Chris Marcich • Head, Croatian Audiovisual Centre
"There is a certain efficiency in smaller countries grouping together"
- At the recent DOK Leipzig, we met up with head of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) Chris Marcich and talked about the current situation for Croatian cinema
Cineuropa: We are at DOK Leipzig, where Croatia was a country in focus. How do you see the situation with local documentaries at home?
Chris Marcich: Documentaries are not sufficiently available to the public, and more effort has to be made. In Croatia, we have a particular problem with the public service broadcaster HRT, which has shown an incredible lack of sensitivity towards what I consider to be their obligation – towards everything that is produced in Croatia, including documentaries. They recently went through a procurement exercise where they systematically refused all of the projects that were presented to them, and that has to change.
I have a string of issues with them, but they are also a partner. Periodically, we have been asking them, together with producers, to make a commitment to acquire rights through pre-sales, if not as co-producers, for all of the works that we provide state support to. And I think that idea is something that they are accepting, something that will translate into a more systematic approach.
HRT, along with private broadcasters, are on the board of HAVC that approves all of the projects. So once they're there and they see what's being financed, they should be able to have their say about it, but by being there and raising their hand in support of the projects, there is, to me, more than an implicit commitment that they will respect their obligations.
What are the weak points and advantages of the Croatian film industry at the moment?
One of the major weak points is, in fact, the insufficiency of financial resources for production. Because of the change in the commitment from HRT, we've lost a portion of the money that had been available in the past to finance films – especially features. We have to make that up somehow.
We're working on it through some new laws that are being implemented now, obliging public and private broadcasters to commit a certain portion of their budget to the acquisition of independent films. That's something they have to do: HRT has done some, but not enough. Private broadcaster RTL and Nova have done very little – they don't really commit any portion of their budget to independent productions, and they will have to do so.
On the plus side, we have a couple of strong films coming up that I believe will be noticed internationally, and streaming giants are also paying attention to our TV series productions – for example, Netflix with [Drugi plan's] The Paper.
How do you see the current state of exhibition in Croatia?
I think the country is very well catered for in terms of the number of screens now. We have commercial screens and the independent cinema network that has been digitised thanks to state funding. Together with that support that went to those arthouse cinemas, there was also supposed to be a commitment to promote and screen Croatian and European productions. Those cinemas have a mixed record, and some really do make an effort to bring the public the titles they wouldn't otherwise be able to see in commercial cinemas. We need to encourage compliance with those commitments.
But HAVC also has to provide more support for distribution and the promotion of these cinemas. We will help them with promotional materials and encourage our filmmakers to participate in screenings. You can see a real difference in the interest shown in a film depending on whether the talents come and open the first night, and have a dialogue with the public. Dana Budisavljević has really shown how important this is with the rollout of her film The Diary of Diana B [+see also:
interview: Dana Budisavljević
What do you think about Croatia's potential for co-productions outside the region?
Most of our co-productions are tightly concentrated in the region, and I have no problem with that. But for the sake of all of us and the region, connecting with partners in France, Austria, Germany and Italy is also important. We're looking at some possibilities, in the area of documentaries, of working with Baltic and Scandinavian countries. They have a group, and they present themselves together as potential co-production partners. We also have a group from the region because there is a certain efficiency in smaller countries grouping together and talking to other smaller nations in a common setting, rather than searching for an individual partner country by country. That's a work in progress that was launched at the MakeDox Festival in Skopje this summer, and which I think will develop. I think it would be healthy and positive as a model starting with documentaries, but then moving into other areas as well.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.