A Film a Week - The Boss: The Beginning / Gazda: Početak

When Dario Juričan’s début documentary feature The Boss came out in 2016. its subject Ivica Todorić was still considered the captain of industry and his company Agrokor, even though burdened with huge debt to foreign creditors, simply too big to fall. The situation now is somewhat different: Todorić is a fugitive from the law and a blogger exposing his private and professional connections with different Croatian administrations and Agrokor, still too big to fail, fell under the state-sponsored management trying to “solve the crisis”. It is safe to assume that he did not fall from grace because of the documentary itself, but let us hope that it at least contributed, even as “bad press” about the topic. However, until recently, the film did not have a regular distribution and was not shown on television since media did not want to upset “The Boss” and his friends in high politics, which is a textbook example of corruption in Croatian society.

Anyhow, Juričan and his investigating team decided to go further in the past and examine another big boss, the one who got filthy rich in the time of war using his political connections, the one who is actually convicted by the court of law. The subject of The Boss: The Beginning is Miroslav Kutle, the tycoon from the deep 90’s and the boss of the first wave of privatization in Croatia. His Globus Group was involved in different branches of business, from restaurants, bakeries, retailing, media, real-estate and so on, intertwined with banking and financial industry on the national level and sanctioned, if not by the government, than by the structures of the party in power. Kutle made most of his money by draining the firms he acquired “for peanuts”, through financial scam or by government decision. He now lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina where he walks freely due to legal loopholes.

The chief value of the film is an informative one, both for Croatian viewers to remind themselves of the chaotic privatization and the regional ones to get some kind of insight to it. Juričan constructed the story around his subject and gave us a look into the different aspects of society that was too concentrated on war, politics and nationalist propaganda to see a robbery going on masked as the transition from socialist to free market system, with all the “creative accounting”, threats of violence, and plain old forgery included. His choice of persons he interviewed is more than interesting and covers all the spectre politically and intellectually, from washed-up politicians, war-time buffoons, douchebags and nitwits (some of them actually defending Kutle after all) to respected lawyers and journalists.

Aside of talking heads in the interviews and rarely used archive material, Juričan fills the gaps with situational shots of cities and city streets, empty, devastated buildings and footage of his travelling by car or bike and his investigating in archives. From the cinematic point of view, The Boss: The Beginning is a run of the mill news documentary, almost ideal for television, but not inspired and inspiring enough for the big screen, with the graphic of rats leaving the screen by the end of the film being its only comment.

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