Croatian Film Association’s transition to digital environments

The Croatian Film Association (CFA) already had ambitious plans for film education in the challenging era of a new school curriculum. Now, the ongoing pandemic situation is pushing CFA to its limits to develop modified programs overnight.

Under normal circumstances, we would organise our Film EDUcation program in cinema Tuškanac with more than 150 students watching and analyzing features. Last year we had only one week to prepare its online equivalent. This is what it looked like. We partnered with the platform on which our participants could watch Croatian shorts, to be analyzed and interpreted afterward with on-demand video and interactions.

A year later, having already received substantially positive feedback, In CFA, we decided to switch to that concept altogether. This time, we partnered with Factum, the leading Croatian independent documentary production house. The concept of Film EDUcation was revised and was now live again, but how do you handle a live introductory chat, a feature film screening, and film analysis with more than 200 participants on your screen? Ana Đordić (film lecturer): “In this winter cycle, I was again thrilled by the fact that so many young people are ready to further their education during their winter vacation – voluntarily! They could have chosen to spend their holidays at leisure, but they chose Film EDUcation. Namely, these are the kids who will be the bearers of positive changes in our society.

In between those two events, the CFA launched a new platform in June. Filmska naSTAVa @ online offers primary and secondary school students and educators the opportunity to watch a series of short films made by young filmmakers, awarded at the Croatian Children’s Film Festival and the Four River Film Festival. With short clips, the lecturers from Film EDUcation introduce the viewers to the creative world of young filmmakers and motivate teachers to guide their students through a discussion, based on pre-designed questions, shaped according to specialised methodological templates. Afterward, students can watch the movies once again and embark on a closer, individual and interactive analysis. Through this platform, we managed to breathe a new life into films made by children and youngsters after the festival season is over.

Another Croatian festival season is about to start, with the Four River Festival (FRFF) as its biggest international flagship. The FRFF is an international festival dedicated to high school films – in other words, films made by youngsters (14-20). The Youth Film Festival is the national version of the event, organised simultaneously in the “city of four rivers”, Karlovac. Both festivals offer programmes of films made by youngsters in the undeniably “best cinema theatre in the world”. 

Last year we were preparing two options. In plan A, all the guests would have been present in our little town on the four rivers and we would have celebrated the opening night on the banks of river Korana with more than 200 participants from around the world. In plan B, all of this was to happen online, and this is the approach we had to employ, proving it can be done successfully. Except, no mosquitos were buzzing around in the open-air cinema. So, this year we are hoping more than ever to welcome you all in Karlovac!

Two more of CFA’s festivals, the Croatian Children’s Film Festival and the Croatian Film Festival went principally online, with workshops being organised offline. These festivals travel from town to town each year, so it is particularly important to have at least a part of the programme in the traditional offline form if at all possible. Last year the people of Mali Lošinj were able to get a taste of children’s filmmaking. 

Considering the significant outreach, audience development, and event branding provided by the digital channels, our plan is to make at least a part of the future festival and educational content available online. The films made by young people will continue to reach significantly more viewers, receive more publicity, which should, in turn, motivate youth to learn more about filmmaking and take part in film activities. The digital potential is limitless, it’s up to us to make use of it – to be creative and to stand out.

Editor’s note: Sanja was one of the speakers during our recent Wednesday Webinar on Media Literacy in Croatia, you can find a recording of the whole webinar here.


Sanja Zanki Pejić

Head of festival and educational programs at the Croatian Film Association, Croatia