Thursday, 6 January 2011

Journalist


Novinar; Drama, Croatia, 1979; D: Fadil Hadžić, S: Rade Šerbedžija, Milena Zupančić, Stevo Žigon, Fabijan Šovagović, Vera Zima

Zagreb. Kovač, a drunk, but idealistic reporter, tosses a bundle of newspapers from a news stand one night and thus gets arrested. A special meeting is held in his newspaper agency where it is revealed that he is in an argument with his editor, Tomac, who refused to publish his article about a strike at a tool factory because he criticized the directors who raised their own salaries, but not those of ordinary workers. His position in the agency is bad though one woman supports him. Likewise, his wife Irena files a divorce and keeps the custody of their son. Kovač also writes an article about corruption in a company, but his two witnesses refuse to testify at court and thus he gets sued for libel. His friend is an aging reporter, Stanko Kos, who despises journalism for lack of backbone. When Kos dies Kovač figures he will have the same fate.

One of director Fadil Hadzic's unjustifiably forgotten films, "Journalist" is an intelligent and unassuming little essay about the complicated world (and politics) of reporters. Two stand-out highlights are the fantastic crystal clear cinematography by Tomislav Pintar and the opening credits, inventively printed on ordinary newspaper snippets in a printing press. The sole story stands out less only seemingly because it is a small, thought-provoking commentary on modern journalism and how it can be bought by rich tycoons in order to "audit" the news in their interest. Rade Serbedzija delivers a strong performance as the main hero Kovac, a reporter forced to chose between conformity and integrity, particularly in the scene where he goes on to give a small rant about the whole fishy business of his editors who reject "unsuitable" articles in order to keep their comfortable positions: "I don't want the newspapers to be an apologetic service for a beautified reality".
Two bigger complaints could be directed at the pace of the movie, which somehow starts to drag in the last third, losing that spark at the beginning, as well as some melodramatic solutions. Likewise, the main theme just repeats itself too much. The finale brings back the high concept from the start when it shows a genius sequence: there is an article about the death of a distinguished reporter, which clearly quotes him saying: "Should journalism be the mirror of our world or should it just be retouched to present some beautified reality dictated by the politicians?" The editor looks at it, takes his pen and just crosses the text. The movie then pans to Kovac walking down the street, while a news report is heard in the background, informing us about the new pope, the Warsaw pact, the Sino-Japanese relationship and other political developments. And it is difficult not to ask oneself: what if everything we hear on the news is censored?

Grade:++

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