FNE country focus Croatia: 2011

By Goran Ivanisevic

    The year 2011 was a watershed for the Croatian film industry with the adoption of new legislation that introduced financial incentives for film production in the form of a 20% cash rebate for production costs incurred in Croatia for feature films, documentaries, animation and TV drama.

    The incentive scheme was backed by the Croatian Producers' Association, (www.hrup.hr ) whose members took an active part in devising the scheme along with other stakeholders in the audiovisual sector, as well as the Ministry of Culture (www.min-kulture.hr ) that sponsored the Bill.

    The results came soon: the second season of HBO's popular fantasy series Game of Thrones was filmed in Croatia in September and October 2011 in Dubrovnik and marks the return of big international productions to the country. The Croatian service provider and partner was Embassy Films. Peter Greenaway's Goltzius and the Pelican Company (the second installment of his film series The Dutch Masters) also shot recently shot in Croatia's capital, Zagreb.

    The film incentive scheme is an amendment to the Film Act and it marks the first step towards realisation of strategic goals outlined in the four-year National Strategic Programme for the Audiovisual Industry, devised by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (www.havc.hr) and approved by the Ministry of Culture in October 2010. Among other amendments to the existing 2007 Film Act were those aimed at streamlining and improving efficiency of payment procedures for other non-state contributors to film industry funding.

    This year's domestic box office was marked by the return of the children's film. The feature live-action film Koko and the Ghosts (produced by the Zagreb company Kinorama (www.kinorama.hr) and co-produced by Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) www.hrt.hr) hit the record with 71, 636 admissions (207,886 EUR box office), topping the box office score of any domestic film in the last five years. Based on a popular book for children, organised visits to screenings by elementary schools, helped to support the film's results at the box office. Other Croatian films in cinemas performed poorly.

    The annual production of 10 Croatian features, and nine minority coproductions, were screened in the National Programme of the 58th Pula Film Festival presented the whole annual Croatian feature film production, as well as co-productions with a minor Croatian share.

    New Croatian features included three films that feature children as protagonists: Lea and Darija, directed by Branko Ivanda and produced by Ars Septima (www.arsseptima.com); Koko and the Ghosts, a fantasy by Danijel Kušan and produced by Kinorama; and The Little Gipsy Witch by Tomislav Zaja and produced by Formula Film (www.formulafilm.hr ) and two dramas, Kotlovina by Tomislav Radic and produced by Korugva and Step by Step by Biljana Cakic-Veselic and produced by Interfilm (www.interfilm.hr ). There were three crime thrillers: the psychological thriller Daddy by Dalibor Matanić and produced by Kinorama; film noire The Dark by Dan Oki and produced by Kazimir; and Spots by Aldo Tardozzi and produced by Kinoteka (www.kinoteka.hr); followed by the war drama Josef by Stanislav Tomic and produced by Alka Film, and erotic comedy 7sex7 by Irena Skoric and produced by Artizana Film..

    Koko and the Ghosts, Kotlovina, Daddy and Josef were released in Croatian cinemas in 2011 and another six will be released in 2012. Koko and the Ghosts scored a record breaking 69, 061 admissions in 10 weeks of release at the end of 2011 and a box office gross of 201,244 EUR, the second highest gross in the last 10 years in Croatia.

    Five films were based on the scripts supported by Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) (Lea and Darija was funded with 560,000 EUR, Koko and the Ghosts with 400,000 EUR, The Little Gipsy Witch with 266,666 EUR, Kotlovina with 400,000 EUR and Step by Step 280,000 EUR). The other five were filmed as independent productions and were granted subsequent funding, following HAVC decision (Daddy, Spots, Josef. The Dark and 7 seX 7). The subsequent grants were 120.000 EUR for Josef, 56,000 EUR for The Dark, 53,333 EUR for Spots, 50,666 EUR for Daddy and 13,333 EUR for 7 seX 7.

    Six films were debut films: directors Daniel Kusan, Tomislav Zaja, Biljana Cakic-Veselic, Aldo Tardozzi, Stanislav Tomic and Irena Skoric presented their feature debuts, while four more experienced directors include Dalibor Matanic and Dan Oki and veterans Tomislav Radić and Branko Ivanda.

    Nine Croatian minority co-productions were Good Night, Missy by Metod Pevec produced by produced by E-motion Film (www.emotionfilm.si ), Vertigo, 4 Film (www.4film.hr ) and RTV Slovenia (www.rtvslo.si ) and Piran-Pirano by Goran Vojnovic and produced by Ars Media (www.arsmedia.si ) from Slovenia; Belvedere by Ahmed Imamovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Enemy by Dejan Zecevic and produced by Biberche (Serbia), Balkan Film (Serbia), Maxima Film (Croatia www.maxima-film.hr ), Tivoli Film (Hungary www.tivolifilms.com ), The White Lions by Lazar Ristovski produced by Zillion Films (Serbia) and Interfilm (Croatia) and How I Was Stolen by the Germans by Miso Radovanovic from Serbia; and Local Vampire by Branko Baletic a coproduction with Germany Montenegro and Slovenia's A Atalanta Film Production (www.aatalanta.si ). In addition to regional co-productions, there was also a Danish co-production - Room 304 by Birgitte Staermose and coproduced by Main Frame Film Production (Croatia www.mainframeproduction.com) and a German one - Uwe Boll's Max Schmelling, filmed in Croatia in coproduction with Jadran Film (www.jadran-film.com)
    Pubcaster Croatian Radio-Television, known as HRT, is still struggling to find its way. The recent departure of several top executives and the indebtedness has made negotiations with the channel for coproductions difficult. Commercial broadcasters, NOVA TV (part of Central European Media Enterprises, CME, www.cent.net.com ) and RTL Croatia, both launched in 2000, have been criticized by the industry of lowering production standards while HRT has gone for more commercial programming.
    Finally, Croatia is preparing for the for Independent Cinema Digitisation - a public call for applications has been made. The owners will have to provide 30%, and the Ministry of Culture will provide the remaining 70% for the digitalization of the remaining cinemas.

    Most of the cinemas to be digitalized are owned by local municipalities who have committed to pay for their part of the digitalization. The new Minister of Culture Andrea Zlatar, appointed in December 2011, has promised to support the audiovisual sector and digitalization. The budget is expected to be approved in February 2012.