THE MAKING OF SONJA HENIE

THE MAKING OF SONJA HENIE
Karpo Godina, Yugoslavia/Slovenia, 1972-2007, DCP, 1.37, colour, 97′, English subtitles

 

Director, cinematographer and one of the standard-bearers of the Yugoslav Black Wave, Karpo Godina (author of exquisite avant-garde shorts The Gratinated Brains of Pupilija FerkeverkLitany for Happy PeopleOn the Art of Love) attended the famous Belgrade Film Festival in 1972. There, he brought together the who’s who of independent filmmaking including Miloš Forman, Buck Henry, Paul Morrissey, Frederick Wiseman and Tinto Brass to create the now legendary Dadaistic collage I Miss Sonja Henie. Godina’s own making of “documentary” offers an insight into this creative process and serves as an invaluable record of a lost era. This is history in the making and cult cinema in action!

“Belgrade Film Festival of 1972 was the place to be. Godina assembled a motley crew of international and domestic guests of the festival: Tinto Brass, Puriša Đorđević, Miloš Forman, Buck Henry, Dušan Makavejev, Paul Morrisey, Bogdan Tirnanić, and Frederick Wiseman. Every night after the official festival screenings, talks and dinners were over, they sneaked into a tiny, abandoned apartment where a fixed 35mm camera was looming in a corner. Godina challenged each of his celebrated guests to create a short film, following a set of simple, yet rigorous rules: one room, one camera position, no zooms, tilts or pans, a couple of minutes each. And in every short the words ‘I Miss Sonja Henie’, a famous quote from the Snoopy cartoons, had to be voiced. The rest was left to individual imaginations entirely. The result: I Miss Sonja Henie (1972), a conceptual masterpiece of absurdist black humor, seven distinctively different variations on a ludicrous theme, a cinephile’s wet dream. The creative process which, more often than not, unfurled in an alcoholic haze and at a frenzy pace (certain participants today do not even recall taking part), and was captured on Godina’s own 16mm camera, forms The Making of Sonja Henie (1972). A ‘documentary’, that is just as inspiring, imaginative and, above all, possessed by the same anarchic spirit as its subject matter. Transcending a mere (nevertheless extremely precious) document of a certain time’s creative energies, it can also be viewed as a unique didactic tool, since every participant, each a distinct master of his craft, assumes a completely different approach in bringing a Sonja Henie concept to life.”
– Jurij Meden, The Believer

NEDOSTAJE MI SONJA HENIE

I MISS SONJA HENIE
Karpo Godina, Miloš Forman, Buck Henry, Tinto Brass, Paul Morrissey, Frederick Wiseman, Bogdan Tirnanić, Puriša Ðorđević, Dušan Makavejev, Yugoslavia, 1972, DCP, 1.37, colour, 14′, English subtitles

 

At the famous 1972 Belgrade FEST Godina invites several prominent guests to a small attic apartment in the middle of the night, with a 35mm camera waiting in the corner. Their assignment is to make 3-minute shorts, following a simple set of rules: the camera stays fixed and the sentence “I miss Sonja Henie”, a famous line from the Peanuts cartoon, must be spoken by one of the protagonists.

“An essential figure of Yugoslav cinema, Karpo Godina infused the radical ‘Black Wave’ of the 1960s with an irrepressible expressive freedom – squarely targeted against all forms of repression – and thrived long after the end of Titoism and the breakup of Yugoslavia in civil war. For more than 30 years, the half-Slovenian, half-Macedonian filmmaker has brought a playfully anarchical spirit to the poetics and politics of film, moving breathlessly between fiction and nonfiction in his avant-garde shorts of the 1960s and ’70s and his feature films of the 1980s and ’90s.”
– MoMA (On the occasion of Karpo Godina’s retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2018)

Followed by a talk and Q&A
with director Karpo Godina!