Why was the research/current affair documentary lost?

Current affairs have long been a staple of investigative journalism, as well as investigative documentary. With the emergence of fake news, the need for this genre grew, which was never just for television, but also a successful festival film material, with not only informational but also cinematic, artistic and production value. Not infrequently, some of the well-known, “fundamental”, current documentary films would gain their visibility precisely through festival awards (e.g. The Imposter – Sundance Film Festival), or even Oscar nominations (Navalny, Zero days, An Inconvenient truth), so they would be shown on television channels broadcast only as an award-winning film. That is why projects like the British Bellingcats, which have an ever-growing audience, are not surprising.

However, when it comes to production in the area of the former Yugoslavia, but also in the greater part of Eastern post-communist Europe, it seems that current affairs do not have their own space. Public televisions almost never produce such contents themselves, and they avoid accepting them in the form of production or co-production, that is, possible purchase of the rights, even in tenders. Moreover, even when the authors and the production nevertheless manage to produce such a documentary and provoke a reaction from the public, the same television stations avoid broadcasting the film in their program. At the same time, festival program selectors give their programming focus and priority to the so-called creative documentary, so the authors of the current genre have less and less distribution space for showing their investigative films.

Almost twenty years of such a trend has led to an increasingly weak motivation of authors to engage in the research of current affairs with a documentary film. With only a few very important and significant exceptions in the region, documentary titles of this genre are a real rarity.

Unappreciated by the film industry, thinned out from festival selections, exiled from public television, what perspective do current affairs have and what motivation is offered to authors to deal with this genre today



Robert Tomić Zuber was born in Pula in 1976. He holds a diploma in sociology and has worked for the past twenty years as a journalist and editor in the Croatian press, on radio and television as well as working for international media (BBC).

He has received two awards from the Croatian Journalists’ Association for his work. Over the past decade, he has directed four long feature documentaries: At the Station in Pula (2001), Accidental Son (2008), Mila seeking Senida (2010) – awarded by Human Rights Award at Sarajevo Film Festival and Million-Dollar Life (2017).

From 2013-2016 he was the Head of the Documentary Production of Croatian national television. Today he is a freelancer, owner of a production company named “TOROlab” and also a lecturer at Zagreb’s faculty of Vern. He is the founder and director of RAFF – Rab Film Festival in Croatia.