Kristina Kumrić’s Half a Man premieres at 41st Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto, September 11th – The short film Half a Man premiered in the Short Cuts competition programme of the 41st Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday. This film is a result of the One Picture from the Homeland War project which was initiated by the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. The film has garnered a great deal of interest from both the press and the public, and the screening was followed by great applause. Attending the premiere were director Kristina Kumrić, screenwriter Maja Hrgović, lead actress Janja Avdagić and French co-producer Hélène Mitjavile.

Half a Man is set in the Dalmatian hinterland in the fall of 1991 and is the story of two girls awaiting the return of their father who spent the last three months in a concentration camp. “War is something that is so big that it seems practically abstract. I wanted to approach this theme on a micro-level, and concentrate on the experiences of dying, trauma and loss. I think that’s why the story communicates even with those viewers who have no connection to this region,” said Kristina Kumrić, the film’s director, at the premiere.

The film generated a lot of interest from the foreign press: numerous positive critiques were published on specialized film portals, and the Canadian magazine The Gate said the film is one of the 25 best short films of the more than 100 that will be screened at this year’s TIFF. “What viewers can most relate to is not necessarily the war experience, but the trauma and loss,” said Maja Hrgović, writer and journalist, who found inspiration for the film from events from her own childhood. “I can speak about the film openly and relaxed because we are discussing themes that the story reflects: growing up, family relations, patriarchy, wounded male dignity, and the silence behind it all. I think those are the elements that make this story go beyond the local framework.”

There was also a lot of talk about Janja Avdagić, the 10 year-old from Šibenik, and her first time in front of the cameras. “Foreign journalists are impressed with the fact that such a young person has such capacity to portray the complexity of what was happening: her ability to build up her anger in doses so you can see that, sooner or later, she will explode,” noted both Kumrić and Hrgović. Janja Avdagić, who only saw the film for the first time in Toronto, said, “I had a great time at the premiere. While I watched myself on the big festival screen I laughed so hard every time I appeared and said something. The other films I watched were a bit boring.”

Half a Man is produced by Restart, with the French production company Melocoton Films and the Croatian artistic organisation Kinoljetka as co-producers. The film is a result of the One Picture from the Homeland War project initiated by the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, in co-operation with HRT (Croatian Radio Television), the Croatian Writers Society and the Vukovar Film Festival. The aim was to find a story that could artistically articulate direct and indirect experiences from the Homeland War, and Kristina Kumrić’s film was the first project selected for production.

Half a Man is screening in the Short Cuts programme, the short film competition of the Toronto International Film Festival. The 41st edition is taking place from September 8th to 18th, 2016. The winners will be selected by American writer and director Abteen Baghery, Quebecois filmmaker Jeff Barnaby and French film director Eva Husson who, last year, screened her controversial debut feature film Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) at the TIFF.

Along with Half a Man, two Croatian minority co-productions will also be screening at this year’s TIFF: The Day My Father Became a Bush by Dutch film director Nicole van Kilsdonk (Kids programme) and Sieranevada by Romanian director Cristi Puiu (Masters programme), while Croatian producer Anita Juka participated in the Producers Lab, organized by European Film Promotion.

Materials from the film can be found at this link.

Cover photo: Kristina Kumrić, Maja Hrgović and Janja Avdagić

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