Film Programmes - History of a cultural project
At the time of «film cultural centre» idea emerging in Zagreb (later turning into «Film Programmes», as part of Croatian Film Clubs’ Association in the building and theatre of Tuškanac cinema), the cinema culture was quite devastated.
The war break-up with Yugoslavia, «Kinoteka» theatre, which as part of Centre for film and film culture of People's University of Zagreb had an agreement with Yugoslav Cinematheque from Belgrade to screen its archive programmes, lost the ties with Yugoslav Cinematheque, and thus stopped the screenings of archive programmes. Under the new management of Filmoteka 16, Croatian Film Archive joined the distribution network of repertoire cinemas, screening contemporary repertoire films. Numerous People's Universities – such as the Zagreb one - which in former Yugoslavia organised special cultural film programmes, ceased to exist during the 1990s or changed their activities, mostly stopping films screenings. Repertoire theatres, whose work was destroyed during the war and then by privatisation which soon followed, mostly screened contemporary American repertoire films, with an exception of a European, and very rarely a Croatian feature-length film, while shorts – of various genres (documentary, short feature, animated, experimental) - could not enter cinemas. Television programmes were also flooded by repeats of repertoire films, not including special programmes with culturally valuable historical and non-American films. The only place in Zagreb where you could occasionally see a retrospective of historical classics, experimental and non-American valuable works and authors was Multimedia Centre within Student Centre, Cultural and information Centre, and for a while at small theatre of Filmoteka 16 (on Savska Street), but those programmes were rare. As video store business was on the rise, there was no section offering classics, to at least make them available that way (the exception was the «illegal» section of Filmoteka 16 VHS video store, which kept copies of films from Zagreb Television programmes, used by teachers and members in their class, but the copies were later destroyed by court order).
Film-cultural audience was seriously affected by the situation, so newspapers publishing critics' and film maker's articles critically spoke about the negative aspect of complete Americanization of the cinema, non-existence of European and cinema films, unavailability of archive, historical films, non-existence of systematic alternative networks for screening «non-commercial film».
The crisis particularly influenced university and school classes: Film Studies at Academy of Dramatic Art, new media Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Film Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Zagreb (as well as other university centres), and film classes in primary schools, were directly affected by the fact that students (and teachers) had no possibility to gain insight into historical film heritage – which were taught at universities.
Project of the «Film Cultural Centre»
Ivan Ladislav Galeta started a public campaign at the end of the 1990s, for the foundation of a theatre that would screen archive films and all genres of valuable film. Namely, he had been the selector of special film programmes for a long time, aiming to fill the wide cultural gap in possibilities for film education. He was first a coordinator of important programmes of Multimedia Centre of the Student Centre (briefly renaming it to Centre for Film), then after leaving the Student Centre, he coordinated film programmes in the small basement theatre of Filmoteka 16, which he named „Ki-No“ (Savska Street, Zagreb), followed by organising special film programmes– alongside regular ones - in Croatian Film Archive (at the time managed by Filmoteka 16, until Filmoteka 16 became part of Zagreb Film). When at the end of the 1960s he became a lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts, he became painfully aware of the lack of historical education of students, so he started speaking publicly, and organised a gathering of members of relevant institutions in Zagreb in a mutual attempt to, at least in Zagreb (and in the future in the rest of Croatia), start a centre that would deal with the key aspects of the poor film and educational cultural situation (and politics).
As a result of Galeta’s personal engagement by making calls and lobbying, on the premises of the Academy of Fine Arts where he lectured, in June 1998 he gathered representatives of the Ministry of Culture, Office for Culture of the City of Zagreb, Croatia, Croatian Film Association, Academy of Fine Arts, Academy of Dramatic Arts, Zagreb Film and Film Critics Association at an informal meeting to discuss a situation, with the aim of taking specific steps. The meeting resulted in the decision to draft a proposal for possible «film centre» in Zagreb, which would then be officially sent to the City Office for Culture and Ministry of Culture, by the authority of officially signed institutions-initiators, with the belief that such a specific proposal would have a real possibility of establishing an institution, rather than leaving it to public appeals by Galeta and other individuals.
Three people took part in the meeting – the initiator Ivan Ladislav Galeta, Vjekoslav Majcen, including me - took up drafting a text that would summarize the discussed idea of «film cultural centre» that would primarily be a cultural cinema but also a multipurpose centre. The proposal was subsequently published in Croatian Cinema Chronicle (no. 15/1998) titled «Film cultural centre – proposal for founding» to present it to the public.
