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Croatian film

Ideology and denial

Their Reckoning With Me

The article is a sort of personal reminder about the political campaign against the history book written by the author of the article — Betwixt the Audience and the State — A History of Croatian Cinema 1896-1980 (Zagreb: Znanje 1984).

The book came out in print in November of 1984. Some review copies were distributed in advance in order to enable timed journalistic reactions. Advance reactions were actually attained, but what reactions! An ideological campaign was raised against the book and the author. This paper offers a personal chronicle of some of the most important phases and points in the campaign. In the first phase, the first attack on the book was made in the main political daily Vjesnik, by its film reviewer Mira Boglić. Škrabalo’s basic attitude in the book was described as an aversive obsession with the socialist state.

The book was described as a pamphlet and it was asserted that the writing of the history was just a pretext for the »creation of an unrealistic, inconsistent and contradictory image about the conditions surrounding the development of Croatian film«. The author’s reply was published a week later in Vjesnik, accusing Boglić of political denunciation. The author stated that if Boglić’s interpretation was true, the book could be subjected to criminal persecution. He requested that Boglić withdraw her assessment that the book represents Škrablo’s »show-down with socialist society«. Boglić’s subsequent reaction in Vjesnik added strength to the accusations, marking Škrabalo as a member of the Croatian nationalists, and reaffirmed her original assessment of the book. The second phase was a trial in which Škrabalo sued Boglić for libel. The judge ruled in Boglić’s favor, taking her assessment of the book to be a matter of free (and subjective) expression of opinion.

In the meantime a »Film Culture critical round-table« (Film Culture being the only film magazine in Croatia) was organized by the Center for Marxist Studies of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Croatia. The invitation to the round table was written in an accusatorial tone, so the author, internal reviewers and some other invited people refused to show up and take part in the discussion. On the other hand most of those filmmakers and film critics that participated in the round table discussion accepted the signal and made their own contribution to the persecution of the book.

The author quotes characteristic personal contributions to the discussion at the round table. The exposition at the round-table was published in the next Film Culture issue, and had some aftereffects in journals. However the long-term consequences were not so bad. The concluding round table remark by Mira Boglić that »the biggest danger coming from the book is that it could be accepted by young film critics, essayists and journalists as something reliable, truthful and authoritative« was happily fulfilled in succeeding years.

Ivo Škrabalo

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