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Tribute to Jan Cvitkovič
The journey of a graduate archaeologist and one of the most internationally acclaimed independent Slovenian filmmakers, Jan Cvitkovic, started by chance and a spontaneous decision which brought unexpected success, as the director claims himself. After winning a screenwriting competition for short films, he and his friend, Janez Burger (graduate of the Prague Film Academy) wrote a full-length film, Idle Running (1999), where he also played the main role of a lazy eternal student who starts to ponder trying to do something about his life after ten years of life in a college dormitory. The independent black-and-white film, which was also screened at the Karlovy Vary IFF in the main competition, became a critically acclaimed unprecedented audience hit in Slovenia, and an impulse for Cvitkovic to start his own filmmaking career. That follows the line of a unique auteur point of view, firmly anchored in the often contrasting circumstances of current Slovenian society. The films by the independent self-taught director are presented at international festivals and are praised by critics, which is unusually connected to the fact that his films are also audience hits, collecting audience awards left and right, just like his last year's Siska Deluxe at Cottbus festival. His approach to the film medium, growing more intense throughout his career, is to use it in its uniqueness, its pure film qualities. As Cvitkovic himself says: “More and more I am focused on films describing things that cannot be put in words. This is the meaning of film. To describe things that literature cannot. I am trying to get close to the feeling of the absolute.” His ten-minute long film, a part of his tribute at Febiofest which was introduced at the Venice IFF, Heart is a Piece of Meat (2003), uses purely cinematic narrative, depicting the fragile love of a shy, plump butcher without dialogue, only through precise work with subtle acting, image composition and editing rhythm, and expressive use of musical detail. Slovenian punk-rock contrasts with the melancholy of the inevitable fate of an alcoholic returning from rehab to his family in Cvitkovic's minimalist, black-and-white full-length debut. A winner at the Biennale in 2001, Bread and Milk reminds us of early films by Jarmusch not only thanks to its form. Gravehopping, an existential film about two quirky funeral speakers, continued his streak of festival triumphs with the award for the best film at the San Sebastian IFF and international acclaim. Developing philosophical motives and experimenting with his specific poetic style characterise his next feature film, Archeo, while Cvitkovic's latest film, Siska Deluxe which is a part of this year's Febiofest, in an exclusive Czech premiere, represents his return to the examination of male friendship among a trio of losers who face bad fortune with plans for opening a pizza place whose success in this comically feisty feature is prevented mostly by their incompetence. Most of Cvitkovic’s films can be described as tragicomedies, yet without the haze of conciliatory kindness which taints this pseudo-genre so often in Czech production. Cvitkovic's approach to his eccentric characters is remarkable in its empathy for their human weaknesses, which he examines in an “archaeological” way. Their grotesque absurdity often transforms into biting irony and tragic dramatic twists without any warning. Then, the viewer's amused smile freezes and the apt, crazy details of the carefully observed human bustle touches the key questions of our being through film narration.
 
 
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