The proposal was «maximalist», according to which the Film Cultural Centre should organise the following programme activities: screenings, which would include archive programmes with European and other valuable films, all types of short films, and everything of cultural value in film that was lacking in our cultural society; then organising lectures, to increase film education through a series of lectures open to the public; workshops where both children and adults alike could acquire basic creative skills; library to compensate inaccessibility and non-existence of professional literature (magazines, film books); distribution – with the view that programmes in such a centre could be the foundation to non-commercial, cultural distribution of such programmes all over Croatia, in similar centres; informative and promotional-publishing activity which would also create educational programme booklets, programmes, book and film databases, possibly publish needed film books, and finally exhibition activities to accompany the programmes with exhibitions of posters, books, documentation material etc. (More detailed description of the project can be found in the published text, as well as its partially adapted version at Film Programmes website www.filmski-programi.hr
One of the things considered for the realization of such a centre, was the necessity to provide adequate space for multiple theatres, premises for workshops, library, exhibition and video store activities; technology to perform these activities; core professional staff necessary for the functioning of the institution, and financing of the City of Zagreb and the Ministry of Culture.
This text along with a cover letter, entitled "Proposed establishment of Film Cultural Centre» was forwarded to the Zagreb City Office for Culture, Croatian Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia and Croatian Ministry of Science on January 15 1999, the text of the proposal stamped and signed by: Dean Prof. Maja Rodica - Virag on behalf of the Academy of Dramatic Arts, Dean Prof. Dubravka Babić, on behalf of the Academy of Fine Arts; Dean Prof. Ante Vulin, PhD, on behalf of the Faculty of Architecture; Dean Prof. Mirko Gojmerac, PhD, on behalf of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, assistant director for Croatian Film Archives operations at the Croatian State Archives, Mato Kukuljica, M.A., on behalf Croatian Film Archives; Assistant Prof. Hrvoje Turković, PhD, president of Croatian Film Association on behalf of the Association; Prof . Dražen Ilinčić, president of the Croatian Film Critics Association, on behalf of the Association, and film and TV director Vinko Brešan, B.A., president of the Croatian Film Directors Guild on behalf of the Guild. The document states that the Ministry of Culture and the City of Culture office received the proposal on January 26, 1999.
Together with this document, elaborate "Proposed Implementation" was drafted (by Ivan Ladislav Galeta, Mato Kukuljica, M.A., Zoran Lhotka, eng., Vjekoslav Majcen, PhD., Vera Robić-Škarica, Hrvoje Turković, PhD.) with calculated physical, technical and staffing needs, estimated costs, with the suggestion of possible venues in Zagreb which could be allocated to the Centre.
Although Mladen Čutura, at the time the head of the Department for Culture, showed wholehearted willingness to realize this idea, and together with the representatives of the project looked for a possible venue which embodied the idea, for a long time nothing feasible was found. It seemed logical that it be Croatian Film Archives theatre, but this only allowed screening and almost none of the other activities of the planned Centre, and also procedure for denationalization was initiated at the same time, ie return of the building and theatre to the Catholic Church (during Socialism that venue was nationalized), and its future availability for any "secular" programme was uncertain. Student Centre premises were also considered (the large renovated cinema theatre), and one wing of the building where Technical Museum was located, and there were ideas of the possible unification with the Croatian Film Archives that could be placed (together with the planned Centre) in unfinished and unallocated wing of the new building of the Croatian University Library. But it was questionable from the ownership point of view and a potentially costly adaptation.
Visiting programmes «Film Centre» in «Kinoteka» theatre
In order to improve the situation in poor screening activities, after a three-year period of the unrealized project, Vera Robić Škarica, secretary of Croatian Film Association, proposed that the Association acting as executive operative, with the organizational support of Croatian Film Archives (given by Mato Kukuljica) and Multimedia Centre (Ivana Paić, MM manager at the time), start showing special visiting film programmes in the Croatian Film Archives theatre, which was owned by the City of Zagreb, under the management of Zagreb Film.
This was achieved in 2001. A council for «Film Centre - in establishment» was composed of representatives from institutions-initiators of the project, a contract with the Department for Culture and the Ministry of Culture (Antun Vujic, PhD. was the Minister of Culture at the time) was signed, and screening visiting film programmes at Croatian Film Archives theatre began.
