Boris T. Matic, director of the Zagreb Film Festival

Zagreb Film Festival and the Presidential Elections

By Rada Djurica

Zagreb once more becomes visible on the cultural map of Europe as the Zagreb Film Festival this year celebrates its fifth anniversary. This is a small but meaningful anniversary for the influential film festival that, beside internationally-acclaimed films, features films from the former Yugoslavian countries, films that usually wouldn't be seen in Croatia.

Over the past five years, the organizers of the festival have demonstrated a capacity for bringing first-class films, attracting big crowds to the screenings. In the spirit of this year's presidential elections in Croatia, the film festival presented a completely different reality from the one usually glimpsed in the media. The festival was thus an escape from the political media war of the presidential elections, as the film program offered an active political dialogue, potentially improving the relationship with the other former Yugoslavian country, Serbia, and serving as a prelude of a new political era in Croatia.

The 2007 Zagreb Film Festival opened with a thriller from Serbia, The Trap by Srdan Golubovic, and closed with the feature film I'm Not There by Todd Haynes about Bob Dylan. The fifth anniversary celebration included feature films, short films, documentary films and a Croatian film program called Checkers. It lasted for seven days with seven tracks, presenting over 80 films from 30 countries, with an emphasis on important from former Yugoslavian countries (which experienced a bloody civil war in the 1990s).

Boris T. Matic, film producer and director of the Zagreb Film Festival spoke about the future direction of festival:"Coming next is the Office for Education, Culture and Sport and City of Zagreb, who have continuously provided financial support to this common project of ours, regardless of who takes up which function following the elections and without intervening in our concept, film selection or anything else, for that matter. They aren't the political commissaries from the beginning of the story but partners who recognize the needs of our City and it Zagreb Film Festival quality that we demonstrate them that they did the right thing when distributing tax payer's money…"

Croation film director Branko Schmidt spoke about the festival and his latest project: "I think that Zagreb Film Festival is doing a great job because it has a good crew, people that know what to do. This festival now has a good tradition. It is based on the idea to work well on improvements of the relationship between Croatia and other ex Yugoslavian countries. That was the idea right from the start. This is their tendency. As for the elections in Croatia, I don't think that anything will be changed, not for actors or directors or film production. This in Croatia works very well. This segment of society (the culture) is not influenced or dependable by/from the political changes in the country. But as far as film investing concerns, this will be different because there will be a Film Center established now. So the Croatian Ministry of Culture (and government) won't be deciding about financing of the project, which is much better for film culture because it will be even less influenced by the current politics. Culture and film will be even more out of politics and politics have as less possible influence. Regarding that, my next project is a film called Metastasis, done by the bestselling novelist Ivo Balenovic, a domestic author, and is about the narco-mafia in Croatia during the time of Tudjman and civil war and a young generation without hope, a kind of Croatian Trainspotting."

Boris T. Matic (left) with the mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic