Since the 1960s, Croatian cinema has combined a haunting, often savagely bleak outcry against political and personal repression with humor, lyricism and a tenderness born of constant conflict and adversity. However, it was little known before late 2000, when the American Cinematheque and CAMEO presented “Wednesdays in Croatia,” the first comprehensive overview of Croatian cinema ever mounted on the West Coast.
This year Kino Croatia’s series opens with the latest hit comedy from director Vinko Brešan, THE PRIEST’S CHILDREN. A priest – albeit a phony one – plays a central role in Krsto Papić’s FLOWER SQUARE. Dalibor Matanić’s HANDYMEN follows a beleaguered housewife who becomes the object of three men’s affections. Bobo Jelčić’s tense look at the war legacy, A STRANGER, dominated the Pula Film Festival awards this year. VIS-À-VIS examines a subject close to home for director Nevio Marasović – a filmmaker struggling with the autobiographical script for his next project.
Series compiled by Gwen Deglise, Philemon Bourdelique and Matko B. Malinger. Program notes by John Hagelston.
Warm-up for Kino Croatia
Kino Croatia 2014 Kick-off Party is hosted by Shade Hotel, Manhattan Beach (1221 N. Valley Drive). It takes place on Friday, May 16th from 7:00 – 9:00 PM. Special guests: music legend Oliver Dragojević and Croatian-American winemaker Frane Franičević (Sunce Winery). Program includes the first Croatian Oscar winner, animated film SUROGAT (Substitute) by D. Vukotić, KC 2014 film trailers, music videos and a short film LITTLE HANDS by Croatian-Australian writer, producer and actress Dinka Džubur. Lead actor Miraj Grbić in person!
AT THE EGYPTIAN THEATRE:
Friday, May 30 – 7:30 PM
THE PRIEST’S CHILDREN (SVEĆENIKOVA DJECA), 2013, InterFilm, 93 min. Dir. Vinko Brešan.
Catholic priest Don Fabijan (Krešimir Mikić) is distressed to see his island parish shrinking in population, so he enlists a condom vendor (Nikša Butijer) and a pharmacist (Dražen Kuhn) to sabotage birth control methods – a plan that produces quite a few unintended complications. Working with frequent collaborators like writer-composer Mate Matišić, director Vinko Brešan handles a touchy subject with humor that shifts from whimsical to sardonic, making this comedic cautionary tale one of the year’s biggest box office hits in Croatia. Croatian with English subtitles.
Q&A with actor Nikša Butijer.
Evening concludes with Opening Night Party for all ticket holders. Finger food, drinks and live music performed by international actors & filmmakers. VIP Reception, for invited guests and All Event Pass holders only. All Event Pass available at Biotest: 310-440-3400.
AT THE AERO
Saturday, May 31 – 7:30 PM
KINO CROATIA Double Feature:
HANDYMEN (MAJSTORI), 2013, HRT/Croatian Radiotelevision, 75 min. Dir. Dalibor Matanić. Though housewife Keka (Areta Ćurković) feels her marriage to Baja (Nikša Butijer) may be out of steam, the attentions of inept handyman Ilija (Goran Bogdan) are little consolation. After a warring Baja and Ilija practically destroy her home, Keka escapes to a coastal village, where a third man (Bojan Navojec) enters the picture. As in his earlier CASHIER WANTS TO GO TO THE SEASIDE, writer-director Matanić mines plenty of humor from these characters’ mundane lives, including some wonderful slapstick sequences. In Croatian with English subtitles.
FLOWER SQUARE (CVJETNI TRG), 2012, Ozana Film, 101 min. Dir. Krsto Papić. To keep his son out of jail, puppeteer Filip (Dražen Kuhn) agrees to help police in a sting operation against a hospitalized crime boss (Mladen Vulić). Disguising himself as “Father Lovro,” Filip hears the man’s confession – but when the ruse is discovered, divine intervention seems his only hope for survival. The black comedy of director Papić’s earlier WHEN THE DEAD START SINGING gets even more absurd here as the pretend priest sinks deeper into desperation. In Croatian with English subtitles.
Q&A with Handymen director Dalibor Matanić and actor Nikša Butijer, between the films.
Sunday, June 1 – 7:30 PM
KINO CROATIA Double Feature:
VIS-À-VIS, 2013, Antitalent Produkcija, 81 min. Dir. Nevio Marasović. A young director (Rakan Rushaidat) struggling to make his autobiographical debut feature cloisters himself on the island of Vis along with his lead actor (Janko Volarić Popović) to get the script into shape. As the characters’ artistic struggles intertwine with their personal ones, writer-director Marasović (THE SHOW MUST GO ON) reveals an affinity for sharp, self-reflexive humor reminiscent of vintage Woody Allen. In Croatian with English subtitles.
A STRANGER (OBRANA I ZAŠTITA), 2013, Spiritus Movens, 85 min. Dir. Bobo Jelčić. This haunting drama swept the top awards in the most recent Pula Film Festival. In the Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar, ethnic fissures have not entirely closed two decades after the war, a fact underlined when one of Slavko’s (Bogdan Diklić) old friends dies. Slavko and his wife (Nada Đurevska) are Catholic and the deceased was Muslim; simply attending the man’s funeral is an act fraught with peril. Stage stars Diklić and Đurevska capture the tense mood with every gesture, aided by some fine handheld camera work. In Croatian and Bosnian with English subtitles.
Closing Night Reception (6:00 PM) is hosted by The Courtyard Kitchen (1211 Montana Ave., just one block down the street from Aero). For invited filmmakers, sponsors and All Event Pass holders only.