A short film programme initiative proposal was published in the Croatian Film Chronicle (No. 27-28/2001) in 2001, short - now called (with the logo) Film Centre - as a document that had already been adopted on the basis of which the contract was signed with the Department of Culture and the Ministry of Culture. According to the document, the programme of the Film Centre in establishment of this was conceived as follows:
In Croatian Film Archives theatre there will be four screenings on Tuesdays:
- morning screening for schools (screening contents would cover media culture taught in schools, including introduction by a film expert, a film professional and a discussion with the film author;
- afternoon and two evening screenings will continuously present cinemathequie, archive programmes (directors and actors retrospectives), new non-commercial European films, and films by less known or Eastern cinema which was less screened in Croatian cinema repertoire, and retrospectives of documentary, animated, art video and experimental film.
In 2002, the Centre programme requested an additional day, with four more screening schedules. (page 139)
In the same issue of CFC, in «Chronicle» led in Croatian Film Chronicle by Vjekoslav Majcen, and taken over by Daniel Rafaelić after Majcen passed away, this note was published:
Film Centre has started with its activities. Screenings organised by Croatian Film Association, Croatian Film Archives, Multimedia Centre and Zagreb Film, are temporarily held at Croatian Film Archives theatre, with likely chance of Film Centre permanently being moved to SC. The programme will feature selected local and international films, as well as alternative film and video. (page 138)
In a more specific statement in the programme text:
At the Centre opening ceremony, Lars von Trier's Idiots and Jesper Jargil's The Humiliated were screened, whole year's program was announced, and the talks of collaboration with key partners were initiated. (page 139)
In the following years, Tuesdays at 3 pm piled Croatian films for children or suitable for children (Relja, Golik, Tadej, short and animated films of our authors), and in the afternoons and evenings films and retrospectives of Croatian authors (e.g. Babaja, Bauer, Hadžić, Mimica), retrospectives of old and new classics (Bresson, DeSica, Lang, Lean, Murnau, Powell ... then Antonioni, Fassbinder, Herzog, Rohmer, Zanussi, etc.).
Film Centre programmes immediately attracted audience larger than the number of viewers attending regular Croatian Film Archive screenings. This programme consisted mostly of repeats of European films whose distribution the theatre shared with so-called «small cinemas», i.e. cinema theatres not included in the main screening chains, such as the theatre chain of Zagreb's Kinematografi. Those «small cinemas» received from distributors mainly less popular films for screenings, or late repeats of popular ones). The theatre, under the management of Zagreb Film, gradually specialized in European film, and alongside repeated screenings and an occasional film premiere (considered «non-commercial» by the cinema network), started (co)organizing visiting retrospectives annually, such as « The European Film Week», «The Czech Film Week» etc., securing European incentive for cinema theatres, which kept it going without financial loss. Another reason for increased interest in Film Centre programmes in comparison to regular theatre programme, lies in the fact that these screenings were free – a great advantage at the time of low general standard. But an important factor in increased attendance was clearly were culturally attractive and important film programmes, as proof of highly emphasised need for such selected programmes in part of the cinema audience.
Moving to Tuškanac
It became more than obvious that the one-off, and the twice held weekly programs of the Film Centre, screened in the Croatian Film Archive theatre, were inadequate concept of the Film Cultural Centre, and there was a pressing need to locate and institutionalize the centre (in a suitable building and autonomous organization) with regular daily film programmes, as well as organize other culturally important functions planned in the original project.
An opportunity arose, at least in principle, between 2002 and 2003. Namely, at this time the company Kinematografi - which was in the meantime privatized and the new owner was no longer interested in the more unprofitable film screenings - began selling off their cinema theatres in Zagreb one by one. One of the latest still unsold was the theatre of Sloboda cinema (renamed Tuškanac) at the beginning of Tuškanac, mainly because the company premises were on the first floor of the building. But, they intended to sell that too, after the sales of the remaining theatres.
The situation with Kinematografi company would unlikely be seen as an «opportunity» for Film Centre had there not been for Ivan Ladislav Galeta, who started publicly lobbying for the «ban» on the selling of Tuškanac theatre (Sloboda), for it was a historically important film theatre, and potentially an excellent headquarters of Film Cultural Centre, considering it was publicly recognized in previous years. He managed to raise public interest in the idea, and awareness of the possibility in City of Zagreb and Ministry of Culture, resulting in – with the effort of City of Zagreb official Andrea Zlatar, City of Zagreb management and the people at the Department for Culture – the City of Zagreb decided to purchase the building with the theatre from Kinematografi, with the aim of making it a film centre. City Office for City Property Management suggested to the Zagreb City Council at the end of 2003 to grant the use and management of Tuškanac theatre and office premises on the first floor to Croatian Film Association (as the Film centre programmes organizer at the time) and Zagreb Film (which in the meantime lost the Croatian Film Archives theatre to the Catholic Church), which the City Council approved in February 2004. (Longer version of text «Film programmes of Croatian Film Association and Croatian Film Archives in Tuškanac theatre” at www.filmski-programi.hr in about us).
