serbia