Yugoslav co-productions a Slovenian specialty

Written by Cathy Meils in Ljubljana
Slovenia may be alone among Central European countries in reaching out in a big way to former Yugoslav countries to offer financial support through co-productions.

Two producers who epitomize the trend are Studio Maj's Dunja Klemenc and Emotionfilm's Danijel Hocevar.

Klemenc and Studio Maj splashed their way onto the international scene in 2000 with the Oscar, Golden Globe, and EFA winning film No Man's Land, a French/Belgian/Italian/UK/Slovene co-production. By 2005, Klemenc was teaming up with Flash Productions of Sarajevo along with French and Italian partners to produce Well Tempered Corpses. In 2006, Studio Maj along with Slovene production company Gustav Film, Croatia's Jadran Film Zagreb, Poland's SPI International, and Bosnia & Herzogovina's Pro BA co-produced the family film Teah, a multiple award winner at the Portoroz festival of Slovenian films.

More recently, Klemenc has drawn even more intensely on her links to former Belgrade University classmates. Her current film production, with Croatian director Rajko Grilic, began a 7-week shoot on November 10 and is expected to be completed in September. Co-produced by Zagreb's Main Frame Production and Serbia's Yodi Productions, along with support from Croatian TV, Slovenia's Viba film studio and Eurimages, the 2 million euro production is a drama of contemporary middle class life in the Croatian capital. Distribution is handled through Slovenia's Cinemania.

While Klemenc normally produces just one or two films per year, this winter is especially busy for her, with her next production, a five-part omnibus film, gearing up for filming beginning in January. Tentative titled S.O.S. (Some Other Stories), the film will be directed by five women from the former Yugoslav territories: Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzogovina, Croatia, and Slovenia. Slovenian support is 30% of the budget, with 300,000 euros coming from the Slovenian Film Fund, while each of the other four national film funds is also backing the film. Further production funding comes from the Irish Film Board (15%). The film will shoot for approximately one week in each territory, with sound post-production taking place in Ireland.

For Danijel Hocevar, co-productions with former Yugoslav partners is not about renewing old friendships, but "an investment in the future." His Emotionfilm productions include Estrellita, with Germany's Mediopolis, Macedonia's Skopje Film Studio, and Bosnia & Herzogovina's F.I.S.T. Production co-producing. Hocevar's first Yugo co-production was Teona Mitevska's 2004 How I Killed A Saint (Macedonia/Slovenia/France). Since then Emotionfilm has also co-produced Red Colored Gray Truck (Serbia/Slovenia/Germany), Border Post (Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia & Herzegovina/Macedonia/Serbia/UK/Hungary), I Am from Tito Veles (Macedonia/Slovenia/France/Belgium), and The World Is Big And Salvation Lurks Around The Corner (Bulgaria/Germany/Slovenia/Hungary).

These co-productions have paid off in a big way for Hocevar, with screenings and prizes at major festivals worldwide. Hocivar modestly explains his commitment: "It's very simple. They have big artistic potential and no money. They have good film directors, actors, and stories, but they didn't have the system of state support for film. There Slovenia can help. On the one hand we were staying in business. We wanted to be involved in production and we wanted to cooperate with others." Unlike most Central European producers, Hocivar did not insist upon national directors and films. "Sometimes they were 'Yugoslav' stories, happening in this region, but they were never specifically Slovene stories," he says.

Hocevar's next two films will continue to connect Slovenia with its former co-nationals. Currently in the final stages of post-production is Damjan Kozole's Slovenian Girl, the story of a student who earns money as a prostitute and finds herself torn between the mafia and her family. Slovenia is the major partner on the 1.5 million euro film, with 70%. Co-producers include Germany, Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Hocivar follows it with Hard Promises, a co-production from Serbia/Slovenia/France/Hungary/Croatia directed by Srdjan Karanovic. For Hocevar, potential lies in building relationships both inside and outside the old Yugoslav territories.