Since Zagreb Film had adequate office premises on Vlaška and Nova Ves, Kinematografi premises were granted to Croatian Film Association, with equally shared screening schedule in Tuškanac between Croatian Film Association, with its programmes previously arranged during Film Centre period, and Zagreb Film with its programmes.
The decision to grant first floor premises and (partial) management of the theatre to Croatian Film Association was very logical at the time. Croatian Film Association had been previously recognized as not only a successful organizer of Film Centre programmes in Croatian Film Archives theatre, but it also became one of the most powerful film-cultural organizations in Croatia during the 1990s, having a number of important cultural functions that nobody else carried out at the time. Apart from its basic, traditional functions of– as an association of «non-professional» (amateur) film and video clubs – coordinating and assisting their work, organizing screenings of amateur films, archiving amateur and experimental film, support organization and activities of school clubs, Croatian Film Association became during the 1990s a centre where you could get information about the cinema industry, organize special promotional film programmes (if needed by Government authorities, requested by foreign centres), organized workshops all over Croatia for educating children and teachers running film clubs in schools, and in 1999 founded an important «School of Media Culture», which aimed to further educate teachers and their continuous education (with Ante Peterlić, PhD, as the president of the School Council»). It has developed a publishing activity (professional magazine Croatian Film Chroicle, its regular Bilten – later renamed Zapis, and started publishing film books), while also becoming an important consultant to the Ministry of Education in creating curriculum regarding «media education» and for programmes for further education of teachers, as then to the Ministry of Culture and City Department for Culture in resolving many occurring film initiatives and needs. It has also started own production of experimental (and other short) films in 2000s, distributing them to film festivals abroad.
This organizationally abundant and demanding activity Croatian Film Association performed from two small rooms in the building of Croatian Association of Technical Culture, of which it was a member, one being an office, and the other technical service room, and with only three employees. Moving to new premises in Tuškanac, the Association has not only gained a few necessary office spaces, but badly needed other rooms for normal operation: decent «technical room», a room for editing, storage and archival space for publications and videos, a small conference room for workshops, lectures... and thus more suitable conditions for activities. The film theatre enables to turn the existing cultural-screening activity experienced as «Film Centre» into its own activity.
Establishing Film Programmes as part of Croatian Film Association
Indeed, at the end of 2003 Council of «Film Centre in establishment» announced the termination of activities of «Film Centre in establishment», but at the beginning of 2004 re-instated that council as Council of the renamed activity Film Programmes of Croatian Film Association.
The chairing position of Film Programmes was offered to Agar Pata, a successful director of film programmes at Soros Foundation (at the time in the phase of deconstruction). Consulting the Council and individual film critics, she created the annual screening program of Tuškanac, in collaboration with Croatian Film Archives, and in permanently successful collaboration with foreign cultural centres and Embassies.
The programme was very diverse, very much like the original idea of «Films Centre». It included archive programmes of classic Croatian and foreign film, retrospectives by authors and topics, presenting latest film productions of European and non-European countries, short documentary, feature, animated films, and later organising special programmes of experimental film in the small theatre («Experimental Tuesday», and then «Short Tuesday»), organising and co-organising special premieres, festivals and special events in the theatre.
Agar Pata also organised and edited regular programme booklets (small monographs), including commissioned essays written by renowned film critics, interviews with authors, including detailed information about screened films and tehir authors. Programme flyers were printed for special occasions. Theatre lobby space was sometimes used for exhibitions accompanying a particular screening, displaying posters, film stills and other relevant materials.
Agar Pata has also started, as in the original idea, the creating of database of Croatian feature film, with the help of recognized experts (Nenad Polimac, Damir Radić and Krešimir Mikić) which was them made available on Film Programmes website.
Film Programmes of CFA were first able to organize screenings at Tuškanac only every two days, since the other days were reserved for Zagreb Film programmes, that were supposed to continue the regular Croatian Film Archive theatre programme. However, while Film Programmes of CFA became immediately active and regular in their schedule, Zagreb Film left «its programme days» blank – the theatre was empty on those days. This was the case until Vinko Brešan became the director of Zagreb Film. When he noticed that Zagreb Film practically had hardly any screening activities, and seeing that Croatian Film Association had developed and respectable screenings at Tuškanac theatre, he made a decision that Zagreb Film will give up its allocated time in Tuškanac theatre to the benefit of Croatian Film Association, whose sreenings have become daily since.
