“Thanks to technological advancement, today’s amateur filmmaking is no longer about technologically well-versed production, but about a worldview and philosophy based on the accessibility of film and the idea that anybody can make one.”
Quantitatively speaking, Cinema Club Zagreb is the most productive film studio in Croatia, and the ever more frequent guest appearances of CCZ authors at prestigious national and foreign festivals confirm that in their case quality is complementary to the number of motion pictures filmed. Cinema Club Zagreb was founded as a section of Photo Club Zagreb as early as 1928, which makes it the oldest amateur film club in southeastern Europe, and the club is practically the point of origin of the local film avant-garde — over several decades, classic figures of Croatian experimental film, such as Tom Gotovac, Vladimir Petek, Mihovil Pansini and many others, have produced their most famous titles within the club.
In the past several years, after a long period of stable rhythm, CCZ activities have started expanding rapidly, and cinephiles have been forming stronger connections with cultural workers, designers among others, thus creating an agile community whose enthusiasm, imagination and non-conformism make up one of the liveliest cultural focal spots in the city. Eager to hear what’s cooking in CCZ, we peeked into the peculiar space at the Victims of Fascism square and talked to the film director Daria Blažević and designer Dario Dević, coordinators of some of the numerous CCZ programmes.
Daria: The growth of film production in Cinema Club Zagreb started with the appointment of the current president, Vedran Šuvar, who initiated the so-called advanced filmmaking workshops for CCZ members. Before that, the club only offered an introductory beginner workshop, after which the participants would be given a lifelong membership in the club. Following the introduction of workshops dedicated to short, experimental and documentary films, the members became more active, and film production started to increase. Today we organize as many as eight workshops a year, which are growing in popularity. We also have a film criticism and analysis workshop, led by Višnja Vukašinović, which means our focus is not only on film production, but also on various different aspects in which a person can be involved in film.
Today, thanks to the increasing accessibility of HD video technology, the difference in production between a professional and amateur film in the technical sense is barely visible, if at all. Statistically speaking, when there is such a large number of films as we have produced in the Cinema Club in recent years, there must also be an increase in the number of quality films. When it comes to film festival appearances, it is our strong point, and it could be said that no other film production company in Croatia can boast such comprehensiveness. This year we are returning to the Oberhausen Film Festival with a new short film by the young director Tomislav Šoban, who will be participating in the festival for the second time. The director and animator Mare Šuljak has previously participated in the festival with her film Site Selection, produced by CCZ. With the film Manjača by Tin Žanić, we participated in the Rotterdam Film Festival, one of the most important festivals in Europe, and this season we will be participating in the Annecy International Animated Film Festival (the oldest and largest in the world, A/N) for the first time, presenting a film by the director and animator Petra Zlonoga.
Dario: As Daria has already mentioned, thanks to technological advancement, today’s amateur filmmaking is no longer about technologically well-versed production, but rather about a worldview and philosophy based on the accessibility of film and the idea that anybody can make one. That is the basic postulate of Cinema Club Zagreb, which is becoming ever more prominent.
Daria: The Cinema Club members can always get support for their film projects here — not necessarily through mentorship during a workshop, but they can ask for advice from any of the more experienced members. That is also one of the reasons for the increased quality of films.
— We were particularly interested in how the close cooperation between the CCZ filmmakers and designers came about, considering that the new phase of the Cinema Club is marked by great care for an attractive and well-rounded visual communication between all activities in the club.
Dario: The relationship between the Cinema Club and the designer scene started more or less when I joined CCZ, not as a designer, but as one of the wannabe members, in order to participate in the film projections programme, then lead by Višnja Vukašinović. I spontaneously started designing posters and other communication materials for film cycles, which I found extremely interesting and fun, and Višnja liked them, so I continued doing it. Basically, a considerably large visual basis came about relatively quickly and gained recognition during the 1314 Croatian design exhibition, and the whole process was crowned at the end of last year by the new visual identity of the Cinema Club.
Except for the fact that it represents my individual contribution to the Cinema Club, I also design materials for film programmes for somewhat selfish reasons, because is there anybody else who is consistently creating posters for films and film cycles in Croatia? Šesnić&Turković, and maybe just a few others. On the other hand, the awareness about speaking to the public and to the local community in that way is also important. Ever since the Cinema Club has started dealing more with its public relations, among other things, its visual identity has gradually crystallized, which is a great indicator of how design can contribute to the recognition and profiling of a (cinematic) cultural association in a very concrete way. I believe that designers, as socially aware people who are dealing with the visualisation of communication, can contribute a lot in that sense.
Daria: While the Cinema Club used to comprise people whose primary or even exclusive interest was film, that has recently changed because we felt the need to broaden our activities, and the first step in the process was connecting with designers. Today, when somebody sees a poster for a Cinema Club programme, they might think it is something they would like to see. The screenings have been attracting a lot more visitors since Dario started creating the posters. The whole Cinema Club is much more open and approachable today than it was before.
We are currently working on a new long-term plan, we are continuing with our diverse and quality programme, which this year encompasses, besides film production and distribution, the first workshop intended for composers interested in producing film scores, as well as a sound design workshop for people who are not sound designers, but will have a mentor who will teach them how to record and process sound. The new experimental film workshop, How to Fail Good, will be held by Petra Zlonoga. We also have an ongoing workshop on music videos production, organized in cooperation with the Živa Muzika association. The workshop enables the participants to work on music videos for contemporary domestic musicians, instead of popular songs downloaded from the Internet.
Also, Tomislav Šoban has concieved a very interesting workshop, Expanded Cinema in Backyards, which will be held in June as the first invitation-based workshop ever organized at the Cinema Club. Five audiovisual artists have accepted the invitation, who will realize a series of film performances in Zagreb backyards. Each artist will perform in a dedicated backyard using simple equipment like projectors and overheads.
— There is really no shortage of exciting programmes at Cinema Club Zagreb. Visit these dedicated film enthusiasts, watch a film, hang out, or even take out a camera, why not? You might reveal a passion within yourself that you didn’t even know was there.