Dalibor Matanić demonstrated interest in strong issues already in early stages of his career. In his latest motion picture, Zvizdan (2015), which took home Un Certain Regard Jury Prize from this year’s Cannes IFF, he deals with complicated mutual relations between Croats and Serbs.
Matanić serves a true cinema feast of three courses that may look rather simple and ordinary but comprises emotionally nutritious stories that are very high in moral fibre content. Although we have all seen the issue of forbidden or unfortunate love rendered countless times and treated in millions of ways, this is still an original film, perhaps mostly thanks to the choice of main protagonists of Tihana Lazović and Goran Marković combined with the director’s specific approach. The same couple is the centrepiece of each of the three stories but every time they appear under different names and play different characters, although Lazović is always the Serbian girl and Marković the Croatian boy. This untraditional approach allows both protagonists to expose themselves completely and manifest their qualities to the full. Matanić works with them extensively and shows his great sense for directing throughout the film. Slow tempo and long shots by DP Marko Brdar paint mutual relations between characters even without unnecessary dialogue; authentic direction without much music (except diegetic music and transitions between particular stories) portrays the tragedy ensuing from the conflict between the two ethnic groups in all bareness and without any pathos whatsoever.
While each of the three stories climaxes on its own, they also climax together as one organic whole. The first story set in 1991, when Serbia occupied parts of Croatia’s territory, reveals the picture’s central theme. It is perhaps the most suggestive of the three as the viewers meet the two lovers, Ivan and Jelena, whose love is physically hindered by a border guarded by paramilitaries with machine guns. The second story takes place in 2001 and shows an ethnic Serbian mother and her daughter return to their old home in a war-ravaged Croatia; although they are both scarred by the war, only the mother strives to dress the emotional wounds and go on with her life without prejudice and hate. The tension between her daughter Natasha and a Croatian boy Ante who fixes things in their dilapidated house is almost physically present; this story is the best of all three in terms of structure and narrative. The final story is set in 2011 and is emotionally the most powerful.
The director’s effort to depict the long-term effects of a military conflict without showing almost any weaponry but three different couples facing a different yet identical problem (which would explain casting the same pool of actors for every story) has turned out to work perfectly. Instead of a war drama, Matanić thus created an intimate psychological drama with a very topical and powerful message.
By Martin Adam Pavlík
Translated by Daniel Borský
Based on votes cast by the visitors, the Bratislava IFF Viewers’ Choice Award went to Wanuri Kahiu’s second feature film Rafiki (2018) about forbidden love in Kenya.
Awards of the 20th Bratislava IFF 2018
“If you’re lucky enough to make living of something you really love, there is a downside – you don’t do it for fun, it’s a job.”
Tomáš Hudák. He studied Film studies (criticism) at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (VŠMU). He’s a fan of film, music, literature and the art as such. He’s a freelancer, writing film reviews and co-organizing several Slovakian film festivals.
“It’s nice to step out from the bubble of social networks – the binary world of likes/unlikes to be part of the group of totally different people, who are connected only by the skateboards.”
Šimon Šafránek. – director, journalist, DJ – multi-genre artist with the sensation of music and word. He’s a freelancer, writing for the Denník N, Hospodářské noviny, Reflex, Magnus etc.
“Films make us better, braver, more romantic and free”
Bibiana Ondrejková. A popular theatre and voice actress and presenter. The general public knows her as the Slovak voice of Phoebe Buffay from the TV show Friends. Upon seeing her, viewers will associate her with the Slovak TV series The Defenders (2014), Red Widow (2014), Homicide Old Town (2010) or Block of Flats (2008).
“Actors infuse film with emotion and give it a soul”
Daniel Rihák. A fresh graduate of film directing at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava under the leadership of prof. Martin Šulík. A director of (so far) student films and a number of commercials. His graduation film The Trip recently won the Best Director and Best Sound awards at the Áčko Student Film Festival.
“All women have the power to change things”
Ivana Hucíková belongs to the generation of young Slovak filmmakers. She studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, from which she graduated in 2015 with her film Mothers and Daughters. A Bratislava citizen from Orava, living and creating in Slovakia and the USA. So far, she has made several short documentary films: Into My Life (2018), Connie & Corey (2017) and is currently working on the development of several film projects as their director, producer or editor.
“Cinema is a great medium for sharing common European values”
Dominika Jarečná was born in 1999 in Bratislava. She currently studies Theory and History of Arts at the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno (Czech Republic). She was a member of the Giornate degli Autori jury at this year’s Venice IFF and is a LUX Prize ambassador for the years 2018 and 2019.
Film festival: “It’s a bit like a vacation full of stories”
Alena Sabuchová is a young Slovak author and screenwriter. For her debut collection of short stories Back rooms, Alena was awarded the Ivan Krasko Prize for the best Slovak-language debut as well as the Tatra banka Foundation Young Artist Award in the category of literature. She writes scripts for television and radio, and is currently working on her second book, which will be published next year.
“These films were among the most awarded debut films at this year’s leading festivals”
Nenad Dukić. Serbian film critic, who has been collaborating with the team of people preparing The Bratislava International Film Festival for 8 years now. This year (the 20th anniversary of the festival’s existence), he is again the compiler of the Fiction Competition and co-compiler of the section Cinema Now.
The popular section Cinema Now brings an overview of the most remarkable films of the season. Its curators, Nenad Dukid and Tomáš Hudák, have assembled the most interesting movies that have stirred the waters of world’s major festivals. For 20 years, the Bratislava IFF has been supplying the Slovak film public with names, which often become stars of the screen.
The curators of the section Lexicon: Female gaze, festival programmer Tomáš Hudák and the director of this year’s festival spot Ivana Hucíková, have focused on the status of women in cinema, their portrayal in film, and the uniqueness of a woman’s experience.