Ivan-Goran Vitez made his Croatian film “Extracurricular” about an enraged, armed father taking his daughter’s class hostage as a warning to society that there are desperate, lost people among us.
“When I started to think about this film, I wanted to make it some kind of a warning to people not to act this way because, in the film, we have the enraged father who bursts into the school of his 9-year-old daughter, because it’s her birthday and he doesn’t have the right to be with her on her birthday,” Vitez told TheWrap’s Steve Pond.
“He’s a recently divorced man, he’s an unemployed father who lost his rights to be heard in the society and even in his family, and I wanted to warn the society about these people that exist here around us,” he continued. “And we have to be careful, no, you don’t have to be too careful not to enrage them — you have to live our life — but we have to be prepared that something like this happens too, which can cause a crisis.”
“Extracurricular,” Croatia’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards, is about a recently divorced father who is told he can’t see his 9-year-old daughter on her birthday, so he holds her classroom hostage with a gun… and a birthday cake. The filmmaker says it was important for him to make this film because it addresses a universal issue, as school shootings are unfortunately prevalent in the United States.
“When I started to make this movie, I felt like I was in some kind of battle with time, that I had to finish it before something like this really happens,” he explained. “In Croatia, we didn’t yet have to face the problem with the school shootings as you do. But our country is also full of guns due to the war in the ’90s, you know, even a year and a half ago, some maniac shot and killed his social worker and his attorney in a small Croatian town. So I made this film as a warning — if you make some plan based on your first enraged decision, it won’t end well because the consequences won’t be the consequences you want it to be probably.”
He added: “I’m not naive enough to believe it’ll change anybody’s mind in the state of rage, but who knows.”
While the subject matter was a sensitive one and Vitez faced some challenges working with so many children, he said his biggest challenge was the budget and the death of one of the cast members.
“The budget is always the challenge in Croatia — we made this movie with less than half a million dollars, and we had a limited amount of time to shoot it,” he said. “Then, in the middle of shooting, tragedy hit. One of the actors, the one who was supposed to play the janitor, Drago, one of the possible greatest Croatian filmmakers, died of a stroke in the middle of shooting. So we had to reshoot all of these scenes during the school holidays.”
Watch the full interview above.