May 23, 2024

Elvis Lenić has picked up the coveted Opus Bonum award for Best World Documentary for his latest work “Ship” at Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival. He also got to say goodbye to a place that has defined his life.

“My father spent his entire working life in the Uljanik shipyard. So did my uncle. My brother worked there for 20 years,” recalls the Croatian director and journalist.

“I worked there too. My family was very connected to Uljanik and I had to say goodbye to it in a symbolic way. It was very important to me – otherwise, I wouldn’t have made this film. But this place was important to all citizens of [Croatian seafront city] Pula. Uljanik was our pride and a part of our collective identity.”

With the help of Dijana Cetina Mlađenović, producing for Zagreb-based Kinematograf, Lenić “probably approached the shipyard as a person” while making the doc, he says.

Founded in 1856, with Austrian empress Sisi herself laying the “official” foundation stone, it’s one of the oldest in the world. Now, after more than 160 years, the shipyard is abandoned and rusty, living out its last days.

In the film, Lenić recalls past days of glory while also taking a look at a dreary present. With only former workers remembering better times and sharing their melancholic tales about a place that gave them everything they once needed. “Uljanik was a brain,” they can be heard recounting.

“My editor Matija Debeljuh said their voices are like ghosts, connected to that shipyard. Which also looks like a huge ghost now. Unfortunately, I don’t see any hope for the future. I think its [fate] represents broken dreams not only for me, but for the entire local community,” he says.

“Still, I didn’t want the film to be too pessimistic. The crayfish are still walking, the seagulls are flying, the cats are meowing, and the waves are lapping. Life goes on, it just does it in a different form.”

It goes on also for the director, with Lenić already prepping his next project, experimental documentary “Adio Pola.”

“I want to combine amateur archival footage of Pula from the 1970 and 1980s with contemporary sounds of the city. [You will hear] the traffic, people, modern devices. That way, I want to explore the relationship between the past and the present in a social, historical and political context. And more!”

In a way, he has already done it in “Ship” as well, offering a worrying look at what might come next.

“The last song in the film, ‘Where This Ship Is Sailing’ (‘Kud plovi ovaj brod’), was performed by the famous Italian singer Sergio Endrigo. He was born in Pula in 1933 and moved to Italy after World War II. I think that Endrigo’s destiny is very similar to that of Uljanik. They are both victims of political and economic circumstances they simply couldn’t survive,” he explains.

“Unfortunately, the Uljanik case is certainly a repeating pattern. At this point, almost our entire economy is based on trade, entertainment and tourism. In Croatia, we have become a country where industry and professional knowledge are disappearing. The only question is: When?”

“Ship”
Courtesy of Kinematograf

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