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BLACK NIGHTS 2020 Competition

Dalibor Matanić • Director of The Dawn

“Compassion, love and tolerance remove all the toxins”

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- We talked to Croatian filmmaker Dalibor Matanić on the occasion of the world premiere of his newest film The Dawn in competition at Tallinn Black Nights

Dalibor Matanić • Director of The Dawn
Director Dalibor Matanić (centre) on the set of The Dawn

Dalibor Matanić is one of the most prolific contemporary Croatian filmmakers and he is responsible for what might be the biggest success for Croatian cinema since the country’s independence with The [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile
]
High Sun [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile
]
(2015), which won the Jury Award in the Un Certain Regard competition in Cannes. The film is the first part of an intended trilogy and its “sequel”, The Dawn [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dalibor Matanić
film profile
]
, is now competing at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: In The High Sun, you dealt with the past and the present. In The Dawn, you are looking into the near future. Is it easier to analyse the past or to predict and imagine the future?
Dalibor Matanić: In The Dawn, I continue to explore the question of how much we can influence our reality through art. Could we avoid the historical formula that teaches us that, every 40 or 50 years, a new conflict occurs in South-Eastern Europe, with the rise of intolerance and different extremisms? Is there any courage and knowledge that could allow us to spot new populists and fascists, who might have simply changed the uniforms they’re wearing? I rely on the mathematical check-up of the past in order to predict the future, but 2020 showed us that the future is unpredictable, unknown and prone to generating a feeling of insecurity. While preparing The Dawn, I did not believe that my own “dark tomorrow” would actually come tomorrow. Nevertheless, I do what I do because I believe that the people at the end just want love, hope and peace, and those things that keep this planet alive.

The Dawn is set in the same region as The High Sun, and shows a division between “us” and “them” once again, but this time, the dividing line is not just ethnic. In what ways is the Croatian society of today and tomorrow divided?
Like everywhere else in the world, society is divided between those who hide in the crowd and fear to look in the mirror and face their fears and frustrations, and those who are braver. Croatia is on the road to modernisation and people are more aware that, if someone says what a “big Croat” they are, there is something suspicious about it. The Sun Trilogy is about sins and absolution within the three generations of my family. The High Sun was about my grandmother, The Dawn is about my father, The Dusk will be about me. The least I can do is to repent for the darkness that existed in my family. I am not interested in the sins of my “neighbours”, but in the sins committed by my nation and the possibility of absolution for the evil that we do.

The connection to The High Sun is not just the milieu, but also the style, the cinematographer, the lead actress… This time, however, we do not have a triptych. Or do we?
There is a triptych, in the soul of the protagonist and in the contraptions he falls into while trying to complete himself as a person in order to deal with the challenges of new, turbulent times. During the 30s, the Nazis were speaking to dissatisfied people who were hungry, unemployed, uneducated and frustrated. It was not hard to turn those people into beasts. Europe is facing these challenges again. If the pandemic results in economical collapse, would the beasts surface again, encouraged by populism and fake news? The calm and completed man will surpass the extremists, that is the primary goal of our protagonist Matija.

Did you have the cast in your mind even before the production stage of the film?
I admit that I did. I even modified some scenes so they would better fit the actors. From the beginning, I knew that Tihana Lazović was the muse of this trilogy, and I tailor her characters according to her acting instincts. I adore the actors and I hope they feel that love. The extra touch in The Dawn are the duo of the Slovenian actors, Marko Mandić and Nataša Matjašec Rošker — whose acting style is on the verge of the performance, blurring the lines between the theatre and the cinema.

Even in the apocalypse, you manage to find beauty, in order to confront tragedy with joy. The so-called joy you portray, however, is quite toxic and destructive. How come?
We do not know what the “new evil”, the new vampire, fascist or demon, looks like. Is it right- or left-wing? Which uniforms are dangerous? Will the people who are coming to guide us be laughing or self-serious? In a world saturated with information, where artificial visual attraction dictates content, we do not know what “the new Hitler” looks like. The thing we know is that compassion, love and tolerance remove all the toxins. With my films, I am striving to keep the world stable.

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