20th ZFF Program: Challenges and Adventures of Growing up
The program of the 20th Zagreb Film Festival, which is set to take place from October 23 – 30 at five city locations: at Tuškanac, SC and Kinoteka Cinemas, at the Museum of Contemporary art and Dokukino KIC, as well as on online platforms kinoeuropa.hr and croatian.film, was presented at the press conference in Urania Cinema. Zagreb’s biggest film adventure will mark its anniversary with a rich film program with a total of 115 films divided into four competition and seven side programs, as well as Industry, the program dedicated to education and networking of professionals. The festival was presented at the conference by ZFF director Boris T. Matić, executive director Hrvoje Laurenta, and producers Lana Matić and Selma Mehadžić.
When we launched Zagreb Film Festival in October 2003, we couldn’t dream of the beautiful adventure it would take us on, and that we will, despite numerous challenges we faced, welcome this anniversary with happiness and pride. There were countless moments to remember in the last 20 years – we screened over 2000 films, hosted several thousand guests, including Oscar winners, the queen of Denmark and most of the relevant filmmakers from the region, and attracted several hundred thousand visitors in Zagreb, but also all over Croatia. We started in 2003 in the Student Centre and moved to other locations in 2009, and for more than 11 years, we successfully managed Cinema Europa, proven by our numerous and regular audience, as well as the Europa Cinemas Award for Best European Program in 2016. Despite this, the City closed Cinema Europa in 2019 and it remains closed to this day, while Zagreb still lacks a cinema with a contemporary independent film program. On the other hand, the Festival will welcome its twentieth edition and its activities continue to protect the unbreakable bond with its audience and authors for whom we introduced and devised new programs during all of these years, from the national program Checkers, the Great 5, the program for children and youth, Together Again… We also introduced the program Industry, whose workshops and lectures gather several thousand professionals — for some we are an indispensable partner on their way to complete films. We have faced numerous challenges, but we are still here and one thing remains the same — it is with equal enthusiasm as at the first edition that we look forward to presenting the best and most interesting independent films, and have a good time while doing so!, Boris T. Matić said.
The feature film competition includes a total of 11 films, and almost all of them arrive in Zagreb having already won one or several important awards. In the running for the 20th ZFF Golden Pram Award is this year’s winner of Berlin, the Spanish Oscar candidate and the first film in Catalan to have won the Golden Bear, Alcarràs by Carla Simón. This rural drama about a family of peach farmers who fall into discord under the pressure of capital is an ode to the close-knit life in a small community and slowly disappearing traditions. The Ukrainian-Turkish film Klondike, directed by Maryna Er Gorbach, won the awards for Best Director at Sundance and Sarajevo Film Festival, as well as the prize of the Ecumenical Jury in Berlin. The protagonists are a pregnant woman and her husband, who, on the eve of war, refuse to leave their home on the Russian-Ukrainian border. The Pakistan Oscar candidate, the bitter-sweet drama on repressed lust Joyland by Saim Sadiq won the Queer Palm and the jury award of Un Certain Regard, is the first Pakistani film to be screened in Cannes. The winner of the Cannes section Un Certain Regard, the French film The Worst Ones directed by Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret follows a director searching for young protagonists in the Paris suburb to film a drama about troubled teens. The moving and nuanced docufiction questions the ethics of filmmaking and reminds the audience that every story has its background.
The blurry reality of adolescence and troubles of growing up are the focus of several films from this year’s program. I Have Electric Dreams is a sensual debut by Costarican author Valentina Maurel on the turbulent relationship between a teenage girl, who discovers her sexuality, and her father, who relives adolescence. The Belgian director Lukas Dhont already grabbed attention with his debut The Girl (Cannes, 2018 – Camera d’Or), and this year ZFF will screen his second film Close (Cannes, 2022 – Grand Prix). Following a story about the close friendship of two 13-year-old boys, the film tackles the topics of intimacy, manhood, fear and responsibility in a painfully honest way. The Quiet Girl by Irish director Colm Bairéad is a mesmerizing and delicately directed classical drama about a quiet and neglected girl who is sent away to her distant family, whose love and attention enable her to suddenly blossom.
