Dragan Rubeša:

On the stage with Bruce

Writing emotional texts about the anniversary of a cinema theatre, whose program concept doesn't treat films like they're just some product thrown into a shopping centre trolley, can be done only if you are attached to the venue in a sense that you practically sleep in it. My current second home is Rijeka's Art-kino Croatia. Because I do not live in Zagreb, my connection to Tuškanac cinema has nothing to do with first love, first films, nor first film texts. All that happened a long time ago in Opatija's cinema Beograd, which later became Imperijal. However, its imperial days didn't last too long and the venue is now occupied by a car park, awaiting to become a House of Art, if pre-election mantras are to be believed.

However, I have fond memories of one night in Tuškanac, when it was Queer Zagreb organised a major retrospective of the queer icon Bruce LaBruce and he attended the screening. My interview with Bruce was supposed to take only twenty minutes. Luckily for me he was in a good mood, and our encounter lasted over an hour, despite the fact that we were uncomfortably seated right at the edge of the stage, practically dangling our feet at Tom Gotovac i.e. Antonio Lauer who, goes without saying, sat in the front row. It was a cold January night in 2005, after the screening of The Raspberry Reich. I met Bruce again eight years later on the Venice Lido. Mentioning his visit to Zagreb, the one thing he remembered was “that beautiful old theatre”.

Another emotional encounter I remember happened in 2011 during the festival of Film Mutations. I was walking towards Tuškanac with Tanja Vrvilo and the Spanish cineaste Jose Luis Guerin to the premiere of his Guest. We walked into an old hat maker's shop and bought him his favourite kind of a hat, in a warmer version, since the one he had on was more appropriate for Barcelona winters. “Don't I look like Lenin?”, Guerin cheerfully asked.

That “beautiful old theatre” was supposed to fill a void created by the closing down of the legendary Cinematheque in Kordunska Street, which had blossomed only briefly when it became the Film centre, and to satisfy radical film lovers who crave different films, even though these days archive programs are only a small part of its abundant program. Those film lovers were prepared for anything, including sitting through technically (at times) unwatchable copies from the Yugoslav Cinematheque. Nevertheless it was still a better option than waiting for their digital restoration. From its first season, during which the selection of films sometimes included films that could previously only be seen at the screenings such as in the club Močvara (Croatian trash film retrospective with Maycug & Co.), to its fantastic recent retrospectives (Olivier Assayas, Claire Denis, Seijun Suzuki), Tuškanac has become the place where film history is written out. Another important aspect that should not be forgotten is that this venue has not remained the exclusive benefit of Zagreb film lovers; on the contrary, its programs are also regularly screened in smaller towns, such as Osijek, Split and Rijeka.