Kozole pic sheds light on rising regional filmmakers

Arriving at TIFF hot on the heels of its world premiere at the Sarajevo fest, “Slovenian Girl,” the latest feature from filmmaker Damjan Kozole, marks his latest attempt to chronicle the darker side of life in the former Yugoslavian nation — where everyone’s hustling, the strong mercilessly exploit the weak, and acts of individual charity rarely go unpunished.

Yet while many of his subjects are ripped from the headlines — 2003’s “Spare Parts” was about human trafficking; and “Labor Equals Freedom,” made for TV the next year, looked at the human cost of joining the European Union — his vision is leavened by flashes of pitch-black humor, an affection for his characters, even at their most reprehensible, and a subtle but undeniable craftsmanship.

With only two or three features produced a year, Slovenia’s industry remains something of an ad hoc affair. (“Every time you start,” laughs Kozole, “you feel like you’re back in 1895, trying to build something from scratch.”) But the self-taught helmer notes a growing awareness from Euro fest programmers: “We seem to be on their radar, at last.”

He also emphasizes the importance of Toronto — “by far the most important North American festival for us.” “Spare Parts” scored a U.S. release through Film Movement, and Kozole is hoping for similar distrib attention this time around. “The early reviews have been good, and people say this one has commercial potential — it’s not just another arthouse film,” he says. “But we’ll see.”

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