Hrvoje Hribar quits HAVC
by Vladan Petkovic
- The head of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre has resigned after the report by the State Audit Office, which the filmmaking community believes overstepped its authority
Hrvoje Hribar handed in his resignation from the position of director of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) on 6 February, after the publication of the controversially unfavourable report by the State Audit Office for the year 2015.
The State Audit Office objected to various irregularities, but in essence, says Hribar, “The report made it imperative that all revised decisions and signed contracts should have been co-signed by the Minister of Culture, which runs contrary to the main principle upon which the Act on Audiovisual Activities was adopted in 2007, as well as common practice at HAVC from the beginning of its functioning as a separate, non-governmental institution.”
The State Audit Office identified as irregularities all the contracts concluded by HAVC worth more than HRK 200,000 (€26,802) because they were not signed by the Minister of Culture. However, this practice has so far always been related to the operational expenses of HAVC, and not to contracts for the funding of film productions, which are never made for amounts smaller than that sum. This would practically make it impossible for producers to get state funding without the government's approval.
“This would obliterate years of effort put into making the film industry an independent system from the politics, and would signify a return to the communist model of management that leaves no room for any art that is not sanctioned by the regime,” the Croatian Producers Association and the Croatian Film Directors’ Guild said in a joint statement. “The consequences of such an interpretation of the law could be fatally damaging to the independence of Croatian cinema and threaten Article 69 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, which ‘guarantees the freedom of scientific, cultural and artistic works’.”
In addition to a substantial increase in production and international success for Croatian films, with awards at Cannes (The High Sun [+see also:
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile]), Berlin (On the Other Side [+see also:
interview: Tihana Lazovic
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile]), Venice (These Are the Rules [+see also:
film profile]) and the EFAs (The Chicken and Picnic won Best Short Film two years in a row), in the seven years under Hribar, HAVC has implemented the digitalisation of 52 independent cinemas and has introduced novelties such as funding for screenplay development, project pitchings and increased investment in minority co-productions. Furthermore, Croatia received more than €5 million in non-refundable grants through Creative Europe's MEDIA programme, and more than €3.2 million through Eurimages.
Hribar had over the years often been under political pressure, which culminated in relentless media persecution after the release of the documentary film 15 Minutes - The Dvor Massacre in February 2016, a Danish-Croatian co-production about an unsolved crime from the war in Croatia, in which nine disabled people were murdered. Danish filmmakers Georg Larsen and Kasper Vedsmand were investigating the responsibility of Danish UN soldiers who just stood by idly during the killing, executed by a group of soldiers who were never officially identified. The Croatian mainstream discourse used to blame it on Serbian paramilitaries, but the film suggests that the killers may have been Croatian soldiers.
As the film was co-financed by HAVC, the then Minister of Culture Zlatko Hasanbegović incited a harangue against Hribar together with the Association of Veterans and other nationalist organisations and populistic, predominantly right-wing media. Hribar believes that this atmosphere was the crucial factor that influenced the State Audit Office's bias and resulted in the unfavourable report. Still, he is convinced that the Croatian film industry will find a way to re-establish its vigour and keep on working.
“The successful period of the last few years should be continued in a dignified manner,” Hribar told Cineuropa. “I will be looking to assist with that during my meetings with international partners and global film community representatives at the Berlinale."