Many hits for children
This new program of Croatian films for children are a response to the permanent audience and distributors’ interest in children’s films and films about children. The interest in quality works of this genre will never fade away because every couple of years a new generation of the most thankful of audiences matures. Besides the element of fun, such films usually include a pedagogic component, which is more successful the less it is obvious. The most popular films for children are full of suspense, tell an exciting story and offer elementary moral messages that children unconsciously absorb while forming their own value system.
Luckily, Croatian cinema has created a steady supply of such films. Some outstanding films from this genre are going to be shown and will undoubtedly offer small viewers much fun, adventure and moral edification.
Obrad Gluščević (1913 - 1980), is the author of what is probably best Croatian film for children, Vuk samotnjak. We will open the program with his lovable WWII comedy set on the Adriatic Sea, Kapetan Mikula Mali (Captain Mikula, the Kid, 1974). This film is full of grandfatherly warmth and love, and has large doses of Mediterranean humor, partisans and even an American parachutist - veritable mountains of adventure. This intense story encourages children’s creativity and audacity. At the time of its appearance, it had many fans, whose number grew exponentially when the TV series of the same title played.
Even though Imam dvije mame i dva tate (I Have Two Mothers and Two Fathers, 1968) by Krešo Golik (1922 - 1996) was not originally intended for children, over time it gained the reputation of a film for all times and all ages. Young viewers will have no problem in identifying with the heroes - likable characters dealing with their divorced parents’ clumsy behavior. The film’s gently ironic tone softens the generational divide, promoting better understanding between adults and children. It is especially noteworthy to mention the great roles of the youngest actors that Golik successfully chose (irresistible Tomislav Žganec, future singer of latino songs Davor Radolfi and Igor Galo, future successful actor and founder of the festival in Oprtalj).
Screening of the film Letači velikog neba (Fliers of the Open Skies, 1977) will be a great opportunity for the viewers (and critics) to become acquainted with the slightly forgotten values of director Marijan Arhanić’s (1930 - 2003) poetics. This film, which starts as a warm story about children who try to save their pigeons and a wounded partisan from the foreign soldiers, ultimately becomes a strong a pacifistic metaphorical tale. This sensibility earned it the Grand Prix at the festival of films for young adults in Paris.
Vlak u snijegu (Train in the Snow, 1976), the most mature film by Mate Relja (1922), is based on a famous novel by a classic Croatian children’s author. It is also one of the most popular children’s films of all time, and certainly had an enormous influence on generations of children, who adore this adventure about young and resourceful school kids. The songs by the Croatian classical composer, Arsen Dedić, lend this film a special atmosphere. Young viewers today hum those songs just like many generations before them…
Out of eight feature films directed by Vladimir Tadej (1925), four are for children. This makes him the most prolific director of children’s films in Croatian cinema. In this program, viewers will have a chance to enjoy three of Tadej’s films made over the course of two decades. Hajdučka vremena (Daredevil's Time, 1977) is based on several short stories by the popular Serbian writer Branko Ćopić in which he describes his childhood in a village in Bosnia. In co-production with a Czech studio in Gottwaldovo, Tadej made his science fiction film for children Tajna starog tavana (1984) about adventures of two boys - Miro from Zagreb and Pepik from Prague - who during their summer holidays find old plans for an “antigravitational canon” and try to build it. Tadej used a similar formula to this, (one Croatian child and one foreign), when making the TV series and film Kanjon opasnih igara (1998). This time the story is set in the beautiful landscape of river Cetina, where famous films about Winnetou were filmed.
In the history of Croatian animation, Milan Blažeković (1940) holds a special place. He is one of the leading figures of the second generation of authors from the Zagreb School of Animated Films, and the first one who had the audacity to make an animated feature film. This first Croatian feature animated film, Čudesna šuma (The Elm Chanted Forest, 1986), is a story about a painter who, after falling asleep under a magic oak, receives magical powers that enable him to understand the language of wild animals. This story, based on Kaktus bajka by Sunčana Škrinjarić, with its gorgeous colors and realistic animation follows somewhat in the Disney tradition, but also relies heavily on the rich experience and knowledge of experts from the Zagreb School of Animated Films. It is a shame that this professionally made film, as well as its sequel Čarobnjakov šešir (1990), due to copyright problems experienced by the co-producers from the US, could not be distributed internationally. If it had been shown internationally, it would have boosted the credibility of Croatian animation throughout the world. Domestic audiences adored this film and justified the production risks and the creative adventure of the film’s author, Blažeković. He never gave up on animated feature films and finally adapted the classic story by Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić, Čudnovate zgode šegrta Hlapića (Lapitch the Little Shoemaker, 1997). This is a story about a small hero who with his persistence, resourcefulness and decency defeats evil and saves his friend Gita. Children at home and abroad loved this film. (Ivo Škrabalo)