Dir/scr: Ognjen Svilicic. Cro-Ger-Bos. 2007. 82mins.
A low-key Balkan film may seem like a contradiction in terms, given the ebullient energy of the cinema produced in that part of the world, but there is no better way to describe Ognjen Svilicic's second feature.
Something of a surprise after his raucous debut Sorry For Kung Fu, this story of a father and son who travel from their village in Bosnia to Zagreb for a screen test hardly raises a ripple as it quietly proceeds from village to town and back again.
It is supposed to be an encounter between two different worlds, but ultimately is a sentimentally whispered, not always evident, drama which only delivers its secrets towards the end.
A remarkable performance by Emir Hadzihafizbegovic as the father redeems the excessively undemonstrative script from flatness but its best prospect are Balkan film events and specialised circuits.
In all fairness, there is a lot of background material that seems to have been invested here, but never allowed to fully bloom on the screen.
Ibro and his son Armin (Omerovic-Muhedin), who live in a small village, undergo a cultural shock when they head it Zagreb for a tryout for a German TV show as they are put up by the production in a five star hotel.
Initially Ibro seems a stage father who wants a rich and famous son; a ridiculous notion as Armin looks like a clumsy fiercely introverted country bumpkin with little prospects of TV stardom.
The relationship between the generations is strange. Father is protective and pushy, though cowered by the unfamiliar international ambience in which he has suddenly landed; his son is eager for a shot at fame and glory, but too shy and scared to express it.
Waiting for the test, they sit around, walk around the big city, eat in restaurants and sleep after watching TV.
An inkling that there is something more in this relationship than meets the eye is introduced early on, then left dormant to melodramatically be revived during the screen test.
At this point, as if to add another dimension to this subdued father and son portrait, an epilogue comes up to show how far the West is from understanding and respecting the Balkans.
Luckily Hadzihafizbegovic, valiantly assisted by Omerovic-Muhedin, strikes just the right tone. Since they are practically in every shot, they hold it together through a complicated rapport which fluctuates during the course of the film. Technical credits are functional.
Busse & Halberschmidt