Art or culture must reflect society and the moment in which we live, according to Dalibor Matanić, talented Croatian director of the world-acclaimed series “The Paper” (Novine). The series, based in Rijeka, can be streamed worldwide on Netflix and is available with English subtitles.
Every form of culture, including provocation, must be aimed at establishing dialogue. Creating a culture of dialogue is extremely important, to get out of the divisions and move away from where you were in ’91. I want the most important question to be where you will be in 2020. It is a much more important question for today and for the society in which we live. Lots of noise and negative reactions are fueled by those who would like to control culture, and we know that this is not turning out very well, the director reveals to Danijela Bauk/Novi List January 21, 2020.
Third Final Season of ‘The Paper’ Premieres in Rijeka January 25
Dalibor Matanić has his hands full these days. He and his team for the acclaimed series “The Paper”, are looking forward to the Rijeka premiere of the third and final season, will take place on Friday, January 25 at Art-Kino. And then another completely new challenge awaits him – directing the main opening program for Rijeka 2020 – the European Capital of Culture at the port of Rijeka, or the “Opera Industrial” program which will include more than 120 performers. There is also the recent premiere of “Zora” (Dawn), the sequel to the award-winning “Zvizdan” (High Sun), or the second part of the trilogy “Sunce” (Sun). He is also preparing a play “Berlin” for the Croatian National Theater. Recently, for the third time, he became a father. He and wife, actress Helena Minić, welcomed a son, who they named Neo.
But let’s start at the beginning. The premiere of the first two episodes of the final season of “The Paper” will take place on January 25 at Art-Kino in Rijeka.
“We will show the first two episodes of the final and third season of ‘The Paper’. Everything is ready to go. I anticipate that this third season will be a very interesting and unexpected for our audience, as we probe deeper into the characters, their inner world, and deal with this final account of corruption and transition which we introduced during the first season. The main theme of the third season is the judiciary, in the first season we covered the media, in the second politics. But this time we are focusing on the characters, they are the ones who judge things, who carry us forward. This third season is focused mostly on characters, and less on action, the characters move into confrontations with their opponents, and with themselves. We go into the depths of the characters, and analyze them from the inside,” Matanić reveals.
This way of working, the in-depth character analyses was first made possible by a great acting team, but also by screenwriter Ivica Đikić, who upgraded and expanded the script.
Film Productions Like Jazz Sessions or Improvisations
“Our film productions sometimes seem like jazz sessions, or music improvisations during which just about everyone, including those in front and behind the cameras, give everything they have. Above everything else, Rijeka has enjoyed a place in the spotlight, as the city plays an important role in all three seasons of the series. I can truly say that we have had optimal conditions, a great cast with up to 90 actors per season, a city with a special vibe, the right atmosphere which resembled a music session. We also have a great production crew. It has been an ideal work culture and one of mutual respect. We felt the progress from season to season and were constantly discovering new ‘languages’”.
“That’s why I think the series is so successful too. We did not work according to an established format and did not strictly adhere to what was written in the script but were open letting the scenes evolve. It all coincided, with the script by Ivica Đikić, the producers from Drugi plan (The Second Plan), and fantastic actors led by Branka Katić and Dragan Despot. Ivica Đikić ‘s flexible scriptwriting allowed us to work this way and allowed us to improvise.”
‘The Paper’ Storyline Reflects Real World Croatian Situations
“There are screenwriters who don’t allow interventions and stick to their script like a Bible. We did things differently and constantly updated both the story and the characters. That’s why I believe we have had such a positive audience response. And that is why the audience discovered similarities to the real world during our second season. This is our reality, and some of the motives and characters remind the audience of real events and people. In the third season, we completely delve into the characters, discover their various layers, inner emotions, and I hope that the audience will find this approach interesting too. Especially since they are already familiar with the characters; we will give insight into some of their inner, hidden ‘worlds’. We’ll allow them to discover that all the characters are made of flesh and blood, and that nothing is black and white. We also find that humans often act like animals. I directed the third season, or the season of characters, as a kind of western – a modern western with skirmishes between characters along with the internal struggles of characters,” says the award-winning Croatian director.
And audiences have been responding to this high-caliber work. Rarely has any Croatian series sparked such widespread interest, with audiences eagerly expecting each new season. And the bar has been set high, as the first two successful seasons significantly raised expectations. After all, the increased competition of world series productions has raised their overall quality, so the audience is more educated, has higher expectations and recognizes quality output.
Croatian Corruption Rarely Portrayed in Bold Courageous Manner
“We really have an army of fans, not just casual viewers, but loyal fans who closely follow each detail of every episode of every season of the series. Our domestic audience, as well as those who watch the series from abroad, recognize that there are not very many brave series out there like ‘The Paper’, and foreign critics have often pointed this out. There are few attempts so courageous to portray corruption and transition in this manner. After all, ‘The Paper’ is not an easy series to watch, you could go to the bathroom and lose a story line which is critical for understanding the entire series. The audience is not stupid or simple-minded. They expect more, especially because they also follow foreign series productions. They see what is being filmed worldwide and compare us to foreign productions even though we are not on an equal footing with them. We are proud of our consistency ever since our very first season.”
“We have said that this series was a trilogy and we sticking to that plan. There won’t be any sequels after this season, although I personally believe that the whole team wouldn’t mind working on this set until they retire. This way of working, the everyday creative energy, which has filled us all with pleasure and happiness, is not common scenario as far as I know. We have worked together for four years and have spent about a year together. This must be sustainable, because it is also a kind of creative madness, like an amusement park or children’s playground. But this set, vibe and atmosphere allowed us to shoot this series. After we finished filming, I said that I hope to have another opportunity to direct this kind of project, God willing.”
