Interview with Ivan Karl, Acting Director of Film Center Serbia


    BELGRADE: Film New Europe spoke with Ivan Karl, the acting director of Film Center Serbia, about the most relevant issues this key film institution in Serbia is dealing with at the moment.

    Ivan Karl, photo: Predrag MitićIvan Karl was appointed as acting director of Film Center Serbia (FCS) at the beginning of June 2023. He graduated in film and TV production from Belgrade’s Faculty of Dramatic Arts. His versatile working biography includes the positions of editor of film and foreign TV series programme at Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), where he later on served as a member of the Programme Council; Belgrade’s FEST selector; creator of the film and TV series programmes at Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV); chairman of FEST’s Council; city secretary for cultural affairs in Belgrade.

    Furthermore, he is the author of three books: Acting in Films / Gluma na filmu (2009), Dreaming with Your Eyes Open / Sanjati otvorenih očiju (2012) and The Chronology of FEST / Hronologija FEST-a (2023).

    FNE: What was or still is the greatest challenge you identified when you assumed the position of acting director of Film Center Serbia?

    Ivan Karl: I wouldn't single it out as a challenge. This is a job that, like any other, has its own rules. Since it is of a relay nature, that is to say, I am neither the first nor the last director, the most important thing for me was that this personnel change should not interrupt the processes started earlier, I’ve found it important to introduce something new and start some others. The Film Center Serbia collective is experienced, and these people have been working hard for years, so during the course of 2023, I tried to make their working conditions better, and this will remain imperative for me in the coming period as well.

    FNE: What would be the most crucial characteristics of Serbian films at this very point? What are the strengths and obstacles Serbian cinema is still coming across?

    Ivan Karl: Serbian cinematography is tough and resistant to numerous challenges, and this is something that we collectively overcame during the 90s of the last century. In terms of production, if we look at the number of domestic films produced annually, the number of domestic series where Telekom Srbija is the biggest generator, and the foreign productions that shoot here, Serbian cinematography is the largest one in the area of ​ former Yugoslavia. Here I hint at everything that the word cinematography implies, namely the production, distribution and screening of films.

    FNE: How do you perceive the current position of Film Center Serbia in between film professionals / filmmakers and the state itself?

    Ivan Karl: Film Center Serbia is home of all film workers, open to all those who, in one way or another, deal with film and contribute to film art. Of course, our primary legal role is that on behalf of the Republic of Serbia, whose government is our founder, as an institution of national importance, we take care of cinematography by announcing and implementing contests that stimulate the production of all kinds of films with financial means. There is almost no film that has not been financially supported to some extent by the state, making it the largest individual producer in our country.

    FNE: Would it be safe to say that Serbian film persistenly keeps on regaining the trust of moviegoers in your country?

    Ivan Karl: Serbian films have always been the most popular or the most watched in theatres here. Those numbers have been constant since the time of the former Yugoslavia, and the most watched domestic film has always had more viewers than several of the most watched foreign films combined. Even in the time of franchises and blockbusters such as Titanic, Lord of the Rings, James Bond films or Marvel heroes films. The situation is the same on television, where domestic TV series, produced by our filmmakers, are always the most watched part of the TV programme, which only major sporting event broadcasts can keep up with.

    FNE: What would be the essential ingredients in the case of recent and future Serbian blockbusters?

    Ivan Karl: The last few big hits point to the biopic genre, such as Toma directed by Dragan Bjelogrlić and Sunday / Nedelja directed by Nemanja Ćeranić and codirected by Miloš Radunović, which are inspired by the lives and careers of popular singers. Also, costume adaptations of domestic literature generally do well, as well as historical spectacles.

    What I would like to see is the return of domestic comedy, which has not been the case for a relatively long time. In the 80s and 90s, populist and even urban comedies were the most watched in cinemas. I am happy about the recent success of the children's film How I Learned to Fly / Leto kada sam naučila da letim directed by Radivoje Andrić.

    FNE: As for the art house cinema, what more or else could be done to have more Serbian films in prominent places in major film festivals worldwide?

    Ivan Karl: It depends on what you mean by big festivals. If you mean the main programmes of Cannes, Venice and Berlin, then you have to be realistic, because these are semi-closed clubs, that is the law of large numbers and large world markets. We, like many other cinematographers, will do our best to be present, because today it is a great success for a feature film from this area to be included in any programme of the mentioned festivals. Of course, there are other A-category festivals like Karlovy Vary, San Sebastian, Locarno, Toronto, where we have had recent successes, and I believe that streak will soon continue.

    FNE: Is Serbia’s participation in minority coproductions and finding minority coproducers for Serbian productions still one of the most efficient ways to achieve that goal?

    Ivan Karl: Minority productions are very important because they additionally connect authors and professionals from the region and Europe. It is one of the most important competitions for us, and we plan to increase the funds allocated for this purpose in the coming years.

    FNE: Are you satisfied with the results of the incentive scheme for foreign film productions shooting in Serbia, given the fact that Film Center Serbia is an integral part of the process?

    Ivan Karl: Film Center Serbia fully supports incentives for foreign productions because the benefit is multiple for both the guild and our economy. The number of teams is much larger than before, our locations are globally visible and our professionals are more engaged. A producer, a director or an actor who leaves Serbia satisfied after filming means many new ones who will come to shoot films here and with us.