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How a Croatian experimental feature ended up in the Oscar race


- Dalibor Barić's Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus is among 27 films on the long list for Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards

How a Croatian experimental feature ended up in the Oscar race
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus by Dalibor Barić

The Croatian feature-length animated experimental film Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus [+see also:
film review
interview: Dalibor Baric
film profile
by Dalibor Barić has somewhat unexpectedly entered the 27-film-strong long list for Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards.

Producer Ivan Katić has been in animation with his studio, Kaos, since 1995, when he was approached by Dušan Vukotić, the only Croatian Oscar winner, who bagged the Academy Award for his short Surrogate in 1961, to work on his new film. When Katić saw the film that Barić had basically made on his own, at his home studio, he immediately sent it to Annecy. It was quickly selected for Annecy's Contrechamp Competition, and screenings at festivals such as Bucheon, Thessaloniki and Seville followed. This portfolio was good enough for the Academy to accept Katić's submission.

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"I registered on the Academy website, and they got back to me within minutes. Now, as a producer, I can submit all my future feature-length films – fiction, animation, documentary – and I can submit them to the Best Feature category, Best Make-up and other technical categories," says Katić.

The next step was to come up with a promotional campaign that would position this wildly complex film in the truest way possible. "I mostly made this film working at night," Barić says. "I was very busy, and my wife had just had a baby, so I would always go into this work in a different state of mind."

The multi-hyphenate filmmaker took care of the direction, art department, script, graphics, animation, compositing, soundtrack and editing on his own, all on a €20,000 budget. Katić recalls: "It was funny that Dalibor had made the film on his own, and now it took 20 people on three continents to pin it down."

Prior to the Oscar campaign, the film was released in ten Croatian arthouse cinemas, but the team also put it in Zagreb's Museum of Contemporary Art. "As Dalibor had made this hybrid of techniques and genres, we wanted to take it a step further and give it another dimension with this gallery aspect," Katić explains. "We did a promo campaign on Facebook, so that the people whose posts about their impressions of the film got the most likes would receive a prize: dinner with the director. This helped create a community around the film, and also reflected the fact that every viewer perceived it differently."

Positioning it as a "Film that Watches the Spectator", and using a surreal visual (pictured below) as well as adding the opening narrative title "Hello Animation, Meet the Hadron Collider" to point to its collage-like, all-encompassing nature, the team opted for respected LA arthouse cinema Laemmle for its Academy Award-qualifying run – actually, its virtual platform, in light of the pandemic circumstances.

"I never even expected to get into Annecy, and the Oscars are an experience that feels unreal," says Barić. But this experience also mirrors his view of cinema today. "We are living in a post-film era," he explains. "Generations have been raised on cinema by now, and we know every trope and every element of it. It's like an imprint in our heads: an impulse goes around and triggers different places and moments, and we create the whole experience ourselves.

"This is what I try to play with in my films. I don't want to make films that deal with reality, but rather use the interpreted reality that has pulled in and chewed and spat out all of the elements we'd already seen in movies."

Barić and Katić are now working on a new animated feature with the working title All Operators Are Currently Unavailable. "It may perhaps be a more coherent kind of film, but we want to allow Dalibor all the creative freedom he needs to play with found footage, 3D compositing and rotoscoping. We are currently negotiating with potential partners in the USA and hoping we can get even further with more substantial financial and creative support," says Katić.

For viewers outside the USA, Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus is available as VoD on Vimeo.

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