A fresh frame for the new frames of the seventh art
The cinematography exceeds the traditional matrix, but it’s still in transition towards the contemporary European film
#1 Hey, they’re filming!? This grammatically poor statement, is more and more often used comment by the common citizens of Skopje. It initiates the thought about the actual contemporary film production, which is recently so common phenomenon through the city that the film crews are simply demistificated as a curiosity. One can see those crews all around various locations in the city. The new Macedonian film production that doesn’t intent to compete in quantity to some of the major European countries, enterprises to do so in quality and to overcome the local context with it, making progress at the European film markets and film festivals. Using the co-production model of filming, we got the average of two feature films and a few short length features and documentary films per year. At the moment, the most actual event is the filming of “The Navel of the World” by Igor Ivanov-Izi; also, we wait for the opening of the film “Karaula” by Rajko Grlić; the film “Contact” by Sergej Stanojkovski is participating at the many international film festivals; “Balkankan” is blockbusting the regional Balkan movie theatres; Teona Mitevska is preparing to start filming her new film “I’m from Titov Veles”. Including the last two years’ productions – as “The Big Water” by Ivo Trajkov and the “Mirage” by Svetozar Ristovski, we can notice almost three-films-per-year film production.
Every each of these films has its own film poetics, so it can be said that we have refreshed and mobilized the film genres at our film production, too. In principle, this is a new wave of various young and fresh film authors with modest filmography – in creative and in technical crew segments both. At the other side, they all benefit from the participation of the attractive and the affirmed film names at the foreign part of each co-production.
Slowly, but not necessarily certain too, we overcome the matrix where the films had to have some hermetic fable stuck to various pathetic historical attitudes and stands. Mostly, our film production enters the area of personal drama fables, or the undefined area of the experimental film genre.
#2 The motivations of the new film authors is a slightly social-orientated engagement in the film, thematically covering the actual social context at this time.
But at the same time, this authors succeed (more or less) to integrate various forms of universal and urban elements with the essential human themes and classic love stories…
The commercial success of “Balkankan” – just maybe – initiates the thought that Macedonian cinematography may had have wrong recipe how to make films?!?). Behind the fragile and conditional “authors’ freedom” of our traditional film directors and scenarist, there were serious ‘holes’ and errors of the film trade, as well as of the great film potential of the time. And, by the shelter of the subjective aesthetical normative, many films were made, covered and swiftly forgotten by the audience and the market, not making financial cover even of the costs of making. And the film is very expensive toy to play with, as we all now.
Besides the production crisis, we overcame even the dust aroused by the Milco Mancevski’s successes with “Before the Rain” and “Dust” – because, in both cases there were mega-budgets behind Mancevski, empowered and supported by the strong foreign productions, which isn’t the case with the other film authors of ours.#3
The Theme Dilemma or Scenario Crisis
The lack of good scripts is – as it seems – the greatest problem of the Macedonian film. Both producers and directors are stuck with filming literature, or their own original scripts. The are no professional script writers and there is no praxis to use such professionals in our productions.
The “Big Water” by Ivo Trajkov, film made by the Živko Čingo’s same-named novel is probably the most ‘absolute’ film in the contemporary Macedonian film. The excellent film-adaptation of the well-chosen literary deed, mostly because of the fantastically applied atmosphere and the time which this deed refers to (the period 1945-1947). And exactly because of the mentioned period that this films refers, there were some critics for reviving the nostalgic features from our misfortunate history, which also brings us back to the issue of the old traditional film-matrix.
The adaptation of the book to film-scenario was made by the experienced Vladimir Blaževski. The suggestive narrator played by Meto Jovanovski and the strongly emotional music by Kiril Džajkovski, as well as the child-casting – is what ‘holds the water’ in this film. Also, there was the masterly played performance of Mitko Apostolovski. Trajkov “came to us” from the Czech film school, with its best film poetic qualities, with the real author’s signature.
