Intervju        IVAN MARINOVIĆ

Black Pin (Igla ispod praga):
This is the English translation of the interview published in December 2016 Camera Lucida issue

"Only with good people, who are willing to give you more than just profesionalism, can you make a low budget film"

plakat The Black Pin

Debut feature by director Ivan Marinović, Black Pin (Igla ispod praga), had its premiere in the competition programme at 22nd Sarajevo Film festival, after which it continues its dynamic festival life of the most successful and the most exciting post-Yugoslav Montenegrin feature film, winning many awards at international festivals, and heading to many international cinema premieres.

Black Pin, written and directed by Marinovic, is simultaneously a black comedy and an intimate drama about small Mediterranean peninsula inhabitants on the Montenegrin coast, who are trying to sell a big land parcel and thereby solve all their existential problems.

The only obstacle to their plan is a stubborn priest Petar who refuses to sell his part. By meticulous, sophisticated and carefully contrived mise-en-scène, with a formidable film crew, the film succeeds in its portrayal of various contradictions of the Montenegrin society: from traditional customs and rituals – secular and clerical, infantile naivety and superstition, to patriarchal mentality and fake morals of “urban capitalism” – the clash of “old” and “new” worlds, both permeated by hypocrisy, narcissism and “new brand” capitalist corruption.

The film is a co-production of Adriatic Western, EED productions, Ministry of Culture of Montenegro and Film Centre of Serbia, with the support of Turist Organisation of Herceg Novi and Luštica Bay Montenegro.

We met after Marinović’s return from Los Angeles, where the film was screened as a Montenegrin candidate for the Oscar, attracting attention of many media, but also of some Academy members in a packed cinema, and talked about the meaning of film authorship, local and international production context, finishing a film in the harsh Balkans conditions, the present (and, possibly, the future) state of Montenegrin cinema, audience reactions, nomadic life and much more.

CL: Your debut film Black Pin is the most successful Montenegrin feature film so far: the film has a dynamic festival life and you’ve just come back from Hollywood. Has it ever occurred to you that your debut feature might be the Montenegrin candidate for the Oscar?  

Ivan Marinović: To be honest, only a few films get produced in Montenegro, so the criteria for the candidacy weren't so high.

However, what surprised me were the reactions of the members of the Academy - they were much better than I could ever imagine. I went there with an inferiority complex, knowing that in the same batch of films one can find "Neruda", "Fuocoammare" and "Elle", and I returned with a completely new perception both of myself and of my film. People there fell in love with the film, and we really had a chance to be shortlisted. None of these facts would I know if I hadn't hired publicists who organised an additional screening, where I had a chance to meet 20 Academy members in person. To some of them, my film was in top 5 for this year.

Our problem was the fact that the money arrived late, then there was the Thanksgiving, and in the end we only had 5-6 days for campaigning. If we’d had a budget and time for 2-3 more screenings, we would have had a great chance to be on the shortlist. But such monumental success would be impossible to achieve for the Montenegrin film industry, with a chaotic last minute fundraising campaign. Other regional cinematographies automatically have their fairly composed budget for such campaigns, and I had to fund-raise for a month, which was a waste of really precious time. In any case, the experience, and the connections I made in Los Angeles will certainly be a valuable asset for my career. I met a couple of studio executives, I held a master class at Chapman University, met a couple of good agents, and I had the pleasure of getting accolades from people who worked with Sam Peckinpah, Orson Welles, Ridley Scott, and other greats.

CL: Black comedy a difficult genre to make and you dared do just that, although the film resists strict genre classifications. When did you decide to make a comedy?

Ivan Marinović: A true comedy comes from rage, anger and despair felt towards society and life. When you feel hopeless because of your surroundings, life or even yourself, the only thing left to do, in order to find some peace of mind is to twist your perception with irony, sarcasm, satire and a whole lot of screwing around.

Balkan people did not master their humor by chance. Humor helped us survive and it helped us to keep at least a little bit of our mental health. People are wrong when they think that comedy writers are sunny and happy people. If comedies are any good, they will never be cheerful, they will be cynical and bitter. If they have enough of the anger, comedy will ripe. If they are lacking  anger, it doesn't cut too deep.

Genre-wise, my film is not so strictly defined. Comedy is a matter of intelect, but besides that it involved a lot of my emotions and intimacy. So the film moves between those two fields from situatuon to situation. It allows you to laugh, but also to identify with the characters. Making such a film is a very delicate thing to do, there is no certainty that it will work since the genre boundaries don't help you out anymore. After the premiere, Mina Đukić wrote - "Who laughs at the beginning from his throat, by the end will laugh out of his stomach" (meaning that the comedy that derives from jokes and gags will turn into something deeper and unsettling). I am grateful for that aknowledgement. One critic from Macedonia stated that "The Black Pin" is a funny drama, and a serious comedy. All reviews aknowledged that, and I am very happy how we balanced the whole thing.

In the end of our process, after seeing the film, Nikola Ristanovski perhaps gave the most precise statement in that context - that life is genreless, and we were painting life.

CL: Your debut already foreshadows a singular and refreshingly original authorial style, making it stand out among recently made Montenergin films. What role did your international education play in the creation of your idiosyncratic authorial expression?

Ivan Marinović: It was extremely important. Only when I reached Prague I got exposed to the incredible Czech cinematic tradition. Above all, it was lovely to live in Italy and Czech Republic since those countries didn't give in to kitsch as much as the Balkans countries did. Their tradition and their culture protected them. In that sense, we are completely lost.

On my first day at FAMU, I saw two films "Obhod na korze" by Jana Kadar i Elmar Klos, and  "Lasky jedne Plavovlasky" by Miloš Forman, and I was blown away by the poetics, language, humor and strength of those films. I completely subjected myself to that school and to my mentors there, and what I got in return is priceless. Probably, my most important gain was the fact that they prepared me for a great flexibility when it comes to making films. They gave me the craftmanship thanks to which I can adapt to the the miserable productions in Montenegro, so that I can take most of what you can get and what you can find here. That is why I am particularly happy that "The Black Pin" comes across as a rich and lavish production. We made it for pennies, and production-wise we felt like walking a tightrope all the time.

When it comes to influences, I keep recognising other things that formed my taste, besides film. Before studying at film school, I graduated industrial design in Milano. There, I learned crucial things about logic and order of things, preparations, structure, and profesionalism, and that has become the foundation of my thought when it comes to everything in life.



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