Anita Juka

Anita Juka is a Croatian producer who started her own production company 4Film in 2004. She has produced sixteen films and eight European co-productions of different genres, including feature fiction, creative feature documentaries, shorts and recently a mini TV series. Her films have been supported by Eurimages, have won more than seventy awards at film festivals including Toronto, Karlovy Vary and Rotterdam and were distributed in more than a hundred-ninety countries worldwide. She participated in eight different programs such as the Producers Lab Toronto, TransAtlantic Partners or eQuinoxe. Noted titles are “You Carry Me,” directed by Ivona Juka, Damjan Kozole’s “Slovenian Girl,” “Bad Blue Boys” directed by Branko Schmidt and Zrinko Ogresta’s “Here.”

Tara Karajica caught up with her at this year’s Transilvania International Film Festival, where she was a member of the Official Competition.




How did you become a producer?

Anita Juka: I started fifteen years ago and at first, it was as miscellaneous; I was working as assistant producer on a historical film, The Horseman, which was directed by Branko Ivanda. It was a huge experience for me as I managed to work in different roles and positions. It was very a big production for Croatia – around a four-million-euro budget – and a co-production with Bulgaria. It was a historical film and we had horses, costumes, sheep – a lot of sheep… I worked on that film during five or six months and after that, I came back to Zagreb and I wanted to finish my Law Degree. Then, a month later, I got an offer for Zrinko Ogresta’s second feature, Here, which I accepted and worked on as associate producer. That was actually my first bigger position in production because I worked with sponsors on financing for the film and I also worked on its promotion. The film premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and we won the Silver Globe. Festival promotion was a new experience for me. After that film, I decided to found my own company. At that time, my sister started studying Film Directing at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. We didn’t plan it, but it happened that we both started working in film professionally at the same time. Through my company, I started working on social awareness campaigns, against domestic violence, human trafficking and different campaigns that are promoting gender equality. Later, I made shorts and short documentaries, and then, I produced my first feature documentary, directed by Ivona Juka – my sister –, Facing the Day, that won the Heart of Sarajevo and the Grand Prix in Wiesbaden. It was the first documentary that played in multiplexes in the whole region and we were very happy that the audience reacted so well to a documentary that followed three prisoners in one of the maximum security prisons in Croatia, Lepoglava, a political prison in Yugoslavia. After that film, we started developing our fiction films.

What factors in Croatia help or hinder the process of producing films?

A.J.: I think that in Croatia the problem is that we have very small funding and just one fund, the HAVC (Croatian Audiovisual Centre), and they’re usually financing five to seven films a year, so it’s really hard to be one of these five to seven films. If you want to co-produce with other countries, you always have to have money from your own country first. I think it would be very useful if you had diversity funds even for development. There is also funding through the national public broadcaster, the Croatian National Television, but unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to receive that money because no one knows how, what their criteria is and what kind of program they are looking for. It’s very confusing because each year, they have an open call and they almost reject everyone, so it doesn’t make sense at all to apply there.

Can you talk about the importance of regional co-productions and delve into You Carry Me, your sister’s film, as an example of such a financing strategy?

A.J.: You Carry Me was made in co-production between Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia. It was also supported by Eurimages. We usually co-produce with the countries from the region because we speak the same language and we share the same culture and the same history. I think we are like Scandinavians in that aspect, really focused on each other. And I must say that these co-productions not only fill the gaps in financing, but we have the opportunity to work with the best talents from the region. In my previous film, one of the leading roles was played by one of the most talented European actors, Vojislav Brajović who is Serbian. We had a lot of associates in post-production from Serbia and Montenegro, so Serbian VFX Supervisors won the Golden Arena at the Pula Film Festival. You always get the best talent in these co-productions.

You work with your sister, can you talk about that collaboration, especially on You Carry Me, your hit film that was also the first film from the Balkan region to be acquired by Netflix?

A.J.: I work with my sister and I must admit that as we are getting older, it’s become better and better because, as you know, for each film, you have to shed a lot of tears, sweat and blood, and it’s always a long process. It took us four years to make You Carry Me. I am very happy and I would say blessed in a way to be able to collaborate with my sister because we travel a lot and we spend a lot of time together. If we were not working together, I don’t know when I would have time to see her as often as I’d like, so I really enjoy it! And there are so many brothers in the film industry, so I think it’s time we have a sister duo!

With You Carry Me, we had maybe the biggest distribution success in the region because, like you said, it was the first film from the Balkans that was sold to Netflix. The film was first presented at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival; it won seventeen awards worldwide, was nominated by the EFA for Best Film and was Montenegro’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film. During the Oscar campaign, Netflix sold the film because the film received great reviews from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety and they approached us and they wanted whole world rights. I think it was a big exposure for the whole region because maybe for the first time they saw Croatian and Serbian actors. The film is now distributed in a hundred-ninety countries worldwide and translated in all languages and I think that we proved that it’s possible to distribute a film that is shot in our language because before that film, everybody tried to convinced me that nobody would be interested in Croatian and Serbian films, that we were too small and that there is no distribution outside of the region. We actually proved something totally different!

In that sense, can you talk the situation of distribution and exhibition for art-house and documentary films in the region, especially now with the prominence and involvement of streaming and VOD platforms like HBO or Netflix?

