ZAGREB: After two lawsuits and two Ministers of Culture, the Croatian Audiovisual Center is back to normal operations, HAVC director Hrvoje Hribar told FNE.
“We survived a seven-month onslaught,” Hribar said. The HAVC responded to a move to, in effect, dismantle the center and cut off funding for the film industry, with two lawsuits. Hribar credited the endurance of HAVC to having a level of independence from direct governmental interference.
The first lawsuit, which addressed the refusal of the former Minister of Culture, Zlato Hasanbegovic, to appoint a new board to oversee Croatia’s cash rebate system after the term of the previous board expired, was dropped after the outgoing Minister signed the necessary paperwork on his final day in office just weeks ago.
The second lawsuit is proving a bit more complicated to end on a graceful note. In that case, the lawsuit accused the Minister of what Hribar said were illegal findings, which stated that employees of HAVC were being overpaid by some 20 EUR per month. The new Minister of Culture, Nina Obuljen Korzinek, who assumed office on 19 October 2016, was on the HAVC board of directors, which was the responsible body for overseeing the operations of HAVC.
“A former member of HAVC is ironically suing herself,” Hribar said. It is expected that the Ministry will review and change their position on the overpayment of employees. HAVC employs a staff of seven people.
One of Hribar’s moves during the period was to bring on board the ousted Slovenian Film Center director Jozko Rutar as a financial consultant. Speaking with FNE from the HAVC offices, Rutar noted that the position of director of the Slovenian Film Center was not appointed independently of the government.
Looking back over 2016, Hribar told FNE, “It was toughest to maintain the cash rebates, which come from the state. It put us in peril of destabilising Croatia as a partner in international coproductions.” He noted that in 2015, some 30 m USD was spent in Croatia as a result of the cash rebate, which will drop to around 20 m USD in 2016. “Croatian producers were taking personal bank guarantees in their budgets during a six month period, until the 20% cash rebate was secured again,” Hribar said. He told FNE that, looking ahead to international productions planning to shoot in Croatia in the next year, the cash spend is expected to bounce back and well exceed 2015 levels.