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Director's portrait: Petar Krelja

Documentarism as Ethical Choice (On Documentary Films by Petar Krelja)

The text analyzes the documentary work by Petar Krelja which is incomparable with any other in Croatian cinematography by its extent. Namely, in somewhat more than 35 years Krelja has directed around 200 documentary films and television broadcasts.

Well-known as a socially engaged documentary director, he took special interest in social margins (homeless people, lonely people, orphanage, refugees), common people, but also in unusually talented or enduring individuals, especially women and artists. The text analyzes a few crucial Krelja’s documentary films starting from his first film Bids under the Number (Ponude pod broj). It is already clear from this film that Krelja is attracted to individuals as eccentrics or as victims of an imperfect society or their own nature. From the films made in the 1970s we can single out those dealing with social rituals: Recital, a work of an unusual ironic and reflexive mode, and Splendid Isolation, forbidden by the authorities of the time so Krelja had to narrow down his focus and turn to individuals through whose stories he could precisely depict a broader social context. After Povratak (The Return), one of the most powerful social documentaries in the Croatian documentary film work in general, Krelja created a series of films rich in atmosphere and sound synecdoche such as Njegovateljica (Caregiver) and Prihvatna stanica (Asylum for Troubled Children).

The same as he was preoccupied with social rituals and victims of a dysfunctional society/family at the beginning of his career, Krelja started a new thematic cycle in his mature documentary phase before trying out the feature form. Krelja started a new thematic cycle, announced with Njegovateljica, a series on common working-class people and their routine everyday life. By the end of the 1980s he made several films tackling this theme and among them we can single out two films with a more complex structure Radni tjedan (Working Week) and Treća smjena (The Third Shift).

Krelja’s documentary work is generally sensitive to different painful human situations, especially to the »weaker sex« and from the mid 1980s it shifts its focus more on individuals who impress with a talent or vitality they posses (Na primjeru mog života — My Life as an Example). Finally, the war in the first half of the 1990s introduces a new theme in Krelja’s work. He talks about war traumas and individual sufferings. This is best evident in the films Na sporednom kolosijeku (At the Railway Siding) and Zoran Šipoš i njegova Jasna (Zoran Šipoš and his Jasna).

Diana Nenadić

Worn-out Subjects? How Can You Exhaust the Life? — Bio-Filmographical Conversation with Petar Krelja
Illusion of Reality: The Seasons (Godišnja doba) by Petar Krelja as a Border Film
My Life as an Example
Petar Krelja Filmography

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