This year’s edition is special due to the record number of Croatian titles in the feature competition, which also arrive in Zagreb from prestigious European festivals. The 20th ZFF will screen four debut films from a generation of directors whose films were part of the Checkers program, so the anniversary edition of ZFF will be marked by the encounter of authors with which the Festival grew in a way. One of them is Juraj Lerotić, whose first short film Then I See Tanja was awarded with the Golden Pram in 2010. His feature debut Safe Place, a psychologically charged intimate drama based on the director’s personal story, awarded at Locarno and Sarajevo, and the current Croatian Oscar candidate. Traces, a drama with Marija Škaričić directed by Dubravka Turić, who won the Golden Lion (Belladonna, Venice, 2015), arrives in Zagreb shortly after the world premiere at the Festival in Warsaw, and Carbide by Josip Žuvan, a story about two inseparable boys, from the San Sebastián Film Festival. The film Carbide was developed at ZFF’s workshop My First Script, as well as The Uncle, the thriller with elements of absurd humor and grotesque awarded with the Special Jury Mention in Karlovy Vary. The Uncle is directed by David Kapac and Andrija Mardešić, and stars Miki Manojlović, Ivana Roščić, Goran Bogdan and Roko Sikavica.
Ruben Östlund’s latest film Triangle of Sadness will have its Croatian premiere out of competition in the Main Program. This powerful satire mocking the idle rich secured the celebrated Swede’s second Palme d’Or in Cannes this year. The side program LUX, realized in collaboration with the European Parliament, will screen his acclaimed feature debut about peer bullying Play, which was one of the three finalists for that award in 2011.
The competition program of Croatian short films Checkers will feature ten films: It’s Not Cold for Mosquitoes by Josip Lukić and Klara Šovagović, Dancing On The Grave by Ana Šiškov, Zof by Rino Barbir, Christmas Eve by Jakov Nola, My Nikola by Martina Marasović, Little Guys by Andrija Tomić, Bocca de ferro by Matej Matijević, Fender by Bojan Radanović, Short Story on Trogir by Ante Storić and Talk To You Later by a group of authors gathered under Croatian Film Association’s Dr. Ante Peterlić School of Media Culture. The same number of titles is featured in the international short competition. These are the Sloveno-Italian-Hungarian That’s How the Summer Ended by Matjaž Ivanišin, the Portuguese What Remains by Daniel Soares, the Greek On Xerxes’ Throne by Evi Kalogiropoulou, the Indonesian-French Makassar is a City for Football Fans by Khozy Rizal, the Chinese The Water Murmurs by Story Chen, the Turkish The Moist by Turan Haste, the Swedish Berry Pickers by Agnes Skonare Karlsson, the Swiss The Affront by Jonas Ulrich, the Ukrainian The Diaper Cake by Anastasia Babenko and the Armenian Handstand by Ovsanna Shekoyan.
Jury members of the 20th Zagreb Film Festival are also known. The jury of the feature film competition consists of Annabella Nezri, founder of the Belgian production company Kwassa Films (The Man Who Sold His Skin, ZFF 2021), Nicoletta Romeo, film curator and art director of the Trieste Film Festival, and Zlatko Burić, Croatian film and theater actor living and working in Denmark, who rose to fame with the role of narcoboss Milo in the Pushertrilogy and whose recent role in Triangle of Sadness will be screened at ZFF. The winners of the short film competition will be announced by the winner of last year’s international short film competition Marija Apčevska (North Pole), film director Karlo Vorih, last year’s winner of the Golden Pram for Best Film in the Checkers program (Fall Of Our Summer), and film director and producer Stefan Ivančić, who produced the winning film of the 16th ZFF, The Load by Ognjen Glavonić.
