High Co-production Values

Pula film festival, Pula, Croatia, 14 – 28 July 2012

  • Sonja and the Bull (Sonja i bik), directed by Vlatka Vorkapic

    As a jury member of FEDEORA for the national Croatian competition of the 59th edition of Pula International Film Festival, 2012, I should like to give the festival’s director and its programmers the credit of succeeding in presenting a balanced cinematic programme of national and international films. In the national competition, the eleven Croatian features, in addition to the ten Croatian shorts, showed the diversity of Croatian contemporary filmmaking that is varies between the commercial and the art house.

    Vlatka Vorkapic’s romantic comedy Sonja and the Bull (Sonja i bik), which also was the festival’s opener, is the type of European film that tries to continue where the American screwball genre ended regardless of the social differences. Arsen A. Ostojic’s Halima’s Path (Halimin put), was the type of classic melodramatic story on the aftermath of the Bosnian war. It is a good example of co-production that can attract the interest of festival curators in Muslim countries. High co-production values were also obvious in Bojan Vuletic’s Practical Guide to Belgrade with Singing and Crying (Praktican vodic kroz Beograd sa pevanjem i plakanjem).

    The use of technology was a major element in this year’s Pula Festival. 3D screenings of American films from the summer season like The Amazing Spider-Man and Ice Age: Continental Drift succeeded in getting major box office attractions to the audience. Sound and Vision of the screenings were of top quality. It was part of the Croatian industry’s tendency to head toward 3D and digital technology, a movement that was also clear in the first Croatian 3D film Accidental Passer-by (Slucjni prolaznik) by Jozo Patljak, regardless of its lack of narrative coherence.
    Accidental Passer-by (Slucjni prolaznik) directed by Jozo Patljak
    The festival’s surprise came from an acclaimed director of the older generation, namely Branko Schmidt whose adrenaline-filled drama Cannibal Vegetarian (Ljudozder vegetarijanac) presented the most energetic and contemporary piece of filmmaking. With great pacing and dynamic camera movements, it exposed the corruption in both national hospitals and the police force among other aspects of the absence of conscience nowadays. Ivo Balenovic, a real-life doctor, wrote the novel on which the film is based, and can be considered a new Michael Crichton coming from ex-Yugoslavia. Schmidt successfully visualized the novel in less than a dynamic 90 minutes ride with a hand-held camera work and electronic music.

    Corruption and how people can twist the understanding of religious heritage according to their own interpretation are the main elements of drama Flower Square (Cvijetni trg) by Krsto Papic whose three main leads Drazen Kühn, Dragan Despot and Mladen Vulic gave the film its strength with performances mixing comedy and drama. However, it lost some of its potential in some scenes and situations which were influenced by old gangster films. The National competition, though, suffered from basic problems of national competitions worldwide: Quantity over Quality. i.e. because the programmers had to include most if not all of the national films produced and finished in the year, some of the selection had technical and narrative elements more related to TV films like No Laughing Allowed (Zabranjeno smijanje) by Davor Zmegac.

    Sherif Awad, Egypt