Project Description



What is an investigative fiction film?

When Robert Zuber asked me to join him in organising an investigative film festival on the island of Rab and offered me to make a selection of fiction films for it, I was intrigued, but also somewhat confused. What could be called an investigative film apart from documentaries, police films and courtroom dramas?

Of course, this creative field is much broader than any terse explanation could imply, and, in fact, there are no real definitions of investigative fiction films, i.e. investigative fiction in general (here we encounter the first obstacle posed by the word fiction with its inherent reference to the imaginary). Therefore, we are here to come up with our own definition.

The common thread running through the films that have been selected for screening at the festival is that they all address current issues, capturing the essence of a particular society and carrying a strong, humane message.

The film Les Misérables by Ladj Ly, the recipient of the Cannes Jury Prize, is an exciting and tough crime thriller that tells the story of the French race riots of 2005 from the points of view of the police, ordinary citizens and criminals, revealing the many nuances of the complex French society. This image is additionally complemented by the film By the Grace of God from François Ozon, the recipient of the Silver Bear at Berlinale, which is an almost scientifically precise study of a true story of paedophilia in the Catholic Church and its cover-up, and about a case which, following public outrage, has become the historical turning point in addressing this problem. On the other hand, Ken Loach, in his extremely emotional and honest film Sorry We Missed You, screened at Cannes, talks about the state of a society dependent on the ruthless demands of the market in a more direct way, through the story of a driver working for a delivery company. In his crime thriller Sons of Denmark, which premiered at the Rotterdam festival, the young Danish director Ulaa Salim tells the story of Islamic radicalism and relations in the society from the point of view of the police, with the story set in the near future. An intimate, quiet but immensely powerful film comes from Serbia, directed by Miša Terzić: Stitches had its premiere at Berlinale, and its heroine, played by the extraordinary Snežana Bogdanović, is searching for her son, who, she believes, was stolen from the maternity hospital 18 years ago.

All these films are based on true stories, regardless of whether they are about actual events and existing persons, as in Les Misérables, Stitches or By the Grace of God, or about some aspects of the society that we know of but are not familiar enough with, as in Sorry We Missed You and Sons of Denmark. All issues they address are current; either they are happening literally this year, as in the film by Ozon, or are important for today’s society, as is the case with Terzić’s film.

Above all, all these films carry important, humanist messages of tolerance, understanding, equality, hope and love, and of the importance of exposing the secrets of the past in order to prevent the past evils from repeating themselves. And that is exactly what the creators of the best investigative films do: they dedicatedly and thoroughly explore particular issues and turn them into outstanding works of art, in order to make us interested in the parts of society we often neglect; in order to bring them closer to us. The rest is our responsibility.

(Vladan Petković (Belgrade, 1978) is a journalist, film critic, festival programmer and translator. He is the correspondent for the territories of former Yugoslavia at Screen International and senior writer at Cineuropa. He is a programmer for ZagrebDox (Croatia), Skopje Film Festival (Macedonia), and FeKK in Ljubljana (Slovenia), and contributes as a guest programmer and advisor for numerous international film festivals around Europe. Petković is the head of studies of GoCritic!, a recently established training programme for aspiring film journalists and critics, in collaboration with Cineuropa.)