The another adaptation of the literature deed by Macedonian author is the “The Navel of the World”. The Venko Andonovski’s novel served well also for the theatre play adaptation first. So, Igor Ivanov-Izi, the director of this film, after the success of his latest three short-length projects, enterprises quite bold scenario to film as his debut – linking to the success of the novel that not necessarily ‘promises’ a good base for a film project… But he insists on the stand that from the essence of the novel can be extracted the universal story of the individual struggle against the grim & grey society.
“Contact” is filmed in Macedonian-German co-production, with ‘borrowed’ script from our north neighbor – the Gordan Mihic’s scenario. Along with that, we have a ‘borrowed’ leading male role – Nikola Kojo, who is the supreme ‘money-making’ actor in our north neighbor’s cinematography. This ‘frankenstein’-production was the film debut of Sergej Stanojkovski, who completely failed this task The love drama of this film was partly ‘saved’ by the director of photography. Tomislav Pinter and by the excellent performance of Nikola Kojo, a performance that seriously oversize (in quality) the performance of his female film partner Labina Mitevska.
The script for the film “Karaula”, filmed in co-production of the almost all former Yugoslav states, is an adaptation of the novel of the Croatian writer Ante Tomić, “Nothing should surprise us”. The director Rajko Grlić is a famous and well-established film name in the former Yugoslav cinematography, so we can expect almost certain success in the region. And again – this film also evokes a time already gone.
In contrary of these above elaborated films, which are adaptations of the literature deeds, the other Macedonian film authors insist on the so-called author’s film: they write their own scripts, and the directors are the script writers at the same time. Teona Mitevska works that way. Her debut (three years ago) “How I killed a Saint” was granted with a lot of creative support in the segment of the film photography in the form of the famous name of the Belgian Alan Marcoen, but her script and directing resulted with a dilettante product. Thanks to the successful producer’s work by her sister Labina Mitevska, this film ‘made through’ some festivals, mainly upon the boldness of the theme – the latest actual problems from the Macedonian contemporary life. Her second (and latest) project
“I’m from Titov Veles” is completely author’s project. Let’s hope that in the final script version of this film scenario – a professional script-writer would be consulted.
The “Mirage” by Svetozar Ristovski was also completely author’s project, and left a slightly ‘blunt taste’ behind the ‘holes’ of the unfinished scenario.
And finally, “Balkankan”, the first Macedonian-Italian co-production, is the author’s project of Darko Mitrevski. The attempt for a Balkan black comedy failed in a prosaic déjà vu manner, which is obvious for anyone with at least a minimum film knowledge. Luckily, the great marketing campaign and the populistic level of the film soundtrack, made the film even commercially successful.
The fact remains that we’re poor in domestic scenarios, but if we keep this tempo of filming, we can hope for ‘growing’ of the scriptwriters’ guild in our cinematography.
Budgets, financing, production
Sometimes the greatest production label “Vardar Film” is now history, ‘killed’ by the debts and the free market. And instead of turning into a museum of the film past, it was transformed as a fictive Film Center within even should function the National Film Fund! This new arrangements and phenomena we gained as a result from the adaptation of our legal system with the European one. The new Law on film is still only on paper, so the film projects are still bounded on the state financing through the Ministry of Culture, where they get the ‘lion part’ of the film finances. This way of financing results with the extreme polarization of the film authors: on those who are favorites of the authorities, and on those who aren’t. Because, in this situation, the main criteria for financing any film project aren’t the qualities of the script, but the political inclinations of the authors or producers. Of course, this division is obvious in the local frames only.
In average, the film budgets aren’t much over the sum of one million euros. It isn’t exactly a low budget for a film, but it’s also far from a high budget for it. The European Film Fund “Euroimage” supported three films with a participation of 20% of the full budget of those films.
So, the only hope for the positive future of Macedonian film, the Macedonian film producers see in making co-productions and in the foreign film funds.
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski