Thursday, September 19, 2013

In a marriage with the Swiss

U braku sa Švicarcem; documentary, Croatia, 2013; D: Arsen Oremović, S: Vedrana Rudan, Jadranka Kosor, Zoran Milanović

The documentary explores the strange case of mortgage loans in Croatia after it entered the capitalistic system, specifically the mortgages involving Swiss francs. At first, when the exchange rate of Croatian kunas to Swiss francs was 4,8:1, the banks persuaded citizens to massively take mortgage loans in francs instead of euros or kunas, because they were "easier to pay off". However, in a few years, by 2011 the exchange rate increased to almost 7,2:1, which effectively doubled the loans ordinary citizens had to pay. Numerous debtors thus became stuck with astronomically increasing money they have to pay back, and at least one girl died from stress. It is estimated that they amount to 130.000 people, or over 3% of Croatia's population.

A long suppressed topic in Croatia, the affair of Croatian citizens being tricked into taking a mortgage loan in Swiss francs, a currency that almost doubled in a few years and thus brought their debt to skyrocket to such an extent that only Bill Gates would be able to pay it off, was just crying to be put on the screen, and it was done by none other than the legendary film critic Arsen Oremovic. Even though he is a debtor himself, he gave a proportionally neutral and objective presentation of the situation, while the absence of bankers, who refused to participate in the film, is indicative: refusing to answer is also a kind of an answer. A fine amount of sarcasm wriggles through "In a marriage with the Swiss", too: the opening titles says: "A state that does not care about the fate of its own citizens, a state that allows its own citizens to perish, is doomed to perish as well"; a debtor says how he now has to "pay off a loan for two additional apartments besides his own" after the jump of exchange rates and thus interest rate loans whereas one woman jokingly says how, considering that her own husband shares his debt with her, she should "kill her husband". The presentation is simple, accessible and without unnecessary flashy film tricks to allow the viewers to focus on the people themselves, even raising the question if making a mortgage loan in foreign currency was legal in the first place. Lastly, and most importantly, the movie is simply engaging and interesting to watch, succeeding in being both a social commentary, a document of a time and an very good piece of entertainment.


No comments: