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News 20 Feb 17

Croatian Film-Makers Campaign Against Political Interference

Croatian directors and actors are launching a campaign urging the authorities not to change the current system of state movie financing in order to impose political influence on the country’s film industry.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Facebook logo for 'Puk'o nam je film' (Croatian slang for 'We've Had Enough'). Photo: Facebook/Puk'o nam je film

A group of Croatian actors, directors and other film industry workers are launching a campaign in Zagreb on Monday entitled ‘Puk’o nam je film’ (Croatian slang for ‘We’ve Had Enough’), seeks to free the country’s movie industry from what they see as political interference.

The initiative, started by the Croatian Film Directors’ Guild, has already gathered support from more than 100 people from the country’s film industry.

Nebojsa Slijepcevic, a director and a member of Guild's executive committee, told BIRN that he support the initiative because he thinks some politicians intend to “destroy independent filmography and independent art and to revive the 1990s, when [Croatian] films couldn’t be considered quality ones”.

“Everyone who loves film and democracy in Croatia should support this initiative,” he said.

The initiative was launched as the financing of Croatian films became a subject of public debate in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, state auditors reported that they had found some financial irregularities at the Croatian Audio-Visual Centre, HAVC, the independent state body that helps to finance and promote Croatian films.

The auditors claimed that while going through the HAVC’s financial records from 2015, it found that the organisation’s chief, Hrvoje Hribar, was responsible for certain irregularities.

They claimed that the HAVC paid for a parking space for Hribar’s private car in front of its office in Zagreb, unlawfully paid people using the wrong contracts, and paid for cellphones for people who weren’t entitled to them.

They also claimed that Hribar did not have the approval of the HAVC’s executive committee when giving sums over 26,800 euros to film-makers, or the approval of the culture minister when giving sums over 67,200 euros.

The campaigners argue however that the auditors confused money needed for the operating of the centre – for which Hribar would need the approval of either the committee or the minister – with money given out to finance films.

If money for films needed approval from the very top, Slijepcevic argued, every film financed by the state would need to be signed off by the culture minister, which would represent an “a strong political influence on film-makers”.

“The thing we’ve been witnessing in recent years is continuous attacks on the heart of the HAVC’s system. This is completely wrong, since it’s one of the rare institutions functioning properly in Croatia – despite small mistakes – and achieving great results,” Slijepcevic said.

He insisted that the HAVC is “a politically independent institution which politicians want under their control”.

Since the HAVC was set up in 2008, the Croatian film industry has produced a lot of feature films that earned numerous prizes at festivals across the globe – unlike in the 1990s, when film financing was more under political control.

Slijepcevic accused former culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic of belitting the international achievements of Croatian films by saying that international juries had political criteria for giving them awards.

He noted said that another former culture minister, Jasen Mesic, had said the authorities “don’t know how films should look like, but they do know how they shouldn’t look like”.

Both Hasanbegiovic and Mesic were culture ministers backed by the governing centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ.

 

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