Documentaries are a very niche field art. They usually involve not such big audiences. They are hard to produce because it requires a lot of research. Moreover, they have narrow limits and borders but need to be creative enough in order not to become boring. However, people are still creating them because limits don’t limit, they oppositely enhance all the creative ideas of people who are filming.
Slovenia is not an exception. Here, you can find a lot of passionate directors who are doing a great product. In this article, let’s shortly consider such Slovenian documentaries as Teslafy Me, Houston, We Have a Problem!, My Name Is Janez Janša, Ruth 246.8, and some others.
However, before talking about films themselves, we would like to show that movie culture is decently developed in Slovenia. Moreover, even its small but one of the most important parts as documentary filming is developed good enough to have its own festival.
Slovenia indeed is the place of festivals. Here you can find such interesting ones as Zombie Walk, Cow Festival, Christmas Bell Sinking, Wine Festival, and tons of folk fests. Ljubljana Documentary Film Festival is one of such specialized events, where experts can share their experience and achievements, as well as newbies, can get acquainted with new for them but old for cinematography, adorable world of documentary filming.
Ljubljana Documentary Film Festival
The festival takes place in the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana. Usually, it is held in March annually, and it lasts a full eight days. The places of the meeting differ every year, but the most frequent ones are the Cankarjev dom, Cultural and Congress Centre, the Slovenian Cinematheque, and Kinodvor Cinema.
The Ljubljana Documentary Film Festival was established in 1998. Mainly, it focuses on contemporary documentary film and pays special attention to movies that deal with social phenomena and social issues.
Despite the fact that the festival itself started in 1998, the idea was developing much before. The first step was introduced back in 1994 when the documentaries section became a part of the Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe). Immediately, it received a highly positive response from the audience. People like it because documentaries are rarely shown in cinemas. Thus, the audience hungry for intellectual movies received their personal “bread and circuses”.
The section was discontinued in 1996 in order to give birth to a festival of a new format. At first, it was an event that had been accepting a great variety of documentaries. However, when Simon Popek became the director of the festival, it transformed into a highly competitive festival.
By the way, the festival gave birth to one more. The first introduced competitive section was Mountain and Adventure Films. However, in 2007, it became a brand new event named Mountain Film Festival, the biggest and most important mountain film festivals worldwide. And it is even not so impressive because Slovenians are mountain lovers, Slovenia is two-third mountainous, and the main one, Mount Triglav is even depicted on the national coat of arms as well as on the official flag of the Republic of Slovenia.
However, let’s return to the Ljubljana Documentary Film Festival. It is divided into 5 sections:
· Competitive. The biggest section is focused on dealing with human rights issues. Every year, 5 films are awarded the Amnesty International Slovenia Award for the best film on human rights issues;
· Myths, Icons, Media. This section includes social and cultural phenomena, cultural icons, trends in mass culture and arts, music and film stars;
· Intimate Portrayals, a section showing stories of famous personalities as well as ordinary people;
· Topical, Socially Critical. This one is focused on actual social issues;
· Retrospective. The name speaks for itself.
As we found out where is the best place to watch a documentary in Slovenia, let’s review some of the most interesting, the most prominent, and the most important Slovenian documentaries:
Best Slovenian Documentaries
Who doesn’t know Nikola Tesla nowadays? I think it is impossible to miss his name because the issue of eco-friendly energy is one of the most important and frequent in mass media, and Nikola Tesla became one of its symbols of this movement. One of the biggest influencers in this sphere was Elon Musk. Maybe, he popularized the name of the scientist, naming his electric cars Tesla.
However, it was deserved because the scientist made the biggest breakthrough for our nowadays comfortable life creating alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase ACs. Therefore, the documentary named Teslafy Me tells the story of the scientists who left, maybe, the biggest intellectual legacy in the world.
Furthermore, it is not an unusual thing when Slovenians or any other nationals from post-Yugoslav states film about Nikola Tesla. In fact, he was a Serb born in Croatia. At that time, it was the Austrian Empire, so the same country where it was Slovenia. Tesla was studying at the Graz University of Technology, and after that, emigrated to the United States in 1884.
