Rok Biček • Director, producer, Cvinger Film
"I’ve never tried to pretend to be someone else and the same is with my storytelling"
by Vladan Petkovic
- We interviewed Slovenian director and producer Rok Biček, who has set up his own company Cvinger Film, and is now one of the 2019 Producers on the Move
Slovenian producer and director Rok Biček came to international prominence with his directing debut Class Enemy, which picked up Fedeora Award at the Venice Critics' Week in 2013, while his 2017 documentary The Family won the Grand Prix at the Locarno Critics' Week. Last year, through his company Cvinger Film (which also has a branch in Vienna, Zwinger Film) he co-produced Olmo Omerzu's Karlovy Vary prize-winner Winter Flies and Darko Štante's Toronto entry Consequences. He is currently developing his third film as director, Dark Mother Earth, a co-production with Croatia, France, Austria, Serbia, planned for January 2021 release. Biček has now been selected as one of the 2019 Producers on the Move by European Film Promotion.
Cineuropa: You both produce and direct fiction and documentary films. How do you see the relationship between the two forms and how does it work for you creatively?
Rok Biček: It’s true that Class Enemy and The Family look totally different - one is fiction, the other one is documentary. I don’t see this border between fiction and documentary as so distinct, especially when I’m in the middle of the creative process. I see here an interesting parallel between filmmaking and writing. How would you, for example, define Michel Foucalt’s "The Life of Infamous Men"? He stressed that his collection of those “lives” is “in no way a history book". To paraphrase him, The Familyis in no way a documentary. “The selection that shall be found in it has conformed to no thing more important than my taste, my pleasure, my emotion, laughter, surprise, a certain fright or some other feeling, whose intensity perhaps I would have difficulty in justifying now that the first flush of discovery is past.”
As for production, I’ve never planned to become a producer. But, as you know, things usually turn out differently in real life.
We are in pre-production of Olmo Omerzu's short The Last Day of Patriarchy and in financing of his fourth feature film, Admin. Sara Kern’s short film Good Luck Orlo! premiered in Venice in 2016 and we’ve just started post-production on her new short Vesna Goodbye, which is a pilot for her first feature Vesna that we plan to shoot before the end of 2019. Project has been developed at Cinefondation and Torino Film Lab and will be the first ever co-production between Australia, Slovenia and a EU country (to be determined). Another young director, Maja Prelog, just got support from the Polish Film Institute for her first feature film Cent’anni. I’m proud that films produced by Cvinger Film are the first Slovenian official co-productions with countries like Australia, Austria or Poland.
Can you tell us a bit more about Dark Mother Earth?
It is set in 1991, in a small Croatian village on the eve of the war. Matija is a boy whose father recently passed away. Unable to cope with the loss, he seeks recluse in his own fantasy world and gets isolated from his peers. At the same time, the village is haunted by a series of unexplained suicides. As the mass hysteria slowly takes over the minds of the villagers, the line between reality and fantasy blurs, rumours spread in the village connecting Matija to the suicides, using his maladjusted behavior as a proof. Three decades later Matija is forced to relive the tragedy he was running away from all along. He finds that he was responsible only for the last suicide, the one of the only friend he had and the one he’d bitterly betrayed.
Your films are most often dealing with young people and their social situations, and it seems result from both the Central European and Balkan mentality and topics. How do you see your position as a filmmaker in this sense?
I think cinema should address issues that reflect the national as well as global society. That’s why I’ve always tried to look on my stories from the perspective of a universal language. Geographically speaking I think you are describing my position quite precisely. I’ve never tried to pretend to be someone else and the same is with my storytelling. I can make a sincere film only about something that “grew up” on this small piece of land between Venice and Vienna. But I think that this is nothing extraordinary. Everyone should talk only about things that he knows well and leave the rest to the others.
What do you expect from your participation in Producers on the Move?
I think this is great platform for European cinema. Actually I know of some friendships and long-term professional collaborations which started here and I have no doubt that this edition will be the beginning of many new and beautiful friendships.
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