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Nikola Tanhofer’s digitally restored film H-8...  featured in Venice Classics 2021

The programme featuring restored film classics, the Venice Classics 2021, which could not take place on its regular dates in September of last year, will be held simultaneously to the third edition of Classici fuori Mostra, taking place 10th February – 26th May, every Thursday at 7 p.m., at Cinema Rossini in Venice. Director Nikola Tanhofer’s film H-8… is the first domestic title to be included in the prestigious Venice Classics and the Classici fuori Mostra programmes. In 2020, the film was digitally restored by the Croatian Cinematheque of the Croatian State Archives with the help of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre. The restoration was done at studios Ater and Klik Film in Zagreb. 

Nikola Tanhofer’s film H-8… (1958) is based on true events, a traffic accident in which a driver of a car caused the collision of a passenger bus with a truck, afterwards fleeing the scene. The accident was extensively covered by Yugoslav media, however, the witnesses were able to recall only the first two elements of the car’s registration plate: H-8. The car and its owner were never found. The film’s authors used real life facts about the accident as the framework for a story about fictional passengers riding on the bus and the truck in the lead up to the accident. The driver of the car involved remains unknown in the film, just as they were in real life.

Croatian filmologist Jurica Pavičić identifies in H-8… a surprizing precursor to disaster films, a genre that developed in western cinema during the 1970s. In a survey completed by Croatian film critics in 2020, H-8… was voted the best Croatian fiction film of all time. Even at the time, the film garnered huge critical acclaim, and, apart from being a box-office hit domestically, it received international theatrical distribution in around 15 countries.

Director Nikola Tanhofer began his career as a noted cinematographer with a penchant for technical experimentation (The Blue 9, K. Golik, 1950; Ciguli Miguli, B. Marjanović, 1952; Sinji galeb, B. Bauer, 1953, etc.), launching his directing career with an acclaimed title blending melodrama and thriller, It Was Not in Vain (1956). He directed eight fiction features including H-8…, 1958; Double Circle, 1963; Indian Summer, 1970, etc., and he was also a renowned for his cinematic pedagogical activity. The credit for the exceptional quality of H-8... also goes to the writers of its screenplay – journalist Tomislav Butorac, and Zvonimir Berković, who went on to become one of leading Croatian film directors. Excellent cinematography was created by Slavko Zalar, while Radojka Ivančević (later Tanhofer’s wife) was tasked with editing the film. The cast was made up of eminent actors, such as Mia Oremović, Boris Buzančić, Vanja Drach, Marija Kohn, Pero Kvrgić, Mira Nikolić and Antun Vrdoljak, who along with Berković later became a famous film director.

Since its establishment, the Croatian Cinematheque of the Croatian State Archives, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, consistently undertakes procedures to protect the national film heritage with the aim of long-term conservation of cinematic works. Apart from conservation, the primary objective is to make heritage films available to the public, as well as to direct the focus of the professional community to such works in order to shed new light on individual classic titles and authors. The fact that the restored H-8…, in 2020 voted as the best Croatian film of all time by the film critics community, has been included in the Venice Classics programme signifies not only vast praise and encouragement from one of the most prestigious film festivals for the efforts of the Croatian Cinematheque of the Croatian State Archives in preserving the audiovisual heritage, but it is also exceedingly important for film heritage conservation activities in general, because it lends greater visibility on a broader international arena and a ‘new life’ to the treasures we safeguard”, said on the occasion Dinko Majcen, Head of the Croatian Cinematheque. 

In the restoration process, first generation materials – the original negative and sound negative – were used as the source material containing the highest amount of preserved information about the image and sound of the work. After careful technical preparation, the subsequent process consisted of digitalisation and digital restoration in 2K resolution, performed by experts from studios Ater and Klik Film in Zagreb, using the latest specialized software tools. This challenging process that took several months was done in line with strict ethical and technical standards of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), whereby special care was taken to preserve all individual characteristics of the film from the period when it first premiered. Mechanical and chemical damage on the film negative was digitally removed, while photochemical artefacts characteristic of the photographic emulsion, as well as tiny imperfections caused by the image and sound recording technique of the period, have been preserved so that even in its digital incarnation the film might maintain its original texture and offer the modern-day viewers an authentic experience of the period in which it was created,” added Vjeran Pavlinić, head of the department for preservation and restoration of film materials of the Croatian Film Archives (Croatian Cinematheque) who supervised the film’s digital restoration.

I would like to congratulate everyone who participated in this excellent quality restoration. I hope that this important international recognition will encourage all the stakeholders in our joint efforts to seriously engage the commitment to our valuable cinematic heritage. Similarly, in 2020, Slovenian director France Štiglic’s digitally restored 1960 fiction feature, The Ninth Circle, a Jadran Film production, was featured in the Cannes Classics programme at the Cannes Film Festival. Therefore, in a way, this marks a continuation of the foray of Croatian restored films into heritage programmes at A-list festivals”, concludes Chris Marcich, the CEO of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.

H8... is scheduled to screen on 17th March, with an introduction by Dunja Jelenković, a professor at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.  

All other information about the Classici fuori Mostra programme, which will showcase a total of 14 film classics, is available on this link.   

Cover photographs: scenes from H8... HR-HDA-1392 The Collection of Film Photography of Croatian film, Croatian State Archives – Croatian Film Archives; below: H-8… film poster (design created by studio Šesnić & Turković) 
*photographs and film poster, credited accordingly, are available for download on this link 

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