Why Croatia cannot lay the past to rest?
Croatia is one of the countries created through the breakup of Yugoslavia. During its transition from "socialism" to "capitalism", Croatia was badly robbed by many who used the war as an alibi. The process generated about two hundred respectable families who turned the country, which used to be relatively rich at the end of the eighties, into one of the most corrupted and most indebted European states with the lowest economic growth.
One of the most important roles in the process of its transition from public to private was played by nationalism. It was used to blur the reality, to stupefy the people. One part of that process was to introduce the "culture of hate" towards anything that differs in sex, in worldview, in religion or in nationality.
All the statistics indicate that the number of educated citizens who emigrate from Croatia is bigger than in any other European country. Asked for their reasons, those people always reply: "I don’t want my children to grow up surrounded by hate".
The Croats and the Serbs
The main thing nationalism thrives on is the construction of myths about the past. And this region on the border between southeast Europe and the Balkans, which has been ruled by numerous big and small empires in the last dozen centuries, has never lacked "the past".
Two most populous people among the south Slavs, the Croats and the Serbs, shared a common past for barely seventy years – from 1918 to 1991. And in that short period they let themselves be filled with hatred by the politics to that degree that Ustashi, Croatian fascists that operated under control of the German Third Reich, committed an unprecedented genocide in an attempt to cleanse Croatia from the Serbs, who at that point comprised 18% of its people.
After the Second World War, the wounds were covered but never properly treated, and carried over into a "better life". The most recent war in the region, which took place some twenty years ago, stemmed from those festering wounds which, this time in Serbia, generated a new wave of mutual hate and reduced the number of Serbs in Croatia from 12.2% to 4.5%.
In short, the nationalism in Croatia, as well as in Serbia but in the opposite direction, has always been above anything else the hatred towards the Serbs and only after that towards the usual enemies – homosexuals, the Gypsies and the Jews.
The Catholic Church in Croatia, and the Orthodox one in Serbia have played one of the most important roles in the process, if not the main one. Together with those who "owned Croatia" they make people believe that being a member of our "glorious nation" is much more important than any individual, everyday economic status. For the last twenty some years this has worked perfectly and that is why "the past" as a valuable weapon is simply not allowed to rest.
Why am I making a film about that?
My wish is to make a film about the present moment in Croatian history, about its prevailing atmosphere of hatred and intolerance. Ante Tomic and I, as co-screenwriters who have quite extensive personal experiences with these attitudes, wish to tell that story through the lives of people who will never end up in newspapers or web portals, but thorough whom we can determine what the hatred thrives on and how it shapes people’s lives.
If there is something I have learned from the films I have made, it is that every story can be understood beyond one’s own geographical area and one’s own mental space if it is deeply rooted in its reality, in its space and, above anything else, in the mentality it comes from. Plus, if it is not trying to flatter the "world" by trying to simplify things in order to make them "more comprehensible" for someone out there. Only when audience faces the real people on the screen, even if they see them as complete strangers at first, can they compare their own lives with the lives of the protagonists, turn the lives of the protagonists into their own lives, into their own loves and hatreds.
On the other hand, intolerance and hatred are not unknown concepts in Europe in general. In the last couple of years, it is as if a new wave of intolerance, ideological blindness and fanaticism is spreading. An almost aggressive hatred between different nations, different religions, between natives and immigrants, between those who have and those who don’t have... it have been sweeping across Europe at a shocking speed.
If the saying "Hate is local!" is true, and I believe that it is, then every local hate, like the one this film is about, will be comprehensible to each person in Europe who has ever hated or been hated.
How am I going to make it?
"The Croatian Constitution" is a very intimate love story of four people who live in the same building in the center of Zagreb. It is a story of three people very different in terms of social status, sexual orientation, political views and in terms of the religions to which they do or do not belong. In our story, what connects them is not only the space they live in, but also their, often mutually confronted, demons from the past; demons which force them to live in the past rather than in the present.
I am aware that telling this kind of story is neither simple nor easy. I also know that such a story must be told in a direct and sometimes, even, harsh manner. And yet, my intention is simple – I want to deal with living people and not with dead ideas. That is the reason why my intention is not to create a "tragedy" out of this story and its protagonists. On the contrary, I wont to tell a story about those "difficult things" with a faint smile on our lips, with warm love one can feel even for the most negative among the characters. Only then can I reach the ones who think differently and see things differently, those who hate a priori and who do not doubt the hate they feel.