Last year saw great change in Croatian cinema, particularly with respect to the innovative application of technology and minimalist directorial approaches.
The first sci-fi feature film for children in post-war Croatia was made, My Grandpa Is an Alien (Moj dida je pao s Marsa), directed by Dražen Žarković and Marina Andree Škop, who also did the editing. State-of-the-art filming technologies and techniques were used. The film has the best visual and special effects than any other Croatian film before, and it even incorporates a completely CGI-sequence indicative of a thriving film industry. That said, the film has been co-produced in six European countries, which contributed to the final result. The animated sequence is the work of Michal Straus, the design of the endearing robot is of Dodo Zdenko Bašić’s making, while engineers from the Czech Republic made the robot. Sven Pepeonik is the director of photography.
Young Lana Hranjec is a perfect fit for the character of Una, who spends her entire screen time talking to and socializing with Dodo the robot, who was voiced by actor Ozren Grabarić. Their interaction was very demanding and, also, successful. The film stars acclaimed foreign actors, although the speaking parts were dubbed to Croatian, but their popularity in their native countries contributed to film ratings in given regions. They are Nils Ole Ofterbo, Norwegian actor playing the Grandpa, and Petra Polnišova, a Slovakian actress giving voice to Granpa’s daughter and Una’s mother. There are universal themes in the film, such as friendship, a sense of community, sacrifice made for love, and peer violence. The screenplay is loosely based on Irena Krčelić’s short story and it lacks dramatic clarity in its culmination.
The technological achievement of the film was recognized by the jury at Pula Film Festival, awarding it two Golden Arenas—one for visual effects, one for cinematography. The film has been shown on many international festivals and it has received several awards. Since it is a genre sci-fi film, adventurous as is family-orientated, its visual splendour is more than welcome, as it appeals to children, and especially pre-teens that the filmmakers had in mind while making the film.
The creative team at Studio Dim, the Croatian production in charge, prepared and published educational materials for work at school, as part of film and media literacy programmes, which is quite commendable. Working on films for children is a particularly responsible task, and any such work is something everyone is looking forward to, children and grown-ups alike, as it is perfect for families. It calls for watching the film together and discussing it afterwards. It would be great if there were more good feature films for children and youth in the future.
It is also worthwhile mentioning two feature films which were shown in 2019, although filmed in 2018, which made Croatia cinema richer with their individualist uses of cinematic language, whereby they distanced themselves from the usual authorial attitude of Croatian directors, at the same time giving the film an exceptional filmmaking and artistic touch. Their minimalist approaches helped create impressive films; small productions that grew big.
SummerhouseOriginal title: Ljetnikovac | Year: 2018 | Running time: 74′ | Country of production: Croatian | Directed by: Damir Čučić | Written by: Damir Čučić | Cast: Vojin Perić, Marina Redžepović, Damir Radić, Krunoslav Heidler | Production: Spiritus movens by the director and screenwriter Damir Čučić is an example of an interesting and well-structured film, a triptych made in an exquisite and meticulous documentary style, edited and acted masterfully, visually made very pleasing. The framing is particularly good, with predominantly static, long shots. Boris Poljak’s camera and Slaven Zečević’s editing add up to a worthwhile experience. It was partly produced by the Spiritus movens production.
Lada Kamenski Original title: Lada Kamenski | Year: 2018 | Running time: 75′ | Country of production: Croatia | Directed by: Sara Hribar, Marko Šantić | Written by: Sara Hribar | Cast: Frano Mašković, Nataša Dorčić, Ksenija Marinković, Doris Šarić-Kukuljica | Production: Sekvenca, Peglanje snova, Antitalent by the director duo Marko Šantić and Sara Hribar, who also wrote the film, is very subtle and spontaneous in its transition into an interesting meta-film about the opportunities in our cinema, anchored in the screenplay with (auto)biographical elements as informed by the participants in the film themselves. The incredible acting and improvising of the cast–Doris Šarić Kukuljica, Nataša Dorčić, Ksenija Marinković and Frano Mašković—show the depth of their acting skills and dedication to the roles they plan, on film as well as in life. Vid Adam Hribar is the author of the beautiful and appropriate soundtrack. The film was produced by Sekvenca and it got many awards in Croatia and abroad. The issues that workers at Kamensko factory faced and are facing, however, which served as the incentive to make the film Lada Kamenski, await another socially engaged film, where the workers would be in leading roles.