23-10-2017

Catalina Review

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Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, 2017
Director: Denijal Hasanovic
98 min.

Denijal Hasanović’s debut feature Catalina, screening in the 1-2 Competition at the 33rd Warsaw Film Festival, tells the story of an eponymous Colombian girl (Andrea Otalvaro), who after failing to extend her visa in France, moves to Sarajevo to work on a project related to the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal. She believes this study will help her get a job and legal residence at her university in Paris. In Bosnia and Herzegovina she meets interpreter Nada (Lana Barić) and her married lover Marek (Andrzej Chyra), whose lives have also been affected by wars. Denied access to the Sarajevo Mission’s archive, Catalina stays at Nada’s place, while trying to figure out her life again, and the two become friends. Just like Nada and Marek, Catalina has dealt with war in her home country and feels alienated.

Hasanović, who moved to Poland from Bosnia in the 1990s, has previously shared writing credits on Polish film Retrieval (2006) and the Icelandic drama Thicker Than Water (2006). Catalina, a Polish-Bosnian-Croatian co-production, tells a story of three emigrants, who all live with war traumas to some extent, despite coming from different countries and cultural backgrounds. All outcasts, these characters form an interesting kind of bond, helping each other out in unexpected ways. The film starts with Catalina being thoroughly checked for contraband at the airport. We feel the humiliation of the procedure. After the scene, though the audience might expect Hasanović to proceed with such overtly political issues, but he leads the story into another direction and avoids these aspects, instead concentrating on the relationships between his characters.

At one point in the film, Nada asks Catalina: “Why war crimes? Nobody’s interested in them anymore.” And Hasanović, as director, presents an involving study not so much of such crimes as their long-term consequences. However, Catalina is not a deep treatment of its subject, but a slice of an emigrant’s struggling life. Hasanović, perhaps intentionally, avoids giving the audience more context. We never fully find out Catalina’s and Marek’s backgrounds, unlike with Nada.

Newcomer Andrea Otalvaro is credible and easily arouses empathy among the viewers as naïve Catalina. But it is Lana Barić’s Nada who truly steals the movie. The Croatian actress expresses a wider range of emotions and her heroine is strong and vulnerable, rough and compassionate at the same time. The picture might have also been called Catalina and Nada, as the female characters are equally developed, and it is their relationship that lies at the core of the film and moves the story forward. Andrzej Chyra doesn’t get as much time as his colleagues but has his moments in few, but important scenes. As Nada’s mother, Serbian actress Mirjana Karanović proves once again that some actors don’t really need much screen time to demonstrate their greatness.