Review: That Other Village (2020)

courtesy of Liburnia Film Festival

In Balkans, the inflation of history is evident. It reflects not just in the national narratives prescribed by the elites, but also in the narratives that are strictly local. All the narratives have one thing in common: “we” are always the victims, while “they” are always the aggressors. The “wees” and the “theys” change depending on the nationality of the speaker and the local setting. Combined with the culture of silence, all of it has been pumped up to an extreme in the village of Španovica / Novo Selo in the Croatian region of Slavonia, which is the topic of the documentary written by Vesna Kesić and directed by Jadran Boban called That Other Village.

The film had its world premiere at the competition of Liburnia Film Festival, where it was awarded the Special Jury Mention. One might argue that the reason for the award lies primarily in the films importance within the national and regional framework, but the craft involved in making it is not inferior to its ethics.

After the opening by Maurice Halbwachs on the topic of memories that are not the firm reference values, but something changeable due to the context in which they were recalled, Boban and Kesić take us to Španovica, the place of horrible war crimes committed by all the sides involved in both the World War Two and the Yugoslav Civil War in the 90s. The demographic and geographic specifics of the village and its surroundings pretty much dictated the dynamics of ethnic tensions, war actions were always justified as the revenge for something in the recent or not so recent past, everybody has their own nationally coded truth, and the cycle is tough to break because there is little to no interest in an objective truth.

The foundation for the film are the researches of Vesna Kesić who sometimes appears on screen, but her findings are usually narrated by Jadranka Elezović. Kesić’s researches are usually based on the book by the local veterinarian and amateur historian Antun Erjavec, written in a clear and objective fashion, but contested by the local people on both sides. Jadran Boban’s work was practically centred on creating the visual and the auditive background for the information the viewers are served. The visual identity of the film is surprisingly gentle and focused on the nature, thanks to Srđan Kovačević’s camerawork and the fitting sound design by Dario Domitrović and Dušan Maksimovski. It could also serve as an illustration of the main point of the film: since Španovica and its surrounding villages are in danger to become deserted once the current inhabitants, usually the members of the older generation, die out, the nature is about to take over and heal itself from the toxic influence of humans and their hatred.

courtesy of Jadran Boban

Original title: Ono drugo selo
Year: 2020
Runtime: 73’
Country: Croatia
Language: Croatian
Directed by: Jadran Boban
Written by: Vesna Kesić
Narrated by: Jadranka Elezović
Cinematography by: Srđan Kovačević
Edited by: Jadran Boban
Sound design by: Dario Domitrović, Dušan Maksimovski
Colourist: Iva Kraljević
Produced by: Sabrina Krešić, Morana Komljenović
Production company: Fade In
Supported by: Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC)