by Vladan Petkovic
- Cineuropa met up with Croatia's Producer on the Move, Vanja Jambrovic, of Restart, to discuss her choice to make documentaries, the current state of Croatia's film industry and her upcoming projects
Vanja Jambrović, of Restart, has produced and co-produced some of the most successful short and documentary films in the Balkans over the past three years, including Nebojša Slijepčević's Gangster of Love [+see also:
film profile] and Real Man's Film, Igor Bezinović's Blockade, and Petra Seliškar's Mother Europe [+see also:
Cineuropa: You have mostly been working in documentary and short-film production. Is that a conscious choice, and are you planning to move into fiction filmmaking?
Vanja Jambrović: Of course it’s a conscious choice. I’ve always preferred documentaries to fiction, or to be more precise, creative documentaries with the storytelling structure of feature films. What amazes me is the process of shaping the reality into the film. To watch how something that existed only as a simple fact of ordinary life becomes a work of art is to me the most thrilling moment of filmmaking. Documentary filmmakers take temporary and fleeting moments of life and transform them to give them everlasting meaning. We are living in a very exciting time for the history of film – a time when, after a whole century, film has finally been freed from technical limitations. Finally, the power behind filmmaking is no longer in the hands of the big companies; it has been placed in the creative minds and hands of filmmakers, and it was the digital revolution that made this possible. I believe this will have many creative consequences in the future, and one of them will be the abandonment of industry labels like “fiction” and “documentary”. Finally, we will be able to concentrate exclusively on truly great films.
What are your next projects?
At the moment I’m very happy to be working with two very talented documentary directors from our region: Croatia's Nebojša Slijepčević and Serbia's Srdjan Keča, who will soon be making their first fiction films or hybrid docu-fictions. Keča's project is called Araf – The Elevations and follows the story of Fadi, a young illegal migrant from Afghanistan who ends up in a small town in Serbia on his way to Western Europe, and falls ill. Slijepčević's project is called Shooting the War, and it will bea short fiction film anda feature documentary of its making at the same time. It deals with an important topic not only for Croatia, but Europe as well: the relation between young Croats and the ex-Yugoslavian conflict.
How do you find the current situation in the Croatian film industry, both in institutional and in market terms?
The Croatian Audiovisual Centre is the key institution that has been putting a lot of effort into upgrading the Croatian film industry to a more professional level in recent years. Since it was formed in 2008, a lot has changed for the better, and there has been an obvious progression and development in different fields. For instance, in the 1990s, the Ministry of Culture cancelled all the funding for documentaries. They considered them to be purely TV material that doesn’t need any financing from the state. That completely destroyed the independent documentary scene, and it was a result of the dominant backward politics that was ruling the country.
This attitude has changed over the last ten years, and today it is possible to get funding for scriptwriting, project development and production of independent documentaries.
Today, HRT [the Croatian national broadcaster] is still very closed to independent producers and hasn't made the necessary reforms since the socialist times. For example, the last documentary film that I produced, Gangster of Love, was made in co-production with German television broadcaster ZDF/ARTE and not with HRT. It is a bizarre and sad fact that, in the end, it was easier for us to get a co-production with ARTE than a co-production with our own national broadcaster.
What do you expect from Producers on the Move?
I expect to meet new colleagues from different countries, and to have an opportunity to present my new projects and eventually find co-producers, as well as to track down some new, interesting projects that I'd like to co-produce. I expect to broaden my knowledge and my horizons within the field of contemporary filmmaking and also to have some nice leisure time to be able to watch films.