Bosnian-Polish director Denijal Hasanovic discusses the themes and process of making his debut feature Catalina, an intimate story of three people from different countries, cultural backgrounds and with different war experiences who all live with trauma.
Can you tell us where the initial idea for Catalina originated?
I spent a lot of years of my life as a refugee and then as an immigrant. When you are living this kind of life you meet this kind of people, and hear about these kinds of destinies. That was the first seed of the story. Later, I got this image in my head of a person coming out of an airport early in the morning all alone, and with that I began to figure out how to tell it. In translating this story to film I avoided any kind of political issues, mostly because I thought there are better kinds of media - such as newspapers and TV - to convey that kind of story. I was more interested in the inner drama of characters, and intimate moments of friendship, love and solitude in the lives of these three people. Of course you can also find some other ideas in the film like looking for roots, being an outcast, and being displaced.
Because of your personal experience of war trauma and emigration, was it hard to build the three main characters?
Yes, in the beginning it was hard, because it is part of who you are. This is why I at first couldn’t figure out who this person was in the image at the airport and what was going on; the story was part of me. I think that is actually the most difficult moment in writing a story, when you have to find some separation between yourself and the topic, story, and characters.
Catalina’s diary is very melancholic and poetic, almost sounding like an emigrant sevdah. How did you achieve that?
I added the diary to the story quite late. While developing the main character, I figured out that she needs to have this inner drive to express herself through writing and I started writing it for a script. But months before we started shooting, I asked the main actress to write her own diary, when she was still in Colombia. I asked her to be honest and write anything that happened to her, and that is what she did. She was writing almost every day, so when we started shooting I asked her to translate it to me and then I picked up some moments from it that were very suited to the character.
The actors are very diverse. Can you comment on the casting process?
It was very difficult, not only in terms of making final decisions, but also in terms of organisation, pre-production and so on. I decided that I first have to find the main character Catalina. I believe in something Kieslowski said about doing casting: “You simply have to find a person, and than your job as director is done.” That is the only way to create emotional truth: to find this person that already has this character deep within themself. In Andrea [Otalvaro] I found what I was looking for. She is someone who on the one hand has this childlike purity within herself and on the other hand has this adult experience of survival, which is a very rare combination.
How did you manage to do this co-production between Poland, Bosnia and Croatia, which have quite different cinematographies?
After finding my second producer in Poland it became really easy. When we started to look for partners in Bosnia we wanted to find somebody both professional and who is as a person warm; who understood these personal drama stories. If you have people who understand each other it is easy. The most important thing was to make them feel as one. The main difference between these cinematographies is the size. Poland has a good market, so you can comfortably live by doing films. In Croatia and Bosnia you can’t make so much money. This is the reason they also have a different kind of focus. Poland is trying to make movies for a general audience and in Croatia and Bosnia films are a bit more arthouse, aimed at festivals. But regardless of whether it is a commercial or arthouse project, dedication, passion and love for movies are what drives them. If they weren’t like this they would probably do something much less stressful, and much less life-consuming.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Monika Gimbutaitė, LithuaniaMonika Gimbutaitė, born in 1993 in Lithuania, graduated from Vilnius Academy of Arts, Art Theory and History programme. For three and a half years she held the position of a programme coordinator at European Film Forum Scanorama. She is currently working as culture journalist for 15min.lt, the second biggest news website in Lithuania.
Alexander Gabelia, GeorgiaGeorgian film journalist and activist. He's a political refugee from Abkhazia. Alexander studied history of cinema and Cinematography at Ilia State University. He writes about cinema and culture in various prints and online outlets including LIBERALI.GE, AHA.GE and he’s a cinema reviewer for on-line magazine – www.magnettemag.com. He’s been also involved into Tbilisi International Film Festival and Cinedoc Tblisi.Arman Fatić, BosniaArman Fatić is Bosnian film critic/journalist currently based in Maribor, Slovenia where he is studying philosophy at Faculty of Arts Maribor. He is a writer for several websites/magazines across balkans some of which are ziher.hr, snl.ba and pulse.rs. His main fields of interest as a film critic are society problems in general and philosophical/religious symbolism in movies.
Jakub Wanat, PolandFilm-lover, cinema-goer, festival-fanatic. Both cinema and writing are my biggest passions, so I decided to combine them, which basically means I killed two birds with one stone. It all started with MAGIEL, Poland's biggest students' magazine, where for almost two years I was the head of the film column. I was chosen as a Polish representative in the Venice Days jury at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. I'm also the LUX prize ambassador and a proud member of the Scope100 project. I had a chance to write for Cineuropa, naEkranie and regularly for my blog. I'm studying both e-business and film studies, also having some time to work at a Polish start-up.
Mikhail Morkin, RussiaMoscow-based film journalist. He is a chief editor and critic for Kinomania.ru. His work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter Russia, RussoRosso and Film Sense. He also worked as programmer assistant at 2morrow Film Festival. Born in Moscow in 1991, he holds a specialist’s degree in Linguistics from MSPU and is currently studying for master’s degree in Transmedia Production from HSE.
Mina Stanikic, Serbia24 year old film and theatre critic based in Novi Sad, Serbia. Although finishing medicine studies, she took up career as a cultural journalist, starting in Kultur!Kokoška, a culture-dedicated web magazine, slowly becoming focused on film and theatre criticism. Her articles have been published in various cultural magazines, mostly in Serbian language. Mina is alumna of 11th Talents Sarajevo, where she took part in Talent Press program, writing and publishing in English. In film criticism, she has particular interest in debut films, and the following transition from short to feature filmmaking. Mina works as a PR for the Film Front, International short film festival in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Romanita Alexeev, MoldovaRomanița’s relationship with the film world isn’t limited to her fascination for it. It also extends to her fascination with other people’s fascination for it. She has started her journey in this industry by studying film production and acting at the University of Salford, United Kingdom. Later on, she returned to her home-country, Moldova, where, at the present moment, is directing and an online/tv series about Moldovan film industry.