Cinema of Croatia

Cinema of Croatia
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The cinema of Croatia has a somewhat shorter tradition than what is common for other Central European countries: the serious beginning of Croatian cinema starts with the rise of the Yugoslavian film industry in the 1940s. Three Croatian feature films were nominated for the Foreign Language Film Academy Award, several of them gained awards at major festivals, and the Croatian contribution in the field of animation is particularly important.



Before World War II

Although motion pictures appeared in Croatia relatively early, for most of the 20th Century film was almost exclusively the domain of a few dedicated amateur enthusiasts, most notably Josip Karaman in Split and, later, Oktavijan Miletić in Zagreb. Croatia lacked the political, economic and cultural infrastructure to support its own cinema industry. The most serious effort in that direction before World War II was the series of educational films produced by Škola narodnog zdravlja.

World War II

The cinema of Croatia became an institution after the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in 1941. The new Ustasha regime quickly realised the need for modern propaganda tools modeled on those of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. After serious lobbying of these two governments for technical advice and resources, the first propaganda films were made in late 1941. Croatian filmmakers like Branko Marjanović learned very quickly and the 1943 documentary Straža na Drini later won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, attended by Axis power countries. After the collapse of NDH in 1945, Tito's victorious Communists also recognised the importance of the film industry and decided to build their own. Many technicians and co-workers of the Ustasha propaganda cinema industry during the war were in fact double agents working for the partisan side, with one main task: to keep the technical facilities untouched upon the collapse of NDH. Therefore, the new regime inherited the technical equipment, and more importantly trained personnel, including directors and top officials. The result of such a policy was the rapid development of the Croatian film industry, although initially under jurisdiction of the federal government in Belgrade.

Early communist period

In 1947 Jadran Film studios were founded in Zagreb.

Zagreb Animation School

Zagreb also stood out with its own animation film school, Zagrebačka škola crtanog filma (Zagreb Cartoon School). It was given that name at the Cannes film festival in 1959, when eight Zagreb cartoons were screened, and the French film historian Georges Sadoul first time named "l'école de Zagreb" (Zagreb School). The school was based on the production company Zagreb Film, famous for its symbol - a little horse. The most notable member of school (which was never a school in a proper, educational sense) was Montenegro-born author Dušan Vukotić, winner of the 1963 Oscar for his animated short Surogat. He was the first non-American to win the Oscar for animated film. Other important members were Vatroslav Mimica (later a feature filmmaker), and Vlado Kristl, who left Croatia in early 60s after the banning of his avant-garde, experimental cartoon "Don Kihot"(Don Quixote). The Zagreb school was revolutionary for the animations of the 50s, because it abandoned the Disney-like cartoon style, and introduced visual elements of avant-garde abstract painting, constructivism and cubism. A failure of the school was that it never experimented with other animation techniques than cartoons. Also, it never reached level of proper industry, remaining more like an artistic workshop. The Zagreb school was lively and successful during the 60s and early 70s, but after that Croatian animation faded and today it does not have the global role it use to have.

First Golden Era: Late 50s

Croatian feature films at that time were not easily distinguishable from the rest of the films made in former Yugoslavia, mostly due to the free flow of resources and talents. It has its first serious peak Croatian feature cinema reaches in late 50s, when Croatian films are probably most mature in then young Yugoslav production. Most important author of that era is Branko Bauer, Dubrovnik-born director whose most famous film is urban war thriller Don't Turn Around Son (Ne okreći se, sine, 1956). Loosely based on Carol Reed's film Odd Man Out, film describes a destiny of the fugitive from Ustasha camp who comes to Zagreb to find his son, realising that kid is at the Ustasha boarding school, and completely brainwashed. Hero struggles to leave Zagreb with his son, while deluding him all the way about the goal of their trip. Among other important Bauer's film important is Tri Ane (Three Annas, 1959), produced in Macedonia, about the father who finds out that his daughter, presumably killed in war, could be alive and adult person. Bauer's film Licem u lice (Face To Face, 1962) tells the story about corrupted director of the construction company who confronts the rebel worker during the communist party cell meeting. It is considered as first overtly political film in Yugoslavia. Other memorable 50s classic is Nikola Tanhofer, former cinematographer and specialist for action genres. His most famous film is H8 (1958), reconstruction of the real traffic accident when several passengers of the intercity bus between Zagreb and Belgrade were killed, and driver of the car who caused the accident escaped. Following in parallel three vehicles and dozen of picturesque destiny, H8 offers a mosaical picture of late 50s society, and it's dramaturgy resembles on a - then nonexistent - disaster movies genre. In that period, two Croatian films were Academy Award nominees for foreign language film. Both of them were directed by guests from abroad: Italian Giuseppe De Santis (Cesta duga godina dana - A Road One Year Long, 1958), and Slovenian France Štiglic (Deveti krug - Ninth Circle, 1960).


