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Beyond the Stone Gate

The catalogue introduction to the retrospective program of Croatian film at The Alpe Adria Cinema Festival: Meeting with the Central and Eastern European Cinema, January 1999

The title of the last feature film by the renowned Croatian author Ante Babaja, The Stone Gate, can be taken as the figurative characterization of the most intimate nature of the Croatian cinema: the name is almost an oxymoron, where the opening of the gate (onto a void, to an object, or whatnot) is contradicted by the sense of steadiness suggested by the stone. Even when the Croatian cinema was part of Yugoslav film-making, its desire to break out of the mold, to branch out structurally, to combine various forms (an array of inventions ranging from features to shorts, from experimental to animation films, up to the emerging personalities in each sector) which could not easily be reconciled with serial or production continuity, its clear aesthetic effort... all these indicate the — now recognizable — will of the Croatian cinema to be individual. Over the months spent researching Croatian cinema, the author and his collaborator Mila Lazić were captivated by its charm. Even in the region of its uncertainties and weaknesses, a strong motivation could be sensed.

The retrospective intended to be not only documentary evidence of an extremely composite cinematic universe, but also a partial attempt to link some of its varied guidelines, not only in the feature film region, but also within the documentary field, within the avant-garde and animated tradition, and it tried to avoid rigid divisions along the way. The previous retrospective of Croatian film at the Alpe Adria Cinema festival in 1989, freed the selectors from having to present some remarkable, but already seen films of some important but already exhaustively presented Croatian authors. It has helped them to concentrate on some new discoveries, to shed light on some of the aspects of the Croatian cinematic tradition that have been neglected by even the Croats themselves.

Sergio Grmek Germani

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