Side programs of the 20th ZFF also bring a series of intriguing titles from all over the world: Together Again, the Great 5, the Network of Festivals in the Adriatic Region, PLUS, KinoKino, LUX and ZFF’s Best Documentaries. Together Again is the program of films whose authors were introduced to ZFF’s audience through the Main Program or yearly film distribution. The Iranian director Ali Asgari, whose debut Disappearance was screened in the Main Program of the 15th ZFF, presents his film Until Tomorrow, a suspenseful drama about a young Iranian woman who hides her illegitimate child from her family and the world. Sarajevo director Pjer Žalica won the Special Jury Award in 2003 for his debut feature film Fuse, and is now returning with his dark humor drama May Labor Day, which closed this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival. God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya by Teona Strugar Mitevska was shown at ZFF 2019, and won the LUX European Audience Film Award that same year. Her newest film The Happiest Man in the World, a story about a blind date which connects victim and aggressor, premiered in the Orizzonti selection of the Venice Film Festival.
Special Screenings will feature Riders by Dominik Mencej, a Croatian co-produced road movie which is being dubbed the Slovenian version of Easy Rider, Corsage by Austrian director Marie Kreutzer, a biography which portrays the legendary empress Sissi in a completely new light, and Love Life, a melodrama about love and loss by Japanese director Kōji Fukada.
Representatives of Europe’s five largest cinematographies – Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Great Britain – are traditionally part of the side program The Great 5. This year, it includes two noted debut films: the family drama Lullaby directed by Alaude Ruiz de Azúa, which Pedro Almodóvar called the best debut in Spanish cinematography in the recent years, and the acclaimed British drama Aftersun by director Charlotte Wells with Paul Mescal (Normal People, BAFTA for Best Actor). France is represented by the family drama and charming film hommage to Paris in the 80’s The Passengers of the Night with Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Germany by the satirical dystopia directed by Natalia Sinelnikova We Might As Well Be Dead, a reminder of how easily people in dehumanizing conditions become victims of paranoia. Italian film The Eight Mountains by Felix van Groeningen (Alabama Monroe) and Charlotte Vandermeersch, which is compared to Brokeback Mountain, is a visually mesmerizing saga about a strong friendship between two men whose paths diverged, shot in the idyllic landscapes of the Italian Alps.
The selection of films for children and youth are presented in the programs KinoKino and Plus. Starting next year, KinoKino will become a year-long film program, while ZFF will feature the selection of the yearly feature production for children. PLUS brings online screenings of films for adolescents.
For the second year running, the Network of Festivals in the Adriatic Region, the regional film festival created by the joining of Sarajevo Film Festival, Auteur Film Festival, Herceg-Novi Film Festival, Ljubljana Film Festival LIFFE and Zagreb Film Festival, found its place among ZFF’s competition programs. Festivals in the Spotlight, the only film program within Industry, gathers almost 50 recent feature and short films which were selected for ZFF by program directors and selectors of several European film festivals: from Sarajevo Film Festival, Festival of Mediterranean Film Split and Ljubljana International Film Festival, to the Locarno Film Festival and the International Festival of Short Film Vienna Shorts.
Numerous lectures, workshops, masterclasses, panel discussions, round tables and pitching forums aimed at audiences of all ages, interests and levels of expertise once again make up the rich program of Industry, ZFF’s platform for education and networking of film professionals. The series of interesting lectures open for public are headed by the masterclass by Cristiano Travaglioli, the winner of the European Film Award and editor behind Paolo Sorrentino’s masterpieces, organized by ZFF in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute, and the masterclass by Zlatko Burić, Croatian actor living in Denmark and jury member of the 20th ZFF, organized in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark.
