After several years of absence we can see again a special presentation of Croatian films at American Cinematheque in Los Angeles. The new series, called Kino Croatia, will take place April 13th through April 15th at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. It is presented in co- operation with Consulate General of Croatia in Los Angeles and their partners, and supported by E.L.M.A. (European Languages and Movies in America).
We had a conversation about Kino Croatia with Mr. Marijan Orešnik, consul for culture and media at the Croatian Consulate in Los Angeles and two people who helped compile the series: the Academy Awards winning producer Mr. Branko Lustig (Schindler’s List and Gladiatior) and Matko B. Malinger, director- producer and former diplomat.
Marijan Orešnik: As a consul at the Croatian Consulate I deal with matters related with culture. I have learned that previously there was a regular annual event of Croatian films being presented in Los Angeles in cooperation with American Cinematheque, last one taking place in 2008. I suggested to Consul General Mr. Ilija Želalić that we look at the possibility of doing it again and after discussion he wholeheartedly embraced the idea, giving it his full support. There was a meeting of Consul General of Croatia with the American Cinematheque also attended by Mr. Branko Lustig, Croatian-American producer and the winner of two Oscars and Mr. Matko B. Malinger, director and producer. Both of them, having earlier experience with the American partners in organizing Croatian films presentations in Los Angeles contributed significantly to Kino Croatia 2012. Joining forces with a lot of enthusiasm resulted in a three day event of Croatian films in Los Angeles. Five Croatian movies will be shown, promoting our film culture in California and we plan to continue the cooperation of the Consulate General and the American Cinematheque in the future. Croatia will also continue to participate in SEE film festival in Los Angeles as a regional facet of presenting the culture and cooperation of the South East Europe.
Matko B. Malinger: We had the first Croatian film series at American Cinematheque in the year 2000. At the time I was working at the newly open Croatian Consulate in Los Angeles, as a consul for public and cultural affairs. Living and working in Los Angeles for more than ten years by then, I was already well connected with the Croatian American filmmakers and artists working in Hollywood. So, with my fellow Croatian-American producer Jack Barich and some other members of the community, we started a group that was called C.A.M.E.O, which stood for Croatian Arts, Media and Entertainment Organization. Our first project was to approach the American Cinematheque and propose a Croatian film series as a part of their regular programming. With Mr. Lustig, and another Academy member Marija Miletic Dail on our team, a partnership with American Cinematheque was born and there was the first series called Wednesdays in Croatia. We had a strong support from the Consulate and other government offices, such as Ministry of Culture as well as local Croatian-American community. For five weeks, every Wednesday we were showing Croatian films at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian theatre with a very good turnout. We included Croatian film classics and also the best Croatian movies that were made at the time. We had some animation presented as well, because we are very proud of the Croatian school of animation. About a year or two later, we had a new series called Cinema Croatia. It was a week long and tailored in the similar fashion – giving American moviegoers a chance to see the best from the history of Croatian cinema as well as the newest trends from the talented new generation of filmmakers. In the years to come, we’ve moved away from this mixture of the old and new. And now, after four years without it – with the initiative from the Consulate General of Croatia – we have again a Croatian film presentation at American Cinematheque. The new series, Kino Croatia, will be a review of new Croatian films and this is the format we would like to follow to keep people up-to-date with contemporary Croatian cinematography. So, I would say, in addition to having some really good films to show, having with us Mr. Lustig and other prominent Croatian filmmakers and actors participating, makes it easier to bring Croatian film back to Los Angeles.
Branko Lustig: The movies you will see here are the works of the new, young generation. But I think that we, the old generation who I belong to, made some good movies too; some of them were nominated for Academy awards. I was working in the area from the time when the serious moviemaking efforts had begun, around 1955, following World War II. We achieved significant results. Zagreb was called “Little Hollywood”. We were very lucky that all of our neighboring countries were occupied by the Soviet Union, so we took advantage of it. Whatever was taking place in Central or Eastern Europe was filmed in Zagreb and we made incredible movies, like “Fiddler on the Roof” which is what I was doing in 1970. We made a lot of films involving international co-production in Zagreb until the Iron Curtain went down. During the wars in the 90-s almost everything that was filmed in Zagreb relocated to Prague.
I am teaching film production at the Academy in Zagreb, and I must tell you that the young people there are just incredible. There are so many of them, it is like everyone wants to be a filmmaker, I don’t know why, because they don’t get a lot of money but they have a freedom and they can do what they want. The government is giving them some money and benefits, so there is a good incentive for them to make movies. There are a lot of film festivals in Zagreb and there are people coming from all sides in Europe and they are making workshops, film workshops in Zagreb and young people coming from the countries around and everyday and every year, Zagreb is more and more on the film maps of Europe, sort of coming back where it left off. I am in love with film and I am in love with Croatia, so for me it’s difficult. I am here because I came here and I made movies with Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott and lots of others and I have a house here so I must be here now. But in May I am going back to Zagreb for 6 months and I am working at the Academy and I enjoy having contact with young filmmakers.
Bijan Tehrani: What kinds of films will we see at the festival this year? Could you name a particular film that you would recommend?
BrankoLustig: I recommend “Koko and the Ghosts” this is a very nice film, Croatian Harry Potter. Actually, the father of the director Kušan wrote an excellent book and the book has been translated all around Europe. The film has a lot of audience in Zagreb and it is a very nice family movie. Then there are movies dealing with more complex issues like “Just Between Us” and the movie by Mr. Marasović, “The Show Must Go On” which, by the way also includes very good musical score and visual effects. We have a pre-Holocaust movie “Lea And Darija” that we brought here bearing in mind that a significant Jewish community lives in Los Angeles. I think that the American Cinematheque and Mr. Matko Malinger, together with me, that we succeeded in making a representative selection of the Croatian films to be shown in Los Angeles.
Bijan: Will there be any filmmakers attending?
Branko Lustig: Yes there will be the director of “Koko and the Ghosts” and two guys from “The Show Must Go On”, director and the music composer.
Bijan: Will there be Q&A sessions after the screenings?
Matko B. Malinger: Yes, actually we’ll have guests every night. The last day, on Sunday, after the screening and Q&A we are having a closing reception with filmmakers, guests and sponsors. All the ticket holders are invited too.
Marijan Orešnik: I would like to stress how this really is a joint project and how everything has clicked together so well. We had support from the Consul General and from Croatia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that we are a part of, Croatian Audio-visual Centre, Ministry of Culture and we will have guests, filmmakers, coming from Croatia, supported by the Croatian side. Here in L.A. we also have partners that are working with us and we have many more people that we should thank for their contribution. E.L.M.A.is supporting European films in America so we’ve got some support from them and from a number of sponsors that joined in order for this event to come through. I think, Kino Croatia will be an event where people who see these five movies will get a very current and up to date picture of movie making in Croatia. Also, with the tax deductions that are now available we are now starting to regain the position that we had as “Little Hollywood” at one time. There are other things being made over there to attract the moviemakers to come back to Croatia. In the near future we will have people coming here to talk to the partners and promote filming in our country. Croatia is becoming a member of the European Union on July the first 2013. On the eve of joining the European Union we see new areas and spaces of possible co-operation and that will help the film industry and filmmaking in Croatia to bloom again and become an important aspect of promoting our identity and art.