Croatian cinema has a long history filled with inspiring filmmakers and original themes of which neither political, societal or financial hurdles could silence. Only months after the Lumiere brothers had excited Parisian society, those tiny magical moving pictures arrived in the Croatian capital of Zagreb on October 3, 1896, forever changing the cultural criteria of Croatia. In addition, the Pula Film Festival, Croatia's largest and one of Europe's oldest film festivals will be celebrating it's 55th edition this year.
Forty seven years ago, Croatia's first Academy Award went to the animated feature THE SUBSTITUTE (Surogat) by Dušan Vukotic , crowning the worldrenown Zagreb School of Animation. The school was given this name by the french historian Georges Sadoul after eight genius animated creations screened at the 1959 Cannes Festival. Furthermore, the Zagreb School of Animation was the first to break Disney's monopoly at the Oscars, forever changing the landscape of the world of animation. Croatia's Jadran Film Studios has a 63 year tradition and is a wonderful reservoir of film history, not just Croatian but of world cinema too.
During the 1970's and 1980's, Jadran became famous for it's co-productions with the US. During those years, films that were shot in Croatia included SOPHIE'S CHOICE, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, TIN DRUM and the tv series WINDS OF WAR, and WAR & REMEMBERANCE. After WWII and the tight control of Communism, true auteurs slowly emerged, courageous to say what they really thought. Miletic a Croatian film pioneer, then Bauer, Golik, Belan, Mimica, Tanhofer, Bulajic, Hadzic, later Papic, Babaja, Berkovic, Vrdoljak were the leaders of cinematic auterism, so different from one another in their opuses, and so original. Just when it looked as if it couldn't get any better, the students of the Prague School of filmmaking, Grlic, Zafranovic , Zalar gave new life to the old gard as well as a new perspective to Tadic, Sorak, Radic who came later.
Croatian cinema survived, even flourished while maneuvering the era of Yugoslavia and the many communist hurdles, when the criteria were more political than artistic. Deeply rooted in its national literature, Croatian films are an integral part of the Central European style and artistic expression, in which life is portrayed realistically, without flattery and bloated budgets. After the serb aggression of the 90's, a war Croatia was forced to fight in order to defend her borders, a completely new cinematic era emerged within a newly independent Croatia. The change was obvious, and younger - Bresan, Ogresta, Salaj, Nola, Schmidt, Hribar, Ostojic, Matanic, all who had something to say, not just of their own dramatic experiences from the war but of their generation and life in a newly independent country. Since then, more strident and modern filmmakers have emerged such as Svilicic, Milic, Zarkovic.
Finally, let's not forget the Croatians here in Hollywood, two-time Academy Award winner producer Branko Lustig, (SCHINDLER'S LIST, GLADIATOR), actors Goran Visnjic (ER, WELCOME TO SARAJEVO), Rade Serbedzija (THE SAINT, EYES WIDE SHUT), and Mira Furlan (LOST), and director Goran Dukic (WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY).
Surogat (1961 - The Substitute) Branko Lustig Goran Visnijc