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ZAGREB 2018

Review: Lada Kamenski

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- Croatian filmmakers Sara Hribar and Marko Šantić have crafted an engaging movie that comments on the industry and women's position within it, but falls short of its own ambition

Review: Lada Kamenski
Ksenija Marinković, Nataša Dorčić and Doris Šarić-Kukuljica in Lada Kamenski

Two young Croatian filmmakers, Sara Hribar, for whom this is the first feature film, and Marko Šantić, for whom it is the second, following the Slovenian-produced Seduce Me [+see also:
trailer
interview: Marko Santic
film profile
]
(he also has a third this year in Slovenia, with Together), have teamed up for Lada Kamenski [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, which won four awards at the Pula Film Festival, including Best Debutant and Best Screenplay for Hribar. The film had its international premiere at Montreal and is now screening in the Together Again section of the Zagreb Film Festival, where both directors have participated in the past with their short films in the Checkers programme, the most prominent Croatian platform for up-and-coming filmmakers.

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The name Lada Kamenski belongs to a character that is fictional to the extent that the viewer believes it to be: she is the former worker of the historic Kamensko clothing factory in Zagreb, and an aunt to the protagonist of the movie, young film director Frano (Frano Mašković). He is making a film about her as the central character in a story about the demise of the factory, and he auditions three middle-aged actresses, all of them very well known in Croatian cinema and theatre: Ksenija Marinković (Mali [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Antonio Nuić
film profile
]
On the Other Side
 [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tihana Lazovic
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile
]
), Nataša Dorčić (You Carry Me [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ivona Juka
film profile
]
) and Doris Šarić-Kukuljica (Not All About the Money).

In addition to audition tapes in which the three actresses talk about the character, but also about their dislike of the very idea of auditions, Frano opts for an unorthodox rehearsal method in an attempt to identify the right person to cast: he invites the trio to his place for an "informal gathering", but without telling any of them that the others are coming.

As they all come to Frano's place, and enjoy cheese and Moroccan wine, each of the actresses, despite their professed collegiality, tries to convince the director in private (usually catching him in the kitchen) that she, and she alone, is the right choice for the lead role. Meanwhile, they are each also dealing with their own family and/or romantic issues on their phones. Things get heated as the boundaries between rehearsal and informal conversation blur, and egos skyrocket. 

The film benefits from Hribar's smooth screenplay and Tomislav Pavlić's straightforward editing that fit it into a reasonable 71 minutes of running time, as well as the contained chamber set-up, and its meta aspect will certainly work well at home, where the three actresses are household names. It is also easy to connect the story of the once-prosperous factory that fell victim to transition with recent history and the current situation that Croatia finds itself in, and minor etiquette details (a big deal for public figures), such as the dilemma of whether they should smoke inside or on the balcony, are universally relatable.

However, Frano's own position and mindset are not sufficiently well defined – he seems flabbergasted by events and reactions that he has brought on himself, and which will feel natural to most audiences – which weakens the legitimacy of the movie's view of the role of women in the industry (whether the film or the textile one), and society in general. That would be less of a problem if Lada Kamenski did not posit this aspect so directly as one of its primary topics.

In the end, Lada Kamenski is quite a watchable little film, engaging and thought-provoking, but falling short of its own professed ambition – specifically in the thought department. It was co-produced by Croatian companies Sekvenca and Antitalent.

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