The movie was written and directed by Janja Glogovac. It lasts approximately 90 minutes. The documentary gathered average reviews, but because of the famous person, it reached decent audiences. It was translated into English, Slovenian, Serbian, and German, so if you are not so good in English but a native speaker of those languages, it is a sign to check it!
Houston, We Have a Problem!
Interesting name, isn’t it? Let’s say a perfect choice that represents the sense of the film entirely. This well-known phrase that already became a meme was said by Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon. It is a docufiction-mockumentary film created by a Slovenian director, Žiga Virc.
The documentary explores the myth about the secret multi-billion-dollar deal between the United States and Yugoslavia, where the first one bought a clandestine space program from the second one. Yugoslavia was the third forgotten player in the Space Race, after the US and Soviet Union.
The film’s plot shows how the technology sold to John Kennedy’s administration in return for “overseas aid” boosting Yugoslavia’s economy fails. After this, the USA government starts to pressure Tito using financial blackmail, threats of military action and culminates in a secret CIA operation that triggers the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Of course, this documentary is a high part of fiction, but it’s a mockumentary, so it uses real sources that reveal the story. The film got high reviews from critics. Its average rate is 8 of 10. It lasts an hour and a half. Must-watch for people interested in the history of the Cold War, Yugoslavia, and Slovenia as well.
My Name Is Janez Janša
This documentary is about a very unusual and interesting story that happened in Slovenia. Janez Janša is a Slovenian politician, the current Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia. Furthermore, he had this position previously from 2004 to 2008, and from 2012 to 2013. Also, he served as the Minister of Defense at the times of the Ten-Day War between newly independent Slovenia and breaking up Yugoslavia.
However, the film is not about him. The documentary is about three contemporary artists, who all changed their names to Janez Janša. Moreover, one of them is the director of this film. The other two were writers.
Thus, when you open info about the documentary, you can see such a picture: “Directed by Janez Janša. Written by Janez Janša, Janez Janša, Janez Janša.” Quite artistically, isn’t it?
My Name Is Janez Janša shows references from history, individual experiences, popular culture thoughts, and even conspiracy theories behind this artistic gesture. It provoked high resonance among critics and the audience. Some mass media are even labeled as pornographic and as degenerate art. On the other hand, it wasn’t judged by politicians publically.
Check it if you dare so!
This documentary is less artistic than the previous one but no less impressive. It is a story of a small 48-years old woman who beat 246.8 kilometers (153.4 miles) of Spartathlon running a competition from Athens to Sparta, Greece. It shows the 32-hours continuous battle of Ruth, who experienced an exhausting and torturous run in such extreme conditions.
The story behind every marathon lies in the Greek myth about a messenger who ran those 246 kilometers in order to bring a new to Sparta. After he had reached his aim, he fell dead. However, Ruth didn’t die. She even was ranked 2nd place among women, despite the fact that most of the competitors even hadn’t reached the finish line.
The documentary tells a story of great passion, overwhelming love for life, love itself, team spirit, human support, and unstoppable energy that lies inside almost every human on this planet.
If you feel the lack of motivation during some last time, it’s your choice for today’s evening! The film lasts 1 hour, 15 minutes. The director is Irena Bedrac.
Where I Can Be Myself
This documentary mixes several aspects of human life. It shows the personal drama of an immigrant. The main character is a 20 years old man from eastern Bosnia. His childhood was broken because of war, and now he stands on the ledge of a life choice.
He decides to move to Slovenia and to start a new life. However, everything he had thought to be hard became several times harder. Friends, family, memories, nostalgia, foreign language, all these and even more influence him and fire an inner struggle.
The film is especially important for people who stand in front of the same choice in their life or its consequences. It teaches that only abroad you can understand the beauty of the country you were born in. On the other side, it shows the importance of inner growth for such an enormous life step as emigration.
The movie was directed by Irena Kramberger. It lasts half an hour.