Overseeing Rijeka European Capital of Culture Program
Matanić will also oversee the opening of the ECOC (European Capital of Culture) at Rijeka’s port on February 1.
“Directing the main program for the opening of the European Capital of Culture is actually a kind of continuation of the story we began with the promotional movie ‘Port of Diversity’. They asked me to give them a hand, and after all, these are friends and people I have already worked with. That moment, that collective awareness that Croatia is getting the European Capital of Culture recognition is very important. I think that Rijeka’s ECOC is being managed by a great team of professionals who are not only working on an opening program, but also one that will run through the entire year.”
“Yes, I cheered for Rijeka, although some of other candidate cities were great too. And I’m glad that Rijeka won. Now we need to capitalize on this victory, and awaken awareness that culture is for everyone. We need build a bridge to the audience, so that they perceive that something truly important is happening. We must educate and open minds, because culture must not be self-sacrificing or incomprehensible. After all, the basis of the ECOC’s philosophy is to bring culture from institutions to the streets and bring it closer an audience who might not otherwise be reached. One needs to find a key, a code for how to bring people to the message behind a work of art.
Art or Culture Must Reflect the Society We Live In
That key, or that code is important. Lately, a lot of ruckus has been raised about the erection of Kožarić’s “Therefore Hay” and the announcement of the placement of a star on top of the Rijeka Skyscraper, as a temporary art installation by Nemanja Cvijanović. Matanić himself knows a lot about this kind of ruckus. At one time, his video for the ECOC’s “Port of Diversity” provoked strong negative reactions. So, does he believe that art must be just beautiful and enjoyable, or does it still have to question society and the present, especially in projects for the ECOC?
“I am the wrong person to ask if the culture should be just comfortable or cultivated. Art or culture must above all reflect the society and the moment in which we live. Every form of culture, including provocation, must be aimed at establishing a dialogue. Safe culture doesn’t accomplish anything, modern art must respond to all good and bad in society, and to every anomaly. But again, what is extremely important is that dialogue respects on both sides; then that dialogue will accomplish something good. Creating a culture of dialogue is extremely important, to escape the divisions and move away from where you were in ’91. I want the most important question to be where you will be in 2020. It is a much more important question for today and for the society in which we live. Lots of shouting and negative reactions are fueled by those who would like to control culture, and we know that this is not turning out very well.”
Film ‘Zora’ Premiere and Fall Debut at Croatian National Theatre
After the premiere of “The Paper” and the opening of the ECOC; Matanić is also set to premiere the movie “Zora” (Dawn), the sequel to “Zvizdan” (High Sun), which won the jury award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival in the competition “Izvjestan pogled” (Un Certain Regard).
“’Zora’, the second part of the ‘Sunce’ trilogy, will premiere this summer. Personally, I can say that ‘Zvizdan’ was a more accessible film, much more than ‘Zora’ will be. ‘Zora’ is a more avantgarde and moves radically forward. We deal with all the obstacles that can destroy love, and love must be strengthened to defeat cynicism and negative social movements. We are also concerned with people, individuals and society. The work is set in a bland future, a few years ahead of the present and ‘anticipates’ some things that might happen if we didn’t respect human postulates,” says Matanić.
But that’s not all. At the end of the year, his first theatre production will premiere at the HNK (Croatian National Theatre) in Zagreb, where he will stage the play “Berlin” by Ivor Martinić.
“It is also a sequel to the play ‘The Damned’ after the cult film of the same name by Luchino Visconti produced at SNG Maribor, whose dramatization was also written by Ivor Martinić. In this play we will point out that fascism is dangerous and that we must not dance around this issue in contemporary culture. Croatian fascism is the greatest evil that impacted our country and I find such ideas unacceptable today. It is our responsibility to make this country better, to make Croatian society better. Artists and culturalists are not businessmen, economists or politicians. We do not have a lot of power, but we can point out problems and anomalies, and I think that is our responsibility. And the audience responds well to these efforts. I believe that we all desire deep within ourselves to live in a more normal and peaceful place, rather than in an atmosphere of constant tension, or Balkan cauldron where something is constantly cooking and boiling,” Matanić concludes.
‘The Paper’ Has Promoted Rijeka As Filming Location
“The Paper” series has done a great deal, not only for Croatia, but also for the worldwide promotion of Rijeka. The series is currently available worldwide through Netflix’s streaming service and locations in Rijeka and surrounding areas are presented not only to audiences, but to worldwide production companies and filmmakers, who are increasingly interested in filming in and around the city.
“A lot of foreigners and journalists have come to Rijeka after watching ‘The Paper’ and we know this firsthand. We have filmed and showcased Rijeka like no one ever has before. Therefore, it has become a unique and attractive location for foreign productions, which are increasingly being filmed in the city and surrounding locations. Rarely does a city or region have proximity to the sea and mountains, unusual city vistas and attractive natural sites. If we were to film for ten more seasons, we would still not be able show all the locations and views that Rijeka has to offer. It is very interesting that a city that is not very large offers so much diversity, and that makes it quite fascinating. I think it’s simply a well-deserved compliment to the city.”
“Recently, Mercedes was shooting an advertisement at the same location we used for ‘The Paper’. But beyond the fantastic micro-locations and different vistas, there is this warmth of the city and its residents who accept everyone with open arms. We have always felt more than welcome, and that is very important. We never felt that we were disturbing anyone. But this is Rijeka, it’s always been like that. Yet it is a multicultural city that accepts difference and that means everything. We have really felt this in the best possible way. I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve shot in several other Croatian cities and towns.”