Film Programmes have – as a special project – received an annual grant from the City Department for Culture and Ministry of Culture (according to initial agreement between the Ministry and the City from the Film Centre period).
Film Programmes screenings were free the first few years (since it was subsidized anyway), but then a symbolic ticket price was introduced (from 10 HRK per screening), as well as subscription cards.
Attendance soon became regular. With significant variations in numbers – depending of cultural importance of individual films, authors and programmes – over time, the average annual attendance came to 80 viewers per screening (from sometimes full theatre to the lowest number of twenty odd viewers at a more esoteric screening) which makes an excellent achievement in world standards for such special cultural programmes. And most importantly, it has created a core of regular visitors to the theatre.
Other achieved functions of the original project «Film Cultural Centre»
Although it may seem that the only direct successor of the original idea for a multifunctional «Film Cultural Centre» are Film Programmes - that is not the case.
In fact, as it could be concluded previously in this text, Croatian Film Association was not just accidentally given Tuškanac theatre premises to realize the staring ideas of «Film Cultural Centre». The Association was the most logical choice of an organisation for developing that idea - because it held various functions postulated in the original program of «Film Cultural Centre» even before moving to the building Tuškanac building, so it was only supposed to strengthen and develop more systematically by relocating to those premises.
Of course, the establishment of Film programmes as special unit of its activities has completely fulfilled the main planned «screening programme» and not just in the contents, but also the accompanying programme material (the program booklets and flyers).
But according to the project (found on CFA website: http://www.filmski-programi.hr/info.php?id=info_dugi&ajdi=1) the Association has developed other planned activities.
Thus as part of «informative and publishing-promotional activities» stated in the project, the Association has started two databases, the one already mentioned, of Croatian feature film as part of Film Programmes, (www.filmski-programi.hr) and a special internet database www.film.hr (which was later «frozen» and was unavailable for a while). It has developed its internet website (www.hfs.hr) where all its activities were announced, documents made available, and it included internet publishing (eg of Zapis, pdf archive of Croatian Film Chronicle). As continuation of previous publishing activity of the Association, moving to Tuškanac established a special publishing unit, led by editor Diana Nenadić, who systematized publishing of film books (with a few libraries), turning the Association into the largest and most systematic film publisher in Croatia; continuing, of course, the publishing of Croatian Film Chronicle and Zapis. Recently the Association has started issuing DVDs of selected authors or topics, including a special booklet – making valuable historical works of art accessible.
«Workshop activities» proposed for Film Cultural Centre were already developed in the previous work of Croatian Film Association, so they carried on as such on the new premises, with particularly important organization of annual School of Media Culture, offering, like an open university of some kind – lectures, seminars, programmes, as well as series of ten-day workshops (in scriptwriting, feature, documentary, animation, editing, camera, and then sound recording, radio-play, digital photography, restoration) run by leading experts, and attended by film section teachers in schools, teachers who teach film, as well as cinema club and general public members interested in acquiring knowledge about film.
By organizing annual film seminars – within School of Media Culture – and similar ones in Zagreb and elsewhere in Croatia – the Association incorporated its «lecture activity». They were also organized in Tuškanac premises: the small theatre was used for promotions of books, magazines, round table debates and occasional lectures (although there were no regular lectures in the building, as originally planned).
The Association also tried organizing the «library» activities. Professional books and magazines were systematically collected, there was a large collection of VHS films – mainly amateur, experimental ones. They were all available for the needs of film researchers and curators. But this activity never became an open library, since the premises were not adequate (it required additional space).
Concerning planned «distribution activity», the Association took a serious approach at developing it, at least in the fields it was active in. Primarily, specific Film Programmes were available for other corresponding centres in other towns (e.g. Split, Rijeka, Osijek, Pula), so Film Programmes created a «mini-network» for cultural («alternative») film screening activity. The Association has also become, for many authors of experimental and short films, a distributor of their work - and of its own production - to relevant international film festivals, i.e. for various presentations.
Generally, although all starting ideas have not been realized in their «ideal form» as intended, most of them have: mainly in cultural screening activity of Film Programmes which completely fulfilled the planned profile.
However, some of the Association activities exceeded what we initially dared to imagine: especially in its excellent publishing which turned decades of hardly any activity in film publishing into an abundance of works. School of Media Culture plays a key role in this, whose cultural importance still remains unknown to the public..