Italian experts Alessandro Groppiero and Christine Pelekani will hold a lecture Marketing Is Your Friend on the challenges of film marketing in the digital age, held in cooperation with the RE-ACT workshop, First Cut+ Program and the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. In collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Forum and the Academy of Dramatic Art, Syrian multi-media refugee artist Jack Gutmann will hold a lecture on the development of the videogame Path Out, dealing with the flight from Syria in the midst of a devastating civil war.
Along with workshops My First Script, Industry Youth!, My First Videogame and 54+, Industry’s program will feature a film trailer workshop under the guidance of experienced editors Vladimir Gojun and Tomislav Pavlic, realized in collaboration with the Croatian Film Editors’ Guild and the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb.
Industry will also feature two special events. CREATIVE EUROPE MEDIA DESK DAY: KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOUR! – our (non)organic collaborations! organized by Creative Europe Desk – MEDIA Office from Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia, and ZFF, with focus on cross-border collaboration, organized within the content cluster of the new program period Creative MEDIA 2021 – 2027. Also, in collaboration with Torino Film Lab & Green Film Lab (Italy) and the Sustainability Management Training Program of the International Screen Institute (Austria), Creative Europe Desk – Offices from Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, and Serbia will present environmentally sustainable practices in film production and teach film professionals how to apply the green protocol and best modern practices regarding energy savings, transport, accommodation, catering, set design, waste management, recycling, and communication. Both events will be moderated by the head of Creative Europe Desk – MEDIA Office Croatia Martina Petrović.
GREEN PRACTICES AND SIDE EVENTS
In line with the unofficial slogan “We recycle everything but films!” and tendencies to become a greener festival, ZFF has limited the use of paper and plastic, program booklets are printed on recycled paper, and the audience is encouraged to recycle and use ZFF’s mobile app. Aside from the above mentioned collaboration with Torino Film Lab & Green Film Lab, our partnership with the social cooperative Humana Nova continues this year through sustainable and environmentally friendly production of festival merchandise. In order to produce even greener practices in the future editions, ZFF has joined the initiative Green Charter For Film Festivals and will use their platform to record the produced consumption in preparation of and during this year’s festival.
ZFF has dedicated part of the film program and several events to marking its porcelain anniversary. The program Best of ZFF Documentaries, which screens in Dokukino KIC, will take us back to the time when documentary films were in the running for the Golden Pram. At the exhibition of ZFF’s posters at the Médiathèque, visitors will be able to travel through the festival’s last two decades, and all interested will be able to toast to the upcoming edition at the pre-festival party in Pločnik October 12.
Part of ZFF’s fantastic atmosphere will once again spread beyond the borders of the capital. Simultaneously with Zagreb’s audience, audiences in Dubrovnik, Korčula, Nova Gradiška, Opatija, Pula, Rijeka, Rovinj, Slatina, Split, Šibenik, Varaždin, Zabok, Zadar and elsewhere will enjoy select films from the ZFF Travels program. Treats from ZFF’s suitcase are: Alcarràs from the feature competition, May Labor Day from the Together Again program, The Passengers of the Night from the Great 5, and Captain Nova from KinoKino.
The main competition program is screened mornings and evenings in Tuškanac Cinema, while films from the side programs screen in Kinoteka Cinema, Museum of Contemporary Art and Dokukino KIC. Ticket prices start at 20 HRK (for matinee screenings of feature films), and run up to 30 HRK for evening screenings and screenings from the Together Again, the Great 5 and Network of Festivals in the Adriatic Region programs. Ticket presale starts October 10 on kupiulaznicu.zff.hr, and tickets on regular sale will be available at the same web address. During presale, from October 10-22, ticket prices are 5 HRK cheaper. Ticket sale on locations start October 22 at the festival ticket office in front of Tuškanac Cinema.
Zagreb Film Festival is financially supported by the City Office for Culture, International Relations and Civil Society, the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, Creative Europe – MEDIA sub-programme and the Zagreb Tourist Board. The festival’s main sponsor is INA.