Outside of the specialized short or animation festivals juries do not normally see and give a prize to a short film at a feature film festival. However at Pula the Fedeora jury were asked to give three prizes, one to a feature national film, second to a feature co-production where Croatia was the minority producer and thirdly to a short film. We thus viewed twenty shorts in competition.
Looking at the list of titles I was intrigued if not even surprised to find that three of the films had the same title and moreover that title was Fucking Game After the first three films were screened one immediately noticed that the plot line was very similar and we learnt that third of the films were student films and that the students had been given the same three to four pages of a scenario from which to create a short film. The story line was thus – after sexual intercourse or fucking a couple break up, with one of the couple going off to meet up with their current partner. Thus love did not really figure in the relationship.
The students thus had to develop this basic story line into something that would signal the loss of a relationship, albeit one apparently based very much on sex. One of the films Straight Pool departed from heterosexual relationships to deal with a gay couple who want to keep their romance secret thus causing friction between them. The director Filip Sovagovic was also in his 40s unlike the other directors all in their mid-twenties. Otherwise it was interesting to see what the directors would do with the sex scene – they almost all chose to employ hand held close ups of bodies as the couple went about their business – mainly shot in digi beta with a couple in HD. As was said in one of the films the difference between eroticism and pornography when you are depicting sex on screen is that in the former you did not show or see penetration. There is however a limit to what can be done with simply bodies or parts of bodies engaged in sex. One could certainly have done with eroticism created through lighting, acting or imaginative direction.
Seeing nine films one after the other was perhaps not fair on the directors but I was certainly turned off after the first four or five. Not from a prudish sense, since I once curated a programme at the National Film Theatre in London entitled Eroticism in the Cinema.
It did seem as thought Croatian cinema had suddenly discovered sex since very many of the feature films opened with a couple in bed or they would later be at it in the story. There was in fact one feature film in the national film section, 7 seX 7 by a young female director Irena Skoric which was a portmanteau film, on the subject of yes – sex. The feature in fact emerged from a short based on the same theme as the student shorts we had seen, and then expanded into an 87 minute feature. The only episode to stand out was the penultimate one where humour was deployed, as a crafty satyr like man talks a simple girl into intercourse. Yes sex and humour can play off each other and work.
The remainder of the shorts fortunately took a variety of themes and were not confined by running time. One film, That’s Life by Sasa Dodik was about the only one to have some contemporary social resonance – a Bosnian man who has come to Zagreb as a boy, looks back on what little he has achieved in life so far as he unburdens himself to an older worker on the construction site they are employed on.
Our unanimous choice for an award went to Winter directed by Denis Lepur and Marko Stanic a beautifully shot, well controlled and wonderfully understated tale of a man wandering around snow covered woods, seeking a way out who meets a young girl. She offers him shelter but he rejects it and continues on his way, whilst suffering very brief flashbacks, of sun and a girl, to an earlier time of life. Another meeting with a dark old man, who tells him they had met earlier, before taking him slowly off into the snowy distance.
Finally a note for a genuine delight – First from Silva Capin – an 8 minute black comedy of imagination and originality, set in an old people’s home for ladies. One lady in room 306 is always first to the notice board announcing a death in the home so she can get into the just departed’s wardrobe. Only the slight overacting of the leading lady let the film down.