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Ivo Škrabalo: 101 godina filma u Hrvatskoj, 1896.-1997.

101 godina filma u Hrvatskoj Ive Škrabale (Ivo Škrabalo’s 101 Years of Film in Croatia) is a new, somewhat changed and supplemented (the chapter that deals with 80’s and 90’s) version of his pioneer history of the Croatian cinema Između publike i države (Between the Audience and the State) 1984. The new book is a methodological and pluralistic creation that the author himself, in the preface, describes as a romanticized biography of Croatian film, or rather a fable about the history of the creation of Croatian films and their repercussions. Fable is certainly a key term in Škrabalo’s work, and it is responsible for the books dynamic pace, liveliness, and an almost, it could be said, pop attractiveness. However, Škrabalo’s focus on fable, or story, brought about absurd situations in which some films, persons and phenomena received an amount of attention that by far exceeded the degree of aestheticism, social representativeness, and relevancy they deserved, while some other, aesthetically more significant films and phenomena were marginalized as a result of the authors opinion of their fabular inspirational worth.

Škrabalo’s book is also explicitly politically marked. His unquestionable starting point is that Croatian film is a part of Croatian national culture. But he goes further, and in the spirit of an influential political party (The Croatian Social Liberal Party), which he is a high profile member, he in fact represents a hidden (soft, liberal) nationalism. Škrabalo’s book is actually a defense of the thesis on the essential character of every art, and this includes film art as well. That is why he takes great satisfaction in detecting authentically Croatian films, even if his understanding and explanation of what is authentically Croatian is unelaborated, unconvincing and sometimes, infantile. In harmony with his views, Škrabalo, as much as possible, ignores the Yugoslav context of Croatian cinema, neglecting the evident mutual influences of the national cinemas, or rather the artistic uniqueness in the ex-Yugoslavia (the author of the review minutely illustrates Škrabalo’s, as he interprets them, nationalist views and consequential deductions, and polemicizes with them).

Škrabalo’s aesthetic views have been the cause of polemics in the public before, and it is certain that he underrates Branko Bauer’s opus and his significance to Croatian cinema by ignoring the fact that Bauer was one of the first Croatian film makers (and one of the first in Yugoslavia) who masterfully used the standard classical (genre) narration of the Hollywood provenance. Despite the fact that he deems the period of the so-called authorial film (i. e. modernism) the most mature period in Croatian cinema, Škrabalo’s general aesthetic standpoints show an attraction toward traditional film expression and a great respect of the perceptive abilities of the general public, which brings him closer to populism.

Unlike the considerably exhaustive analysis of feature and animated film, we can complain about Škrabalo’s marginalized treatment of the documentary and experimental film genres, which had a very important role in Croatian film history.
Despite the numerous complaints, the positive significance of 101 Years of Film in Croatia remains unquestionable. Škrabalo’s work is the only one of its kind. It is also relatively exhaustive, informative and above all, a very readable and interesting synthesis of Croatian film and cinema that can be a valuable incentive for future works on Croatian film history.

Damir Radić

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