Crowdpleaser Koko and the Ghosts triggers nostalgia
by Vladan Petkovic
30/12/2011 - Danijel Kušan's Koko and the Ghosts has become the second-highest local grosser in the last ten years in Croatia, after selling 69,061 admissons in 10 weeks on release and earning a gross BO of €201,244.
The children’s film is based on the novel by the director’s father Ivan Kušan, who also co-wrote the script. First published in 1958, the book is required reading in Croatian elementary schools, and a cult item for all generations. So, the decision to set the film in the early 1980s was clever, as that was the time when the parents of today’s schoolchildren first read the book.
Boy Koko (Antonio Parač) moves from his home village to Zagreb with parents (Ozren Grabarić, Dijana Vidušin), sister Marica (Nina Mileta) and loyal dog. They move into an apartment which previously belonged to an old miser (Predrag Vušović, in his last role) who died in mysterious circumstances. The place appears to be infested with ghosts, and Koko starts to investigate with help of school friends Zlatko (Kristian Bonačić) and Miki (Filip Mayer) and old friend from back home Božo (Ivan Maltarić).
The film’s period recreation is impeccable, and will bring nostalgia for anyone who remembers 1980s Zagreb or even Yugoslavia, for that matter. Kušan directs patiently, with carefully measured rhythm and special attention to children’s faces. The most surprising element are the kids’ performances: there is barely a trace of usual excuses that pass for childrens’ acting. They are all, led by maturely nuanced Parać, exceptionally convincing. Among adults, Rakan Rushaidat is excellent as the police inspector. There is also a strong musical score by Dinko Appelt, which finely rounds off the picture.
Koko and the Ghosts recently won the second prize at the Schlingel International Film Festival for Children and Young Audiences in Chemnitz. Production company Kinorama is planning four more Koko films based on the rest of the series of novels.