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Croatian Documentary In The Nineties

Defining elements of Croatian documentary in the nineties are: 1) lack of public support for creative documentary, 2) turbulent political scene, 3) obvious and very restrictive ideological profiling of the society, 4) domination of television productions, 5) the importance of student film, 6) lack of independent production. The end of the period was announced by the appearance of Factum, followed by the political turnover of the 3rd January 2000 and a renewal of public funding of documentary film. Ideological schematic division on ’regime’ HTV documentary and its paradigm is neither poetically nor politically sustainable. For example, Petar Krelja, one of the most prominent and most tenacious documentary authors of the ’90s, created a series of good documentaries (On the Side Tracks, 1993; The Corn Road, 1994; Third Christmas, 1994; The American Dream, 1998; etc.) working within HTV and dealing with socially normative subjects such as war victims, refugees, the life of young people. Public television cherished good documentaries within ethnic culture and traditions program (program manager Aleksej Pavlovsky). Vlatka Vorkapić, for example, was a prominent author in that segment (Pogačica, ročelica, mendulica, 1997). Much of the early 1990s production belonged to student film (Hotel Sunja, Ivan Salaj, 1993; Collective Lunch, Vinko Brešan, 1993; Sky over Osijek, Zvonimir Jurić, 1996). The importance of student production grew with the founding of Days of Croatian Film. However, at the end of ’90s, at the Academy’s request, DHF became much more selective in regard of student films. An important source of documentary production were the clubs’ and non-professional scenes. In this surrounding, Vlado Zrnić, our acclaimed video artist shot the excellent documentary Brothers Brkan’s Street Event (1996), followed by Mirila (1997), a documentary that won numerous awards. With A Day under the Sun (2002) he definitely stood out as our most acclaimed author.
By the end of ’90s Croatian society sank into deep social and moral agony, which was not reflected in the choice of subjects for documentaries. In the vacuum of relevant critical documentarism rose the production house Factum. The studio produced a series of valuable titles, cherishing journalistic-exploratory documentaries closer to TV poetics (Pavilion 22), as well as the individual, personal documentary. Boy in a Hurry by Biljana Čakić-Veselič stood out in the latter group and with the possible exception of Volarić’s Life on the Fresh Air, it was by far the best Factum’s film. In conclusion, documentary film in the ’90s definitely failed to make an artistical record of the drama that surrounded it. Nevertheless, from the production of the period one could piece together two programmes of excellent films including Hotel Sunja, Sky over Osijek, Radio station Krapina, Mirila, The Scarer of Cormorans, The Duel, BBB, The Hallway and The Corn Road. These documentaries could easily constitute the list equal to that of some of the best decades of Croatian documentary.

Jurica Pavičić

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