Who’s Afraid of STIFF?

Is fear the ailment of modern society? Is closing in and hiding its symptom? This year, STIFF asks whether we can talk about what scares us most through film programme. Can we use brave films to look the beast in the eye and take away its power? We’ll be searching for answers in 45 films of all genres (fiction, documentary, animated, experimental, hybrid) from 20 countries of the world, organised in 10 programme slots over four days of the festival. We will not be watching horror movies, but rather smart works of students and debutants from world-renowned schools that have already been screened at festivals like Mostra, Berlinale, Vision du Réel, Leipzig, Cannes… It is a long list of films with accolades from many festivals, all shown in Croatia for the first time. In shocking, humorous, poetic, brave and metaphorical ways, these films look at the little guy in the vortex of contemporary society.

The Unusual Bath of Mister Otmar, Niko Radas, animation, Croatia, 2019

Cherry on top

At the very opening of the festival we set the bar high – our guests this year come from Diversions International Short Film Festival (DISFF) with three films out of competition. Remember Metropolis, Lang’s 1927 masterpiece? What would it look like today? The answer is All Inclusive by Swiss author Corina Schwingruber Ilić, showing us a world distanced from reality, a huge cruise-ship and “life” aboard. Heba Khaled follows with People of the Wasteland, made with GoPro cameras affixed to the helmets of fighters in Syria, a documentary which eerily resembles a video game. Finally, The Unusual Bath of Mister Otmar differs from other animated films in competition because it was made with the help of over 70 inmates of the Zagreb Psychiatric Hospital, telling a story inspired by Otmar P, a patient of the hospital in the Fifties.

After the out-of-competition films and the first programme slot featuring excellent The Blackgod, a documentary about the leader of a nationalistic organisation in western Ukraine, the audience can participate in Hot Topics, discussing migration and social change issues. These late-night talks will follow programme slots “The Pack” (17 October) and “Things We Don’t Talk About” (19 October), latter inspired by themes of sexuality, violence and identity in films Monster, Worth Every Penny, Elephant in the Room and When I’m at Home.

Regional authors – guests of this year’s STIFF

STIFF always pays special attention to regional authors and their work. Connecting authors from the region and development of regional film industries are important features of our festival. Fearlessly we put regional authors in competition with international peers and are happy to be able to welcome them to present themselves and their work to the audience. We are very honoured that almost all authors will be present at this year’s edition and will engage with the audience.

Ivana Todorović, awarded documentarist, presents her first fiction film, a very personal story that took a long time to make – When I’m at Home. Nikola Stojanović, this year’s winner of student competition at Sarajevo Film Festival, presents Dog Days of Summer, a story of a teenager that, moving to California, leaves everything behind, including her war-time childhood. Renata Lučić brings an autobiographical voyeuristic journal As far as our Feet Take Us that shows a family that was never really together fall apart.

What dark secrets are kept by wild boys that dismissed the adult world? The Vine by Ivan Đurović, winner of Grand Prix for best Serbian short fiction and Best Cinematography Award at 65th Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival, will be presented by producer Jelena Pranić. Animated Grow up to be a Little Tree, a minimalistic metaphor of migrations, will be presented by its author Noemi Ribić, last years STIFF Jury member.

We are very happy to present Restart’s School of Documentary Film with three film in competition at this year’s STIFF. Bernarda Cenkovčan will present Happy Birthday, Mom!, Nikolina Bogdanović will talk about her granny leaving the country in experimental documentary The Place I am Writing You Letters From, while Ivan Grgur is battling with his own hypochondria in highly stylised documentary Probably Dead.

Proxima-B, Stefan Bürkner, fiction, Germany, 2018.

Returning authors

STIFF is proud to present The Kite, animated film that had its world premiere at Berlinale, by Martin Smatana, winner of special mention for Rosso Papavero at second STIFF in 2015. Also returning is Tuuli Teelahati from Finland, this time with documentary film A Life from Death about quotidian living beside death in a Finnish nursing home. Nikica Zdunić will take part of STIFF for the third time, this time with award-winning fiction film Soviet Space Dogs. Anna Ottlik was at our festival in 2015 with a film in competition, in 2016 she was a STIFF Jury member, and this year she is presenting her new animated film Prime Numbers.

Do not miss

On the second day of the festival, in the programming slot “Levitation” (starting at 9PM), the multi-awarded Proxima-B is a stunning piece of cinematography with storyline set entirely in space. On the third day of the festival, in the programming slot “The Blast” (7:30PM), Jupiter is set firmly on Earth in the midst of religious fanaticism, where a teenage girl has to decide whether to follow her parents in the fatal procedure of transfer to Jupiter where higher existence allegedly awaits them. That same slot brings us San Miguel by Cris Gris from Mexico, while on the fourth day of the festival be sure to watch Time Machine by Jan Bujnowski from Poland, a clever and funny documentary about a 55-year-old lonely child (“Equilibrium” slot at 9PM).