Dokukino (Zagreb)

Dokukino is a cinema exclusively dedicated to documentary filmmaking in Zagreb, handled by the organization RESTART which also takes care of promoting and distributing documentary films throughout Croatia, organizing education programs, and putting in place a training course for the creation of a documentary film from A to Z.

The story of Dokukino started in 2007 with the creation of the RESTART organization, which launched its activity with punctual education and awareness actions for documentary films. This orientation toward documentary is closely tied to the country’s story, where cinema was extremely important under Tito’s reign. On his death, the conflicts of the former Yugoslavia caused the fall of film production. “After the war, documentary films were the first to emerge again because they cost less to produce,” tells Inja Korać. The importance of documentaries in Croatia can be measured by the 60 movie festivals that exist in the country, and which, for the most part, have at least one selection and one competition dedicated to the genre when they’re not exclusively focused on it. Little by little, the RESTART team has started producing documentaries and realizing that if the documentary was well represented in festivals, there was a lack of a continuous work on the relationship with the audience. As such came the idea to create a movie theater dedicated solely to documentary films.

We’re not only offering a movie, we’re offering an experience, an emotion.

To begin with, the team invested a small screening room of 30 seats, which gave birth to the Dokukino project. Launching the place was a trials and errors process for these cinema exhibition apprentices. “We weren’t exactly sure it would work out, we went for it without knowing if the audience would be interested. But we did it and we waited… And it started working. Once we had done this, we realized that there were no distributors for documentary films and that we should do that too! All was very connected, when we started working in the field we slowly discovered that something was missing, that no one was doing anything in this niche. And we also realized that it was easier and less expensive to do it all ourselves” carries on Inja Korać. After a few years in the first location, the rent fee turned out prohibitive, Dokukino moved out several times before setting for their current premises, a cultural center at the heart of Zagreb. Their new screening room can welcome 70 people who can sit either on seats or lazy bags in front of the screen. “The idea is to come here and feel like home, it has to be a confortable place. It’s a social event where you come see documentaries. I think people feel it when you enjoy what you do, and if you don’t like the place you’re working in, everyone will feel the same, and no one will come.

Dokukino offers 6 new films per month, one of which is distributed by RESTART. “We choose the films by travelling to festivals, by keeping a constant watch on what’s going on in documentary in the whole world. We try to link the films with local issues, like now with the refugee crisis. I think it is our duty to do this, to start debates. Documentary films enable to open minds, to empathize, to understand.” Dokukino offers a privileged screening space for creative documentaries “The audience for these films is quite small, but they are often publicly funded and should be able to be seen by the public !” The screening room regularly welcomes festivals like the Human Rights Film Festival, the Subversive Festival, the Vox Feminae or even the Zagreb Film Festival, which screens its documentary section at the Dokukino “These cooperation projects are very important because these festivals have more money to spend on marketing in a short amount of time. We use their visibility to make the place known.” The team organizes master classes with directors, producers or technicians who come for the screening of their film. The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer, distributed by the RESTART structure was screened this way in its first director’s cut version lasting more than 3 hours, and followed by a master class of the same length. Seeing the success of this type of event, a second screening room was opened in the same building and the debate with the director was broadcasted live in the bar. The full video of the master class is published on the Internet.

Since 2014, the “Hall of fame”, a session for classic documentaries has been launched by Dokukino to remedy the lack of visibility for documentary works, which screenings are often linked to the news. “We’re used to talk about cinema classics, but nobody talks about documentary classics.” Each film is introduced by a contextualization to explain how it marked its time, joined with a more personal presentation by a local director or critic who explains the importance that the film had to him. The initiative is supported by an aid fund and the free of charge screenings are full. The public that frequents the Dokukino is mostly made of students (between 18 and 30 years old) mixed with an older audience aged 50 years and older. “I love our audience, it’s not huge, but people like to come here and ask questions to the crews, participate to the event, they come to extend their world vision. We often receive emails from the public saying “your should screen this” or “it was a great night.” We communicate as much as possible with our audience, that’s the advantage of a small movie theater in regards to a multiplex cinema.

Beyond the broadcasting of documentary films, the RESTART structure has created a documentary filmmaking school, which offers to cover all aspects associated with creating a movie on a 2 months period. From the script to postproduction, through production, shooting, editing and sound, each student practice directly on his own end-of-studies film with the provided equipment. The completed movies are screened at Dokukino. Some projects particularly noteworthy can beneficiate from a later production by RESTART, which also handles their distribution and sending them to festivals in the whole world. “It’s a great way to begin” marvels Inja Korać. To complete this will to get aspirant filmmakers’ foot on the ladder, RESTART has launched RESTART LABORATORY. “If you want to make your movie and don’t want to go through the school, you write it and you send it to us. If we think the project is interesting, we provide a mentor: a writer, a producer and you can use all our equipment for your film.” Eight films have been produced this way since the launch of the initiative. “We want to multiply the entry points into the profession for all types of artists and profiles.” For high school students, they offer filmmaking workshops in collaboration with local artists, whom the students direct the video portraits or work on their own ideas.

Facing the ever-growing presence of crowdfunding in the documentary economy, Dokukino has launched in 2016 a conference day about feedbacks on projects that have succeeded in their financing along with a screening of the movie “Capital C” on the revolution resulting from crowdfunding. Ensuring the location viability is nonetheless delicate, the team sends dozens of grant and funding applications for each project (education, broadcasting, production) “There is clear evidence that the objective is not commercial, if we want to keep doing what we’re going we have to find money elsewhere. Today we’re well identified, and everyone knows that we’ll complete a project as it is presented, with a clear and transparent financing, they like working with us.

For the future, the team dreams of a new place gathering all their activities (cinema, education, production, distribution…), but the biggest challenge remains to arouse the public’s curiosity. “We have to dance tango with the audience, not watch them from above, from the offices. The idea is to get closer to people, talk to them, observe them for a while and from there, direct them somewhere, dance tango! What’s important to me is for the audience to come here and feel good, for them to see something that moves them, for them to have a wonderful time. What do we really offer here? We’re not only offering a movie, we’re offering an experience, an emotion.

Translation by Garance Boulet