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GOCRITIC! Animafest Zagreb 2024

GoCritic! Review: Žarko, You Will Spoil the Child!


- Milivoj and Veljko Popović’s Animafest prize-winning short uses various animation techniques to tell a heart-warming, humorous story of growing up in Croatia in the late 1980s

GoCritic! Review: Žarko, You Will Spoil the Child!

It’s no surprise to local audiences that the Best Croatian Film Award and the Audience Award at the 34th Animafest Zagreb went to directors Milivoj Popović and Veljko Popović for their short film Žarko, You Will Spoil the Child!. The film is based on the hit illustrated autobiography “U malu je uša đava” (lit. “The Devil’s Gotten into the Girl”) by Tisja Kljaković Braić, Croatia’s favourite contemporary illustrator.

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The film is told from the point of view of a little girl called Tisja (voiced by the illustrator’s daughter, Issa Kljaković Braić) whose voice-over introduces her hometown, Split, as the setting for her childhood story, and her parents and grandparents as her co-protagonists. It is divided into six short chapters revolving around family anecdotes, rituals and everyday arguments. The main conflict seems to be between Tisja’s favourite, Grandpa Žarko (Nenad Srdelić), and her mother (Andrea Mladinić), who disagree on politics and on how Tisja should be brought up.

In the film, Kljaković Braić’s style is a little more complex than the illustrations which made her a well-known artist in Croatia: her characters are sketched in black pencil on white paper, their clothes are rendered in pale watercolours and the same illustration technique is applied to the interiors and exteriors. They take us back, nostalgically, to humorous newspaper comics of the 1980s, whose style the Popović brothers emulate throughout the film. The sketches in 2D animation representing little Tisja’s subjective point of view are combined with more objective inserts: archive material in the form of photographs, video footage and newspaper clippings. Family photographs highlight the autobiographical aspect of the story, while the history books Tisja leafs through, the commercial for a local soft drink, newspaper clippings on the approaching war in Croatia and video footage of the subsequent bombings of Split and Dubrovnik, speak of the troublesome transition to the nineties.

The time-period can also be identified through more humorous references, such as the many men sporting thick moustaches, women with a crush on Tito, and the Mercedes as a status symbol established by emigrants working in Germany. The various audiences at Animafest Zagreb no doubt reacted differently to this film: some might have found themselves feeling nostalgic about the eighties, younger generations might have recognised eighties symbols from their families’ stories and history books, whereas international audiences might have struggled to grasp the film’s culturally specific references or the subtle humour inherent to the Split dialect. Nevertheless, everyone seemed to appreciate the movie’s humorous family conflicts and Tisja’s witty commentary on the cultural, social and political atmosphere at the time, accepting it as a warm homage paid by the Popović brothers to the time-period and paid by Kljaković Braić to her long-gone grandparents and childhood.

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