02-04-2020

Montenegrin Film and TV Industry Adapts to COVID-19 Crisis

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PODGORICA: Many film projects in development have been suspended or cancelled, and the postproduction of some films has stopped in Montenegro, but the industry is stepping in to make film and culture accessible for the general public, and exempting television from the payment of broadcasting fees.

Among the affected films there are two titles produced by Artikulacija and ABHO Film: the feature fiction debut After the Winter by Ivan Bakrač, and The Stork by veteran and award-winning filmmaker Isa Qosja, a Montenegrin/Kosovan/Macedonian/Albanian coproduction. Artikulacija production’s head Ivan Djurovic estimates the losses of his company, which also engages in production services and advertising for major clients, at between 45,000 and 50,000 EUR.

Elegy of Laurel directed by Dušan Kasalica, coproduced by Meander Film (Montenegro) and Non Aligned Films (Serbia), had been set to wrap by the end of April, but was stopped in its postproduction phase (sound-mixing), delaying indefinitely the premiere and distribution of the film.

The Face of Honour / Djeca, a Montenegrin/Serbian coproduction, directed by Nikola Vukčević (screenplay by Ana Vujadinovic and Melina Pota Koljevic), starring Albanian actor Edon Rizvanolli, produced by Galileo production, has been stopped in its development phase after filming its teaser. This WWII historical drama was developed through MIDPOINT and the Balkan Film Market in 2018 and 2019 (AlbSCRIPT+ 2018 and Pitch Balkan 2019).

Ivan Marinovic’s second feature film Forever Hold Your Peace, produced by Adriatic Western, had to postpone its casting planned for this spring and location scouting planned for June 2020. Marinovic stated: “we were lucky not to lose money, since we are still in development. Minority coproduction applications are running as planned. So, we remain scheduled to shoot in the spring of 2021, and we are hopeful that we won't be changing that.” He added, “What gives us hope is that both the Film Centre of Montenegro and the Ministry of Culture are playing a proactive role these days, through opening calls for projects in development that could be done during the quarantine. Still, the film industry itself will depend on how resilient the economy of not only Montenegro but of the entire region is, since we all depend on coproducing. At this point, it is still too early to predict what will happen in the near future. What is important to highlight is that filmmakers, crew members, and productions here, in most cases, do not live off of film production only. Their existence depends mostly on work in advertising, events, or various side projects. All those lines of work have been cancelled entirely, and in the long run, it could create a lot of problems for the whole sector.”

The field research planned for this spring on the projects Four Funerals and a Wedding (writer/director Nikola Mijović) and Sirin (directed by Senad Šahmanović, written by Claudia Bottino and Senad Šahmanović, produced by Velisa Popović of Cut-up), which are in the script development stage, with support from the Film Centre of Montenegro, also had to be postponed.

Events are also taking a hit. VR Montenegro, promoting locations in the VR technology, has also been cancelled due to the Coronavirus crisis.

There are other actions aimed at keeping film and culture in the public eye. Beginning on 23 March, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, the public broadcaster TVCG dedicated its second channel evening programme to exclusively cultural content, including feature and documentary films. The special focus of this programme is “Contemporary Montenegrin Cinema”, showing one recently produced Montenegrin film each evening.

As a way to combat the film festival crisis in the region, a fully free online film festival Mojoff (My Off) was launched on 27 March and will last through 10 April. The festival, which is a joint effort of MCF Megacom Film, Combank Cinema, CineGrand and cinema Vilin Grad, will screen more than 30 feature, documentary and children's films online, divided into five sections: The Film Greats, Kids Fest Presents, Family Adventure, Top Documentaries, and Seen/Unseen. There are three premieres (some online world premieres) and three re-runs each day, which can be watched by audiences in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. As it is conceived as a film festival and not as a platform for watching films, films can be watched only within the precisely planned timetable slots. At the end of the festival, winners will be announced, chosen by the jury and by the audiences' votes.