Croatian director (b.1972) Damir Cucic “opened” my 2014 ZagrebDox screening schedule, and thanks for that. The festival had very rightly arranged a small retrospective of the work of a director, who deserves much more international attention that he gets at the moment, for his original approach and personal documentary film language. Let me highlight two of the films in the four-titled programme: “La Strada” (2004) (photo) and “The Forgotten” (2002).
Vodnjan is the location of the 29 mins. long observation of people and life in a town close to the sea and Italy. The film is episodic, it conveys the impressions of its director in a beautiful rythmic way. You are taken to a Southern European mood, where children are playing in the looong street (“La Strada”), men are hanging out with a beer in hand, old people sit in their plastic chairs looking at the young women passing by, it is all very summerly and inviting, many languages, old couples discussing what was good in the past and today, faces, small situations – great great camerawork, unconventional editing.
“The Forgotten” (35 mins.) takes you to the countryside, to a village, Zumberak, which is at the border of Croatia and Slovenia. Again the cameraman Boris Poljak and the composer Goran Strbac (as in “La Strada”) together with the director/editor Cucic break the rules of dramaturgy, taking the viewer away from the main circling structure around people and the environment, stopping at other moments, where snow is melting into drops of water from the trees, a small symphony one could say, a film “within” the film,
true poetry. And sometimes, with the music/the sound design, you sense a kind of “jamming”, putting the images together with the sound into a composition that stresses that here is a filmmaker, who goes from description to interpretation in exceptional sequences. What a beauty, I wrote in the dark of the cinema, and I wrote “a Croatian Audrius Stonys”, a master, who, he told me afterwards, is (like Lithuanian Stonys) influenced by Artavadz Pelisjan (“Seasons”). And I repeat myself – there are too few poets in documentary cinema. Damir Cucic is one.
And then back to the festival and its message on the internet: “On Monday, 24 February, in the evening, we received a letter from producer Siniša Juričić, notifying us that under the threat of a lawsuit he is forced to withdraw the film “Mitch – The Diary of a Schizophrenic” directed by Damir Čučić. From the very beginning, ZagrebDox has been strongly focused on the wish to initiate dialogues, be a platform for the screening of diverse documentaries, confronting ideas, aesthetics and ideologies, a place of encounter for filmmakers, protagonists, audience and critics. Therefore, without entering the (legal) nature, the festival management express their regret that these acclaimed and multiple award-winning filmmakers – Damir Čučić and Siniša Juričić – were denied this chance.”