Andrija Mardešić and David Kapac • Directors of The Uncle
"Christmas is the greatest subliminal attack where form takes over substance"
- In their debut feature, the pair of filmmakers whisk us away to a hellish Christmas party in 1980s Yugoslavia
Andrija Mardešić and David Kapac are the exciting filmmaking duo from Croatia whose debut feature, The Uncle [+see also:
interview: Andrija Mardešić and David …
film profile], opened the newly established Proxima competition at Karlovy Vary. On that occasion, we sat down to talk to them.
Cineuropa: It seems that you both really love Christmas! Do you maybe have some shared trauma from those family festivities?
Andrija Mardešić and David Kapac: Family celebrations are always stressful. From preparing the food for days, to getting the tree that never seems to be right, to decorating it in a different way every year, only for it to turn up always the same freaky kitsch… Christmas is actually a holiday for which everybody, from the media and marketing, to the Church and the tradition, forces us to do something in order to feel better. Instead, everybody ends up fat, angry, frustrated and in conflict with the others, so everybody cannot wait for the whole thing to be over. Christmas actually represents the greatest subliminal attack to the subconsciousness where form takes over substance.
How come you got the idea to write and direct together a film that seems like such a singular vision?
Along with being good friends and sharing a lot of interests in music, movies, comic books etc, we have been cooperating on projects from the first year of our studies. We were assistant directors to each other on student projects, then we started writing together and directing music videos and other smaller projects together. Our graduation films are joint efforts, but we both gave our special note to them. We always joked that one “complete” filmmaker could be made of the two of us. So it is only logical that we joined forces to shine in our debut feature.
Did you have your complete cast in mind before going into production? Was Miki Manojlović your only choice for the title role?
All the members of our "family" are our friends and colleagues that we cooperated with since our studies, so we had them in mind when we wrote the parts. At first, we imagined the uncle as a much younger man, and during the casting process, in which we tried a number of excellent actors that we like, we realised that we wanted him to be older. When our producers asked us who we wanted for the part, we fired: Miki Manojlović. It seemed like a fantasy, but the producers had his e-mail and they sent him the script without much expectations. He replied very quickly, exalted with a script written by two young filmmakers whose works he never saw. The rest is history!
How present was the "diaspora mythology" that colours your film in your formative years?
Andrija is from Dalmatia, David is from the continental parts. Andrija’s family members took the ships to America and Australia, David’s used the highways to go to Germany, so our experience of the diaspora is quite different, but also almost the same. We were never among the “lucky” ones with the rich relatives abroad, but growing up in '90s Croatia, it was not hard to get in contact with that kind of mythology. We remember vividly how our relatives and acquaintances were coming to Croatia for the holidays, looking down on us like living abroad gave them the right to feel that they were better than us. Using phrases in English and German, pretending that they had forgotten Croatian… They were actually ridiculous. Growing up, we learned that all those lovely gifts, toys and candies we dreamed of and envied them for having were just some cheap things from gas stations and duty free shops. The same goes for the stories they were telling.
How did you get a hold of all those relics of the past, filming locations, decorations, the blue Mercedes, the camera and the video? That was a proper VHS tape that you used in the film, right?
Regarding the right house, we searched for it for so long that we started fearing that we would never find it. Luckily, our production designer and our dear friend from our studies reassured us. She and her team are also responsible for all those lovely period details in the film. They searched for them online and offline, and we insisted on some particular things we remembered from our childhood, and we believed that the audience would have the same reaction as we did. Nostalgia is a powerful tool. The sky-blue Mercedes is one of the last of its kind in Croatia. It belongs to a local mechanic who rebuilt it for himself, using parts from three different cars. Yes, the VHS in the film is real, and it was shot by the actors, mainly Miki Manojlović who proved himself to be a genius camera operator. The very camera is owned by Andrija's extended family and was used by Andrija back in the 1990s for his first attempts at filmmaking.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.