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
Călin Boto is a Romanian emergent film critic and the editor-in-chief of Film Menu, a film magazine edited by students of the Film University in National University of Film and Drama in Bucharest (UNATC). He has written articles for several cultural publications such as Dilema Veche,Dissolved Magazine, SUB25 and he coordinates Film Menu’s weekly cineclub. At the moment he’s working on a bachelor's degree on the films and film criticism of Jonas Mekas.
Barbara Majsa was born and raised in Hungary, but currently resides in Sweden and attends Stockholm University for Cinema Studies. She has worked as a journalist since 2009, and has covered several film festivals. Barbara is the managing editor at Cinema Scandinavia, where she interviews film-makers and focuses her work on artistic and cultural products that reflect upon society - films concerning social, societal, economic and political issues.
Yulia Kuzischina is a film journalist, based in Moscow. She studied visual culture at Higher School of Economics and later started to write for two film-related websites, RussoRosso and Kinomania.ru. Currently she also works at a film sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution. Her main field of interest is Eastern European cinema.
Tomáš Hudák is a programmer and a film critic based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Programming at independent cultural centre A4 – Space for contemporary culture, which focus on challenging and experimental art, is his main occupation throughout a year. He is also associated with IFF Cinematik in Pieštany, Bratislava IFF, and Film Festival 4 Elements in Banská Štiavnica. Regularly writing for film magazine Kinečko, his texts also appeared in other publications such as Senses of Cinema, Tess Magazine etc. In past, he worked as a film archivist at Slovak Film Institute and his archival research resulted in two papers on local film history.
Daria Badior is a film critic and a Culture Editor of LB.ua, one of Ukraine’s biggest online newspapers. Focuses on writing about contemporary Ukrainian cinema. Also she co-curates a project on LB.ua named Short-list about young Ukrainian filmmakers. Since 2017 takes part in selecting films for Kyiv Film Critics Week, a new film festival held at the end of October. A member of FIPRESCI.
Łukasz Mańkowski Half of the Asian Cinema focused blog ‘Referat Filmowy’, Japanese Studies and Film Theory graduate from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, specializing in Asian Film. Occasionally photographer, translator and theatre-film journalist who simply loves ramen. Previously member of 5 Flavours Film Festival People’s Jury, FEFF Udine Student Campus and EIFF Student Critics Competition.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Yoana Pavlova is a Bulgarian writer, researcher, and programmer currently based in Paris.Her field of work includes cinema, VR, digital culture, and the New East. She is the foundingeditor of Festivalists.com (a playform for experimental media criticism), with bylines fornumerous print and online publications in Bulgarian, English, and French. Contributor to thefollowing books: Cinemas of Paris (2016, St Andrews Film Studies), Eastern Promises (2014,Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia – San Sebastián), The Bulgarian Nouvelle Vague(2012, Edno).
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering filmfestivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for BerlinaleTalents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.