News 24 Mar 15

‘Naked Island’ Film Revisits Yugoslav Prison Colony

Director Tiha K. Gudac’s documentary was inspired by her grandfather’s experience of being imprisoned at the notorious Communist-era Goli Otok jail camp on a Croatian island.

Ivana Nikolic

The 'Naked Island' film crew at the Belgrade premiere. Photo: Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival.

Gudac’s documentary ‘Naked Island’, which explores the legacy of the Goli Otok camp and its impact on the families of people locked up there by the Yugoslav authorities, opened the Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival on Monday.

“For me it is very important that we are in Belgrade today, as here, in this city, there are lots of people who survived Goli Otok [the Naked Island], and their families,” Croatian director Gudac told the audience after the screening of the film.

Gudac came up with the idea of making a film about Goli Otok seven years ago, when she saw a photo of her family’s closest friends with the description ‘Golootocani’ (‘residents of the Naked Island’) beneath it.

“That was the first time I linked their faces with the word Golootocani and I went with my mother to talk to some of them. We asked, are you all really Golootocani?’ the director explained.

“I think we were all expecting that conversation for years and there was a need to talk about all these things,” she added.

Goli Otok was an abandoned island in Croatia, which was transformed in 1949 into a high-security clandestine prison and labour camp where mainly political prisoners were forced to work and were regularly tortured by the guards.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the authorities started to use Goli Otok not just for the imprisonment of political opponents, but also as a regular prison for criminals and serious young offenders until 1988 when it was shut down.

Gudac’s award-winning documentary, which was released last year, takes viewers back to the 1950s, when her grandfather Marjan Fuckan disappeared for four years. During that time, no one knew anything about what had happened to him.

When he came back to Zagreb, he was a completely changed man, but for decades, talking about his disappearance was strictly forbidden, until Gudac decided to find out why his body was covered in scars.

Her documentary is an investigation based on dozens of family photographs and intimate testimonies from those who survived, and the fear and shame they felt years after leaving the ‘island of broken souls’, as Goli Otok has been called.

The film’s producer Nenad Puhovski said the documentary had also sparked emotional responses from the descendants of people who suffered during the Yugoslav era.

“Unfortunately, that generational trauma is something that lots of families in this region go through in different ways and from all sides. There are plenty of such stories,” Puhovski told the audience at the Belgrade screening.

“Working on the film was hard, but in the same it was healing not just for the [film] crew, but for the whole community as well,” he added.

At the end of the film, in its most emotional section, Gudac brings her mother Djurdjica Gudac Fuckan to Goli Otok for the first time, an experience that leaves her in tears.

“Since that moment, I cannot even see the sea without remembering that great sacrifice [by her father and his friends] and all the things those people went through,” Gudac Fuckan told the Belgrade audience.

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