However, the movie caused some criticism and was attacked in Croatia, including an attempt to prohibit it. Did you ever consider that this could really happen?
I don't really care about the reactions of people who don't understand what I'm talking about or people who don't want to understand. When I did my first movie Cashier Wants to Go to the Seaside, they tried to forbid it before it even got out of my studio, so I learned what it's like. Therefore, I only have one way to go; it's the "head against the wall" way. I know what I'm talking about in a movie and I don't make movies to have them forbidden. It's interesting; everyone who attempts to ban something in the name of humanism automatically ends up attacking it.
It seems that conservative currents were provoked by this movie more than by your previous ones. Is it more dangerous today to talk about villagers and pigs than about lesbians and AIDS?
What is very important to me is that The Lika Cinema is a very honest and intimate movie, so I am not concerned at all whether it provokes people or not. When I'm directing a movie, my only concern is to make it as good as possible. What happens to it later on depends on the context and the audience. But what made me concerned at one point was that people today have turned out to be more conservative and even more reserved than ten years ago. And that provokes me as an author even more. On the other hand, people have lost the habit of going to the cinema, which is not only a problem in Croatia. A sold out premiere in Pula and two nights in Sarajevo, before the whole rush about the movie began, brought back my faith in people when I thought the worst.
It is considered that you made not a native movie, but one that sincerely pictures the environment outside the coordinates of [film director Emir] Kusturica that feed the European prejudices about the Balkans. Is this a message to other authors from the region to make movies that talk about Croatia without exotic, mostly imagined, details?
The problem with Kusturica is that he imposed an image of the Balkans that some people, out of their own Western perspective, wish to preserve. My movies have nothing to do with that. People here aren't ridiculous nor do you see goose flying over their heads. This Balkan mystic melted in an attempt to live normally, without East-West bifurcation. An interesting thesis was set: The Lika Cinema has been put in the context of Eastern radical films, which analyses everyday living and diametrically opposes Kusturica's ideal image of the Balkans. Western nations need to abandon their comfortable point of view, which from our perspective is an equivalent to us responding to Armenia and Georgia by saying that we are doing fine but they are a little underdeveloped. That's all nonsense. We all have the same issues, only on different terms.
Does making movies with public money, as most movies here are still made, automatically imply a sort of responsibility to make movies that speak positively about the Croatians?
What's really positive in our film financing model is that there is no censorship. The situation is absolutely positive in the way that state money doesn't oblige you to make a picture book about Croatia. The basic of the film culture is to be free from any kind of control. Our model of film production as a national and cultural good is an inheritance from the socialist days. In fact, it is also similar to the Danish model, which I find to be the most developed one in Europe. I consider commercialisation negative because the economy here is still weak. Attempts of so called producers of cinematography - common for example in Germany - produce bad creative results because everything is measured by the market, outflanking the public and measuring success purely on the number of visitors in cinemas. Respect the audience and give them the best you can, and they will understand.
What will your next movie be about? Is there a comedy underway?
Next winter in Zagreb we'll start shooting my sixth movie called Mother of asphalt. It will be a very harsh women's movie about the local mentality and putridity of marriage. I'm going to deal with human relations and the eternal hunger for love. As for comedies, I can't wait for the situation to get better so that I can make one, especially since I am known for my bad jokes. But it's not the right time yet, it wouldn't be honest to do something that is an escape from everyday life.
Are you optimistic about Croatian society?
I would be optimistic if it would accept the European code of conduct – cultural conduct and a culture of living. But everything in between is a disaster. Our selling out to the West is terrible; people are getting lost in transition. I believe we [Croatians] all have predispositions to be a small escapist European oasis, but we don't work hard enough on that. Culturists here are still ahead of everyone else in this regard. When I'm doing a movie I consider it to be part of the European tradition, not a local one. I automatically place my various thoughts within a European context. East or Southeast European is irrelevant, but European is important. People at international festivals find this acceptance of the general code of conduct interesting, which is especially important in order to open up and erase the borders within Europe.
Find out more: www.dalibormatanic.com