Childrens films – The best for the children

From Sinji galeb (1953) and Milioni na otoku by Branko Bauer to Ne daj se,
Floki (2000) by Zoran Tadić, Croatian
children’s films were popular among young audiences, and some of them won
respectable international awards

In the first decade of organized feature film production in our country,
emerged the first films for the most grateful audience – the children. The
pioneer in this area was Branko Bauer, who in the first half of the 1950s
directed adventurous films for children twice in a row.

In Croatian cinema, children’s film is a well-represented genre, in quantity as
well as quality. During the second half of the 20th
century – from Sinji galeb (1953) and Milioni na otoku by Branko
Bauer to Ne daj se, Floki (2000) by Zoran Tadić
– Croatian children’s films were popular among young audiences. Many of them won
respectable international awards for children’s films. For example,
Izgubljena olovka
(1960), by Fedor Škubonja, won two awards at the Venice
and La Plata film festivals as well as one in Cannes. Opasni put (1963)
by Mate Relja won a Golden Lion in Venice. The greatest Croatian
children’s film of all time, Vuk samotnjak (1972) by Obrad Gluščević,
won five prestigious awards on different specialized festivals around the world.

It is interesting that none of the directors devoted their whole careers
exclusively to children’s films. The most fruitful author of this genre is
certainly the versatile Vladimir Tadej, who is one of the most esteemed Croatian
set designers, and at a certain point in his career, a screenwriter for animated
films. From his total of eight feature films, four were for children: an
adaptation of the classic novel Družba Pere Kvržice by Mate Lovrak;
Hajdučka vremena,
based on short stories
by Branko Ćopić; a Czech-Croatian
co-production Tajna starog tavana, and a film version of the TV series
Kanjon opasnih igara

Usually children’s films rely on children’s literature or literary works for
young adults. It is interesting to note, however, that Croatian films for
children are rarely based on the rich treasury of Croatian children’s
literature. From Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić,
whose Čudnovate zgode šegrta Hlapića
was adapted for animated film by Milan Blažeković,
to Mate Lovraka, whose two works were adapted for screen, all the way to Ivan
Kušan, whose works were used for TV series, the stories are borrowed from the
literary works of our neighbors. Bauer’s Sinji galeb is an adaptation of
the novel Družina Sinjeg galeba by the Slovenian writer Tone Seliškar,
and Tadej’s Hajdučka vremena were
based on short stories by Branko Ćopić.

Although fairy tale fantasies are a standard element of children’s stories (in
words as well pictures), Croatian cinematography, up to now, has produced only
one film of such character: Sedmi kontinent by the master of animated
film and the only Oscar winner from the former Yugoslavia Dušan

Mate Relja has worked for too long as a self-sacrificing assistant to many
directors, and thus directed his own first film relatively late. Even later, he
tried himself out in the children’s film genre. His film Opasni put,
based on the novel by the Slovenian writer Anton Ingolič,
is a sort of a road movie about two kids trying to get through the
occupied Europe in order to bring their sick friend (all three of them have been
deported to a camp in Silesia) an apple from their home country. This poetic
story, that reminded the audience of René Clément’s Zabranjene igre, won
an award at the Venice film festival. In the following year Relja made his film
Vlak u snijegu, based on the Croatian classic by Mate Lovrak, which
became one of the most popular Croatian films of all time, especially when you
count together the numerous generations of school children who grew up with the
adventures of their brave and ingenious peers from this film.

Obrad Gluščević
made many films, but achieved his personal creative peak in the genre of
children’s films. His film Vuk samotnjak contains every element essential
for a good film intended for audiences between the cradle and puberty: a clear
and interesting story, a mix of action and touching emotions, a friendly
relationship to animals and a readiness for sacrifice.

Producers’ interest in children’s films remains, because every couple of years a
new generation of audience matures to appreciate a quality film in this genre.
Thus, such films can be exploited for a much longer time than films of other
genres. However, this capitalist reasoning, (adopted and used most successfully
by Disney), did not have much of an influence in the state cinematography. A
characteristic fact, which was useful for Croatian film, is that Zora film,
before it became, in 1962, the production mastodon Jadran film, managed to
systematically produce a dozen short feature films for children.

In this modern time of audiovisual media omnipresence, there has been a
significant rise in visual and film culture among the youngest, who,
imperceptibly, acquired from early childhood not only their mother tongue, but
also an understanding of the language and syntax of moving pictures. This
certainly will not remove the need for children’s film as a genre, which is a
means of familiarizing the youngest with the basic moral messages from which
they will later create their own ladders of ethical values. Croatian
cinematography has created a solid base reserve of such films. Those works of
art serve as an incentive for the next generations of filmmakers to continue
along the beaten path, making sure to take into account that on the way they
will face a more demanding and more thoroughly film educated, but still most
grateful audience. (Ivo Škrabalo)