The importance of being earnest
by Bénédicte Prot
- Besides her work as a director, Barbara Albert is also a committed producer...
She, together with the coop 99 team (Jessica Hausner, Antonin Svoboda, and Martin Gschlacht), actively contributes to the renewal of an original Austria cinema of the highest quality —with titles such as Hubert Sauper's Darwin's Nightmare or Hans Weingartner's Cannes title The Edukators. It is that same quality she recognised in Jasmila Zbanic's project, a film produced, like all coop99 films, in an atmosphere of genuine friendship and respect for the filmmaker's choices.
Cineuropa: How did you get involved in the project Grbavica [+see also:
interview: Barbara Albert
interview: Jasmila Zbanic
Barbara Albert : I met Jasmila Zbanic in 1996 : we were both film students at the time and I interviewed her for my documentary Somewhere Else, shot in Sarajevo. Jasmila impressed me very much, both as woman and as filmmaker. We became friends and kept in touch (my DoP Christine Maier also shot a couple of Jasmila's shorts) and I always said that I would like to produce her first feature film, when I have my own outfit.
What advantages and difficulties does such a coproduction between four countries entail?
For Jasmila, I think it was great to get so much input from the outside to develop a universal story and thus reach an international audience. She also needed German, Austrian and Croatian facilities which do not exist yet in Bosnia. For us, co-producing in four countries, the main issue was the time that the different applications and the decisions of financers take.
coop99 was the main producer and responsible for the budget (Bruno Wagner worked closely with Deblokada and I had an eye on the script). Germany helped develop the script and provided us with a big part of the technical crew, but our lab was in Zagreb...
We did have to pick cast and crew from all the countries involved in the production, but I think this was productive and inspiring. Compromises weren't a problem, everybody was open-minded.
What experience does Coop99 have in collaborating with Eastern European partners?
Grbavica is our first experience so far. For an Austrian production outfit, it seems logical to work with our neighbours and our funds are quite open to that, although it is not easy to find a reason for them to support a script if there is no Austrian connection in the story. Producers are more easily keen. For Grbavica, our financial backers were brave; they recognised our country’s political responsibility.
What kind of public did you have in mind when you produced Grbavica?
We wanted to reach both an arthouse-audience and a public that would be touched emotionally by the story without knowing too much about the Bosnian war. For Germany, eventually, I think it was a good decision to dub, so as to reach more spectators. Thanks to our co-producer ZDF, the film will also reach German TV-audiences. It is hard to tell, yet, what influence the awards won had on the public, but they clearly boosted international sales.