Croatian filmmaker Antonio Nuić’s fourth feature film Mali had its international premiere in the competition of the 24th Sarajevo Film Festival.
The story is a continuation of his short film that was part of the 2004 anthology film on football hooligans, Sex, Drink And Bloodshed. We find the characters of that film 15 years later, and the anti-hero Frenki (played by Franjo Dijak) is now a drug dealer who just got out of prison and is pretending to be model parent so that he can keep custody over his son Mali (played by Dijak’s real-life son Vito).
Why did you decide to go back to the characters from 2004?
Those characters were created when I was student. Frenki, Boki [Bojan Navojec], Rakan [Rushaidat] and Kečo [Hrvoje Kečkeš] were acting students and I studied film directing. We made one student film where they played characters you see in Mali, only twenty years younger. In their youth they were all Bad Blue Boys, FC Dinamo Zagreb football fans, and everything that goes with it, boozing, fighting…
Mali catches them in the moment when party is over and life has kicked in. They have to work, behave responsibly and none of them is quite good at it. Frenki’s choice is crime. Mali, his son, follows him and goes even a step further.
There is a lot of talk right now in Croatia about education and upbringing of the young ones, a lot of talk and no action, so I wanted to ask a question: do we raise our kids by what we tell them or by what we do?
How did you work with actors, especially with Dijak and his son? Was there any improvisation between them?
We worked on a very tight schedule, so there was no time for improvisations, but the fact that they are actual father and son helped a lot, it’s visible in every move they make. Vito is a very talented young man and a very responsible one, there was no difference in working with him or working with any other of those very experienced actors we had on set.
Can you tell us a bit about the visual style of the film?
DoP Radislav Jovanov Gonzo and I decided to make a picture with lots of contrast, deep blacks and bright highlights. We felt it was the way to go with this film. The first week of the summer is roughly the time when the story takes place, lots of sun, lots of colours, an atmosphere exactly opposite of the story of the film. We stressed that with the look.
What was the biggest challenge in the production?
I wanted to shoot film while Vito, Mali, is still a boy, just few moments before puberty starts. We didn’t have any time for any broader co-production, because those are very time consuming. Two weeks after the shoot Vito’s voice started mutating.
So far you’ve made both arthouse and commercial films, as well as documentaries. What kind of cinema are you most interested in?
I’m interested in all film genres, and I will do everything in my power to make as many films of all types and genres as possible.
How do you see the current situation in Croatian cinema? There have been a lot of turbulences and changes after a period of stability.
It is bleak at the moment, but Croatian filmmakers had been through lot worse and managed to survive. We are a tough breed.