There is such a phenomenon in Slovenia as Yugo-nostalgia. Generally speaking, it is a strong emotional connection to their past in Yugoslavia. In short, it is the “the grass seems greener” approach but in terms of time. In Slovenia, this phenomenon is not popular, but in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, this psychological paradigm is well spread. According to Gallup, from 65% to 80% of their citizens think that the breakup of Yugoslavia harmed their country.
The documentary shows interviews on the streets of Slovenia and Croatia, the birth house of Tito, material from archives, and the market in Zagreb. The aim of this film is to understand those people. Usually, they are blamed for being not psychologically flexible. This is the try to do the opposite.
This is the shortest film of our today’s list, having only 15 minutes in its total length.
Best Documentaries about Slovenia
This is an interesting one. In general, the documentary shows Laibach, the Slovenian rock band that became the first foreign rock band performed in North Korea, the country-fortress, closed to everyone. How did it happen? Was it even possible? Here, we need a few explanations.
This band is the controversial hidden gem. In their shows, they use Nazi images and images of Tito’s regime singing in German. It is nothing more than a show, but some people are still trying to ban them, arguing that the band is truly chauvinistic and has a bad influence on their audience.
On the other hand, people who do understand sarcasm and irony think oppositely. Slavoj Žižek, probably the most famous Slovenian philosopher, defined them as a highly ironical band and recognized their music as Soviet postmodernism.
The interesting thing is that North Korean leaders didn’t understand this fact and allowed the band to perform to the North Korean audience considering them “safe”. Members of Laibach claim that they were invited because they told them, “we are the children of Tito’s Yugoslavia, and now we are orphans.” On the other hand, did the leaders of North Korea really miss this point of sarcasm and irony? No.
George Orwell once said, “All art is propaganda.” Laibach wrote, “All propaganda is art.” This is the point that this documentary wants to deliver. North Korean leaders weren’t afraid to show Laibach to citizens because they shaped their performance in the way they wanted. The documentary literally says, “Art is subject to political manipulation,” and enhances this idea through the prism of Laibach’s performance.
This film is definitely worth watching. It lasts an hour and 40 minutes and was directed by a Latvian director, Ugis Olte.
The Weight of Chains
The Canadian documentary about the role of the US, NATO, and the EU in the breakup of Yugoslavia. Moreover, this film shows it from a quite controversial side. It is full of interviews with diplomats, academics, media personalities, as well as ordinary citizens of the former Yugoslav republics.
Yugoslav wars became a tragic page not only in the history of the Balkans but in the world’s history too. In several years, the prosperous country was transformed into the scene of brotherhood wars. Slovenia was lucky enough to have the shortest war among all the other Yugoslav conflicts, the Ten-Day War. It had not so many casualties, and the state was immediately recognized by the western countries. On the other side, Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered from Yugoslavia collapse long and bloody
The film reveals both sides and gives some ideas to reflect on. If you are interested in Slovenian history, add this one to your must-to-watch list. The movie lasts approximately two hours, and it was directed by Boris Malagurski, a Serbian writer and filmmaker.
What to Watch?
As we described above, Slovenia does have a culture of documentary filmmaking. Everything started with the film festival that created a separate documentary film festival. It sounds tautological but reveals the nature of the festival. The art was born of art.
Definitely, Slovenians have interesting stories to tell us. A lot of them lie in their history. Yugoslavia was a big player in the political arena in the times of the Cold War. Therefore, such documentaries as Houston, We Have a Problem! or the Weight of Chains reveals the story of a formerly prosperous country. The first one is doing in a quite artistic mocking way, while the second one is more serious.
On the other side, there are documentary films about Slovenian artists. My Name Is Janez Janša, Teslafy, and Liberation Day show the inner world of creators, their way of thinking and life. The first one and the last one of them reveals the other side of human nature, where creativity and art implemented in a big idea are higher material values.
We do recommend you to check at least several of the list. Moreover, if you like some of them, you can visit Ljubljana Documentary Film Festival personally. This should be a breathtaking journey in the world of documentary films, with an implemented magical atmosphere and local color of the capital city. We promise you, after one time, you will want more!