Gangster of Love explores serious issues with light approach
by Vladan Petkovic
- Croatian director Nebojša Slijepčević's documentary Gangster of Love won the Audience Award at the ninth ZagrebDox Festival
Croatian director Nebojša Slijepčević's first feature-length documentary film Gangster of Love [+see also:
film profile] opened the ninth ZagrebDox International Documentary Film Festival and won the audience award. The film's light, almost comedic tone puts it in the crowdpleaser category, but in its essence, it is a serious exploration of mentality, social issues and nature of relationships, particularly from the men's perspective.
The 'Gangster' in the title is Nedeljko Babić who got his nickname not because of criminal activity, but his resourcefulness which also enabled him to become the most successful matchmaker in Croatia with 290 arranged marriages in the career which spans 25 years. He is living in Imotski, a small town in the mountain region of Dalmatinska Zagora, a patriarchal society dominated by physically tough but emotionally closed off men who like to brag of their sexual conquests which are more often imaginary than not. This setting is also used in two recent fiction films from the territory, Vlatka Vorkapić's hit comedy Sonja and the Bull [+see also:
film profile] (news) and Damir Čučić's Pula Film Festival winner A Letter to My Father [+see also:
interview: Damir Cucic
Slijepčević is following Gangster in his attempt to find a match for Maya, a 33 year-old Bulgarian woman. She is good-looking and warmhearted, but she has a small son and that turns out to be the biggest obstacle for Croatian men. Some of them also have an issue with her not being Croatian. As failed matches pile up, and when Maya is about to lose all hope, Gangster finds Marin, who is 45, handsome and reasonably intelligent, and it appears that maybe she has finally found what she was looking for…
Gangster is a captivating character, and Slijepčević clearly has a talent to sniff out the right protagonists for a documentary. This is also evident in the choice of Maya as a contrast to all the would-be grooms featured in the film. And this is just a surface of an impressively thorough study of not only the Balkan men from rural parts, but of nature of relationships and expectations in today’s world. The fact that film registers as a comedy rather than a psychological drama is a huge plus for its potential distribution.
Co-produced by Croatia’s Restart and Fade In, Romania’s Subcultura Films and Germany’s Kloos & Co. with participation of ZDF/ARTE, Gangster of Love is next going to Toronto’s Hot Docs.
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