A.J.: I am maybe Netflix’s best ambassador because we have a great collaboration. Netflix left us an open window for both festival and theatrical distribution which was very important for me because, like I said before, You Carry Me got big festival exposure, with great reviews and won seventeen awards worldwide. Netflix translated You Carry Me in almost all languages and distributed it in a hundred-ninety countries. As you know, feature films made in foreign languages are a very hard sell. Usually these films, even if they are made by great and awarded directors, have a limited theatrical release in art-house cinemas for two or three weeks and that’s it. Netflix and other VOD services bring new opportunities, distributing films during five years in a hundred-ninety countries and greater exposure of art-house films. We get so many emails and messages on social networks about how people from different parts of the world enjoyed watching You Carry Me. I think that this is something what we all want – that audiences watch our movies. Currently, there are huge debates about Netflix at almost all film markets. I have participated in many discussions at the Cannes Film Festival and some distributers – especially in France – think that Netflix will take on almost the whole market and that any monopoly isn’t a good situation for all stakeholders at the market. They predict that Netflix will, in that case, decrease prices for the content and that they will produce much more of their content. So, even though they now offer “dream deals” for producers, we should be careful about making decisions for the distribution of our content because we are the ones are creating the future of the market with our decisions.

How do you choose your projects?

A.J.: It depends, really. Even though I am more and more producing fiction films, I am always passionate when I read scripts with strong characters. I always choose character-driven projects because I believe that if you have strong characters in your story, then they build appealing stories. It’s interesting, but there is no special genre that I like; I like them all. We are now preparing something totally different compared to our previous film; an action drama that is set during the war, but it’s a story about friendship. It will be action-packed and character-driven movie.

Is there anyone you look up to in terms of producing?

A.J.: My role model is Croatian producer Branko Lustig who won Oscars for Schindler’s List and Gladiator. There are a lot of great female producers such as Megan Ellison, Kathleen Kennedy, Dede Gardner, Mimmi Spång, Rebecka Lafrenz, Rachel O’Kane, Kathryn Kennedy, Emily Morgan, Tania Chambers, Jennifer Kawaja, Coral Aiken, Katie Bird Nolan, Nadia Maxwell, Anja Wedell, Elena Yatsura, Esther Friedrich, Rayne Zukerman, Phyllis Laing, Reena Dutt, Kiara C. Jones, Carolyn Mao, Trevite Willis, Kryssta Mills and many other great women.

What is your dream project?

A.J.: I would love to make a sci-fi film, and it’s totally crazy! I love the sci-fi genre so much and I would love to make a sci-fi film with a female lead and a strong social awareness message.

There has been a lot of talk about women in film recently. What is your stand on the matter? How is it in Croatia?

A.J.: There is a lot of talk about women in film today and I think it’s very good that there is so much discussion. I think that the #metoo movement, the EWA network and WIFT as well as other organizations brought forth a lot of subjects to talk about, but I think that there is still a lot of work to be done. I am very glad that Eurimages is campaigning for the 50/50 by 2020 quotas, which is great. I think we have to do more because when I watch the The Hollywood Reporter roundtables, there are always big studio chiefs talking about gender equality and they want to have it, but if you look at films with budgets of more than ten million dollars, it’s a boys’ club, so you can’t see female directors and female producers. It’s always directed by men and I think we should also change that because we still have this glass ceiling when we talk about budgets. What I also don’t like when one talks about “female films” because I always ask: “What is that?” I can’t quite understand what female films are because I have seen so many great films about women that were directed by men and vice versa, and I think that directors direct with their talent, not with their gender, and we should avoid that kind of speech.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker and your favorite film by a female filmmaker? And who would you like to work with?

A.J.: I like a lot Kathryn Bigelow because I think she made a breakthrough for all female directors and I really enjoyed her films like for instance The Hurt Locker. She’s very talented and she proved that there are no female topics and that we are very capable to produce action films, war films, produce different kinds of films…  I would love to work with her! As for films, there are so many great films by female directors. I love Outrage by Ida Lupino, The Piano by Jane Campion, Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold, The Savages by Tamara Jenkins, Mustang by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Monster by Patty Jenkins, Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola and You Carry Me by Ivona Juka. I am very glad that this year, the director Mati Diop became the first black female director to win an award in the Cannes Film Festival’s seventy-two year history. She was also the first black woman to ever have a film selected in Competition at the festival. I think there are plenty talented female directors, and we should give them the opportunity to make big budget films.

What are your next projects?

 A.J.: 4 film Ltd. is currently developing several titles. In terms of feature fiction titles, we’re working with director Ivona Juka on the feature fiction film Lambs in Wolfskin. This script won the EWA award. It’s a story about two soldiers and best friends who are separated on the battlefield. One friend goes into the wild and behind enemy lines to search for his missing friend – dead or alive. We are planning to shoot this film in English. The documentary films we are working on are Surrogate Mother and Coastal Promenade, and the documentary TV series Tito’s Legacy to be directed by Silvio Mirošničenko. Coastal Promenade, a Croatian-Italian co-production, is an observational poetic depiction of the sea, people and buildings, all of which harmoniously interweave. Surrogate Mother is a documentary film observing a Russian family that undergoes the process of surrogacy. We are currently developing this documentary at EURODOC. Tito’s Legacy, the documentary TV series tells, through the structures and material legacy left behind by Tito, the story of his communist rule in which he carefully built his cult of personality as the lifelong president of former Yugoslavia.



This interview was conducted at the 2019 Transilvania International Film Festival. 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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