Osmi Povjerenik Screens on Brač Successfully, Set to Conquer Cinemas

Total Croatia News

“This movie will make you laugh, cry very likely, but no room for depression, maybe just nostalgia,” said the movie director Ivan Salaj

The movie Osmi Povjerenik (The Eighth Commissioner) is just making its debut in cinemas and it certainly one of the most anticipated adaptations of literary works in modern Croatia. On Friday it premiered in Supetar on Brač Island, with the Zagreb premiere on January 9 in Zagreb. Scenario writer and movie director Ivan Salaj invested several years of his life in this project and is visibly very emotional toward it. Thus he speaks very emotionally of the problems faced by this movie for year, as well as magnificent islanders of Brač and Hvar who heartily helped complete it, Jutarnji List  published on January 5, 2018.

Considering you are both director and scenario writer, how much did you adapt the storyline compared to the book written by Renato Baretić?

I’ve adapted the storyline as much as I had to in order for the story being read to become a story being viewed and listened to. Movie time is a completely different dimension from what you read, as an objective and subjective experience. The storyline must come down to a succinct information and propel the story so it does not become boring. On the other hand, it needs to maintain emotion and atmosphere, otherwise the movie is no good. Balancing all that with the Osmi Povjerenik novel was quite complicated. Some important information found in two lines of the novel needed scenes in order to function, while pages and pages of dialogue needed to be reduced and selected to be the flesh and blood of the movie, to so speak. I’ve changed some things, adapted some characters, threw in some mystique I recall from my Brač childhood and some new situations which made the story a more likely utopia.

Baretić once stated he did not want to meddle in the script and wanted to keep his distance not to burden the crew. Did such a stance aid you?

For starters, I listed all changes, explained the reasons and described new situations to Baretić and only then asked for the rights. It took quite some time, with plenty of beers shared and a great pašticada meal. I spoke with him and producer Marijo Vukadin for a good 12 hours, helping ourselves to beer while the owner and his soon napped, all together hidden by drapes from onlookers. I received the blessing, with a comment that everything I mentioned is within the spirit of the story. This was nine years ago, if not ten. Renato said right away he does not want to partake in the script writing in any way. He wanted to see the movie when it was completely finished. The movie is 136 minutes long, quite long for modern Croatian standards. Those who have seen it already say the time flies by in a mix of humour, drama, political satire and an impressive gallery of characters.

Preparations for this movie took a long time, why?

Due to various issues we changed three producers. Running out of time, we began filming with two weeks of preparations, without a filming book and no acting rehearsals. We survived on the fact that I prepared Brač in view of locations and accommodation so the first five weeks were ready in terms of infrastructure. Secondly and equally important, I personally hired all actors and everyone put their hearts into this kamikaze option. Young forces from the production department of the Drama Academy helped as well as old friends. And the impossible became possible.

Brač and Hvar played the imaginary island Trečić. Did you hire locals, how did the local community embrace the crew?

As for Brač, it was wonderful. As my mother is from the Škrip village on Brač, I filmed there in houses of people I’ve known since childhood, and the main house is the birth house of my mother. People from Škrip showed incredible enthusiasm in aiding the movie and crew. We also got great help from the neighbouring village of Nerežišće. It would be difficult to name everyone and not skip anyone, but thanks to the locals we were provided with a 1930 sailboat for free, a wonderful option to film in a church, all the permissions necessary, Roman uniforms and weapons… But most of all – honest and great support. On Hvar we filmed in Velo and Malo Grabje villages, with great help from the Pjover association, as well as a bunch of institutions and companies which provided us with free or nearly free locations and items for the scenes.

Is this a movie whose storyline can be understood in neighbouring states, do you have ambitions to show it in Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia?

The movie will be distributed in all former Yugoslav republics. As for understanding it, I believe Baretić’s story is so universal, it could be shown in Cuba, China, Iceland…

Where is Croatian film in the region today? There seems to be a notion that Croatian film is currently better than Serbian, Bosnian, Slovenian, but lacking behind Romanian and Hungarian cinematography?

I cannot speak of movies in such a way. I cannot recall when I saw a good Hungarian movie last, and some of the better known Romanian ones I don’t find so good. I don’t know who speaks of cinematographies in such a way and I believe a very small number of people has a chance to see them before they come to TV, if ever. DVD is gone, they are rarely in cinemas, except at festivals. Festival elites have their own taste which is a magical circle, winners are often made into jury members the next year and they choose movies with similar topics and approaches… There are movies everywhere made on purpose for festivals. What is important is that we have a well arranged cinematography since the Croatian Audio Visual Centre (HAVC) has been around and I know our neighbours would love to achieve the standard we set. I hope things will be even better, we have a large number of excellent authors in healthy competition and I am personally glad there are more new names among directors and scenario writers. We definitely have international festival successes which have propelled Croatian movies among the top of European production.

Will the Osmi Povjerenik make us laugh, as we all expect, or make us depressed and deeply pensive?

It will make you laugh, cry very likely, but no room for depression. I promise. Maybe nostalgia. And I would be very happy if after seeing it, it remained in people’s heads for some time and nudges them to think about people they love and the time they have left with them.

Have a look at the trailer:

Translated from Večernji List.


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