PRODUCTION / FUNDING Croatia / France
Sonja Tarokić’s feature debut, The Staffroom, to be presented at Karlovy Vary
- Popular Croatian actress Marina Redžepović plays the main role, stepping into the shoes of a school counsellor who challenges well-entrenched habits
After several successful shorts, among which the playful You Bitch! (2011) and the family drama On Shaky Ground (2014), which both focused on human bonds, young Croatian director Sonja Tarokić is about to compete for the Crystal Globe Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (20-28 August) with her feature debut, The Staffroom [+see also:
interview: Sonja Tarokić
film profile]. Produced by Croatian company Kinorama, which has a back catalogue of 30 feature-length titles, and co-produced by France’s KinoElektron, the film has secured the support of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre and Creative Europe – MEDIA. It was developed through TorinoFilmLab’s Script&Pitch 2015 and FrameWork 2016 programmes, also winning the TFL Production Award.
Similarly to Tarokić’s earlier films, The Staffroom focuses on the complex relationships between diverse characters from a psychological perspective. The main character, Anamarija, played by Marina Redžepović (The Last Serb in Croatia [+see also:
film profile], Summerhouse [+see also:
film profile]), takes a new job as a counsellor in a school full of petty conflicts and cliques. At first, she attempts to steer clear of the power games played by staff and parents in order to concentrate on her job with the children. However, she soon realises that her survival in this savage environment requires a well thought-out strategy. Other actors in the cast are Stojan Matavulj (The Eighth Commissioner [+see also:
film profile], Shooting Stars [+see also:
film profile]) as an antagonistic teacher, as well as Maja Posavec, an actress and musician who is well known locally.
For Tarokić, who grew up in a family of psychologists and has been forever surrounded by their stories about the social system, the topic was a natural choice. “School is a specific system in which people often spend their whole life within the same group of colleagues in the same staffroom, closely connected by friendships, opinions and prejudice. For that reason, I have always seen the staffroom as a symbol of the community in general, and I wanted to present it as a chatty, cyclical environment riddled with tension. That is why, in this film, we move almost in circles, always through the same school spaces, surrounded by a hubbub of voices that never really stops, and thus makes the atmosphere more and more feverish and emotionally charged,” explains Tarokić. Elaborating further on the motivation of the protagonist, she says: “Stories about the conflict between an individual and the system often end with one of two extremes – the triumph of the individual or their crushing defeat. What troubles Anamarija is the (im)possibility of a third option.”
The Staffroom will have its world premiere as one of the 12 titles in this year’s Crystal Globe Competition at the Karlovy Vary IFF, while New Europe Film Sales is already in charge of its international sales.
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