Writer/director Damjan Kozole
2005 is the 100th anniversary of Slovenian film, which, for such a small country (2million and counting) in, as they like to say, "the heart of Europe," should be an excuse for celebration. During the post war period, when the country was part of Tito's Yugoslavia, terrific films were being made, matching the quality of Polish and Hungarian cinema. Since independence, the tradition of low budget, neo-realistic, human interest stories, often laced with humour, has continued.
At Edinburgh's Filmhouse a Slovenian Season of six films is showing. They include the Sixties classic Dance In The Rain, the slacker comedy Idle Running which stars the screenwriter Jan Cvitkovic and Damjan Kozole's tough expose of people smuggling, Spare Parts, that has won awards all over the world.
Kozole was in Edinburgh for the screenings. Spare Parts is set in his hometown, Krsko, famous for its nuclear power plant, pollution and unemployment. He has been dubbed "a veteran Slovenian punk rocker." His defence is that in a place like Krsko, what else was there to do? He made his first independent feature, The Fatal Telephone, when he was 22.
He says his films are not political and yet they can't help being, because they address contemporary problems head on. His latest, Labour Equals Freedom, that has already won the lead actor an award at the prestigious Sarajevo Film Festival, is concerned with EU membership and redundancy. After the international success of Spare Parts, a TV company asked him if he had a script, because they wanted to finance it. He said yes, which wasn't true. He wrote the screenplay in less than a week and made the film in 15 days for 150,000 euros. "You have to be tough to be a film director." Really?
He says his films are not a good advertisement for his country, which means they explore the reality behind the facade, much like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh do in Britain. He likes to use comic touches to bring out the humanity in dark situations, but found it wasn't possible in Spare Parts because of the subject matter. "It was a question of morality."
Judging by this short season, Slovenia, which makes between four and five films a year, is more concerned with quality than quantity. What about Hollywood? "I would rather stay where I am, with what I know." The future for Kozole and the Slovenian film "industry", as the country enters the European Union, looks bright.