A Film a Week - Zagreb Equinox / Zagrebački ekvinocij

Zagreb Equinox, premiering in the new Kontrapunkt sidebar of Pula, certainly does not lack ambition to be a proper, kinetic youth-themed film and one of the first of its kind in Croatia. What could possibly be considered as a major problem somewhere else, like the lack of financial means (apparently, the film was shot with no budget to speak of, and the money obtained through the crowdfunding campaign - less than 1 500 € - was spent entirely on sandwiches for the cast, crew and extras) and the formal filmmaking education for the complete crew, here is actually turned into one of the major advantages. In his feature-length debut, Svebor Mihael Jelić sure-handedly channels the voice of his generation.

It is the night of Spring Equinox and Lena (Lena Medar) is throwing a party assisted with a crew of her friends. The party is about to take place in the flat of the semi-legendary urban dude Klas who left it to all the youth in Zagreb before leaving for Switzerland. So the crew of six is divided in three couples and tasked with different things regarding the preparations. Lena and Maša (Lana Bogović) should prepare the place and welcome the first guests. Mrva (Patrik Gregurec) and Kači (Mislav Valsim) should arrange the booze and the music, Lena's personal favourite Miki Souls (whose song is actually used as the theme and who appears in a cameo later on). And finally, Blagi (Tin Blagojević) and Luna (Luna Pilić) should score enough weed to keep all the guests happy. Simple enough, what could possibly get wrong?

Actually, almost everything. The party gets crowded and noisy really quickly, which does not sit well with the nosy neighbour (Ksenija Marinković, seen in a number of Croatian films recently), and the guests do not seem to be satisfied with the lack of ganja. Lena is getting nervous because her friends are running late and Maša's crush on a local player. Mrva and Kači are getting into every sort of trouble, involving an Uber driver, a bus conductor and police due to Mrva's Devil-may-care attitude and Kači's good-boyish unpreparedness for that kind of stuff. On the other side of the town, Blagi and Luna cannot score any weed since all the major dealers are either arrested or in hiding, so they have to search for the guy nicknamed Lepi (Croatian for "Pretty") who has the habit of popping up at places and disappearing randomly.

What Jelić tries to sell as a typical night in Zagreb is clearly devised from a number of anecdotes of a number of people but, frankly, it does not matter. First of all, most of us who still remember our youth years have had similar, or even much worse experiences at and around parties, apart from hearing even crazier stuff happening. Secondly, it is handled with ease and good instinct by him as a director and his young crew that it feels completely genuine and believable. The kinetic camerawork of Hrvoje Bazina fits the purpose perfectly and the editing handled by the director himself together with Karlo Oto Lekić, Adam Mišković and Laura Pascu is smooth enough in the terms that all three couples never overstay their welcome on the screen.

On the other hand, there is still some room for improvement regarding the dialogues that sometimes get too clunky and the work with actors whose line delivery feels a bit stiff at places. Production values are also somewhat modest, but it is still a success having in mind that the whole film was made for free and powered by sheer enthusiasm. Jelić does good to include some of the cheap, but elegant-looking graphics to make the looks of the film more appealing and it is a pity he forgets about them in the middle section of the film.

The real success is, however, securing some of the recognizable Croatian actors for bit parts, so we get to see Drago Ćosić as a former punk-rocker turned cop and Goran Grgić as a Uber driver with a grudge interacting with a TV comedian Marko Petar Orešković as a public transportation controller and Ozren Grabarić as a straight-faced police officer. That shows that, after Zagreb Equinox, Jelić and his collective might have a bright future in Croatian cinema.

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