My personal feelings for the jubilee Pula Film Festival, were joy and privilege. Joy, for, I reminded myself of the past times, good old days/years, when I used to come professionally to Pula as the Festival of ex-Yugoslavian long feature films, from 1970 up to the end of 1980s (when I also served as the press moderator of the last Pula Yugoslavian Festival). It was therefore a privilege to be part of the FEDEORA Jury, just on the occasion of Pula’s Jubilee, when, with 60 years of existence, it now belongs to the club of the world’s oldest festivals. With the independence of Croatia, then came the new time of Pula which continued as a festival of Croatian Cinema/production, combined with the inevitable International Program from the latest world film production.
Having in mind that the first editions, up to a few years ago, as a competition of Croatian feature films was difficult to compose, while the production was limited to a small number of films (from 6 to 10 per year), this year’s Jubilee Competition was a record one with 14 films in the National Competition and 10 in the program of minority co-productions, all together, promising 24!
But, as always, the quantity of produced films is not a guarantee for such a proportion in quality. That is even difficult to expect from even countries with a greater cinema tradition. Anyhow, the quantity of the latest Croatian production is a guarantee for the future, with the discovery of new young, talented filmmakers.
In my opinion, from the 14 films in the National Competition, the best of them were: A Stranger (Obrana i zaštita), Vis-Vis, The Farewell (Oproštaj), The Priest’s Children (Svećenikova djeca) and One Shot (Hitac). Our unanimous winner, A Stranger, could have been part of any international film festival. Writer-director Bobo Jelcic, belongs to the more experienced mid-age generation of Croatian directors, working mostly as a theater director. Strange, but A Stranger is his directorial debut! But, in this film he shows all his accumulated experience and knowledge, for, A Stranger is very precise, with Jelcic controlling all segments in the role of the auteur. There is perfect casting with Bogdan Diklic as the confused and alienated Slavko, and Nada Djurevska as his partner/wife. Together with the work of one of the leading Croatian cinematographers, Erol Zubcevic, Jelcic creates the feeling of an unbearable lightness/easiness of a painful living in the town of Mostar, with an almost docu-feature structure.
The second film of my top-5, is Vis-à-Vis by the co-writer-director Nevio Marasovic, a kind of film-within-a film with two actors performing a psycho drama. It is a mixture of the private lives and inner feelings of a writer-director who with the selected actor in the main role, trying to write the screenplay for his new film, invites the confused actor into the house of his dead father in the island of Vis – which gives the film its symbolic title; a vis-a-vis of both film creators, the writer-director (acted by Rakan Rushaidat, who is also the co-screenwriter) and the actor in the future film, played by Janko Popovic Volaric, (one of the best acing tandems in the whole Competition).
In the group of genre films, the best was One Shot, by the writer-director Robert Orhel, who creates an effective TV crime film, and crime-and-punishment psycho-drama of two young women (excellently played by Ecija Ojdanic and Iva Babic), both of whom happen to be pregnant.
Writer-director Dan Oki belong to the most experienced Croatian writer-directors of the mid-generation. The Farewell is an original drama based on a real facts of the fatal effects of asbestosis in the suburb of Split on the Adriatic cost (the asbestos factory in Vranjic), when the young activist Nina (the excellent Andrea Dea Mladinic) is in danger of dying, facing the genetic condition of her father who died from asbestosis. Having real life dangerous conditions as the foundation for the film’s inspiration, an almost docu-feature has been created.
And finally, the fifth film of my top-5 best in the Croatian Competition, is the latest comedy by the director Vinko Bresan The Priest’s Children selected in this year’s Karlovy Vary 48th Competition. As the third part of Bresan’s islands trilogy it is not as convincing as the previous two: How the War Started on My Island (Kako je poceo rat na mom otoku, 1990) and Marshal (Marsal, 1999). For, one could not build the whole thesis in helping to increase the birth rate of a Croatian nation, based on a 3-minute joke about the priest Don Fabian, who starts to pierce packaged condoms in a small town on a Dalmatian island! That is why the whole film does not function so effectively for the international audience, though it works better for the local audience familiar with the domestic mentality.
Blagoja Kunovski, Macedonia