In the 60s, Croatian cinema is affected by changes of style and embraces modernism. First established modernist film was Prometej s otoka Viševice (Promaetheus from Island Viševica, 1965) by former cartoonist Vatroslav Mimica. While using technique of the stream-of consciousness novel, Mimica tells a story about partisan veteran and communist executive who travels to a native island and faces ghosts of the post war past. Among other famous modernist classics, most significant is Rondo (1965) by Zvonimir Berković, and Breza (Birch, 1967) by Ante Babaja. Most popular author of that era was Krešo Golik, with his comedies. Most popular of his film is Tko pjeva zlo ne misli (Who Sings Doesn't Mean Wrong, 1970), romantic comedy set in the 30s Zagreb. Croatia also participated in pan-Yugoslav "black wave", although best authors and films of the black wave were Serbian. Most famous black wave classic from Croatia is Lisice (Handcuffs, 1969, by Krsto Papić), film which is politically relevant because it is a first cultural product which dealt with hushed secret of Yugoslav communism: repression against communists who stood by Stalin in famous breakup between Tito and Stalin in 1948. In the early 1970s, following Yugoslav constitutional changes, Croatia gained more autonomy in shaping its cultural affairs. This, ironically, didn't improved the Croatian film industry. Following the collapse of the Croatian Spring, Croatian Communist authorities in 1970s pushed for tighter control over films. As a result, the general quality of Croatian films declined.

Prague School and Genre Cinema

Fresh air in Yugoslav cinema came in late 70s and early 80s with so-called Prague School, group of authors educated at the famous Prague Academy FAMU. Amongst five directors usually presumed as Prague School, two came from Croatia: Lordan Zafranović, and Rajko Grlić. Grlić's most famous film is You Only Love Once (Samo jednom se ljubi, 1981), political melodrama which discusses the moral decay of the early communist establishment in late 40s. Film was in Cannes competitions. Lordan Zafranović's most famous films were Okupacija u 26 slika (Occupation in 26 Pictures) and Pad Italije (The Fall of Italy), both of them war films in coastal Dalmatian setting, and both screened in Cannes festival.

Interesting phenomenon of the 80s Croatian cinema is so-called "neo-genre" production, works of directors who used Western commercial genres as horror, thriller, or detective movie and implemented it in late-communist society. Most famous author of that trend is Zoran Tadić, with its metaphysical, black-and-white thriller Ritam zločina (Rhythm of the Crime, 1981), and horror Treći kljuć (The Third Key, 1983), which discusses the problem of corruption through kafkaesque metaphor.

90s: period of crisis

When Croatia became independent in the 90s, Croatian film suffers a difficult crisis. Due to wars, the market for Croatian films shrank, most of the theatres disappeared for good and none of Croatian films could expect to be financially viable without even greater support from the state. In the period of rule of Franjo Tuđman, government avoided direct censorship, but demanded more nationalist content, making it less accessible not only to audiences in other countries, but also in Croatia itself.

Croatian Film Today: Third Golden Era

After the political changes in 2000, Croatian cinema proved it could work in a completely free environment for the first time. As a result, at the beginning of this decade Croatian cinema flourishes again, and many critics write about "third golden era" (after the 1950s and 1960s). On of the most popular authors in the contemporary Croatian cinema is Vinko Brešan whose comedies Kako je počeo rat na mom otoku (How the war on my island started, 1997), and Maršal (Marshal Tito's Spirit, 1999) mix grotesque humor and political provocation. Brešan's war drama Svjedoci (Witnesses, based on a novel by Jurica Pavičić) was the first feature film from countries of former Yugoslavia which discussed the war crimes committed by "our guys", not the enemy. Film was screened in competition at the Berlin Film Festival in 2003. A Wonderful Night in Split (Ta divna splitska noć, 2004) by Arsen A. Ostojić received a nomination for the European Discovery EFA award, and Tu (Here, 2003) by Zrinko Ogresta was awarded at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Among other distinguished contemporary directors, internationally most recognized is Ognjen Sviličić, whose two films premiered at the Berlin Film Festival - Oprosti za kung fu (Sorry about Kung Fu, 2004) and Armin (2006). Armin was also Croatia's submission for the 2008 Academy Award, and although it didn't earn a nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category, it did nevertheless receive the prestigious Best Foreign Film of 2007 Award given by the International Federation of Film Critics.

Croatian cinema regularly produces between 6 and 9 feature films per year. Ministry of culture also cofinances approximately 60 minutes of animation per year, plus documentaries and experimental films which have a bigger cultural prestige in Croatia then in other countries of former Yugoslavia. National cinema attendances average at 2.7 million tickets bought by a population of around 4.5 million.

Croats in World Cinema

Many Croats participated in world cinema. Italian stars Alida Valli, Laura Antonelli, Gianni Garko and Sylva Koscina were born on today's Croatian territory (Pula, Zadar and Zagreb). Famous actor Rade Šerbedžija (Sherbedgia) was born in Croatia. Actor starring in the ER TV series, Goran Višnjić, is Croatian, as well as the two time Academy Award winner producer Branko Lustig, and actress Mira Furlan, known for her roles in Babylon 5 and Lost TV series. Furthermore, John Malkovich and Australian-born Eric Bana are of Croatian ancestry.

Others are Denise Richards, Vanna White, Patrick Muldoon, Rick Rossovich, Jenna Elfman, Ivana Miličević, Cary Elwes, Scott Bakula, Filip Benko[1], and Rafael Primorac[2][3].

Croatian film festivals

See also


External links

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