By Iva Ralica
Croatia has a long tradition of film production. Back in the sixties it enjoyed its golden era, in the nineties production was interrupted by the war, but began flourishing once again with the beginning of the new century.
Thanks to its natural beauty filled with wide fields, rocky mountains, and gorgeous coastline, Croatia is a perfect filming location.
The history of international productions in Croatia goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the movies filmed here include the 1918 Hungarian film directed by Michael Curtiz, The Sunflower Woman; Der alte Gospodar, a Rolf Randolf film from 1922 starring Ernst Deutsch; the 1924 Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau film, Finances of the Grand Duke; the 1937 German musical comedy Gasparone directed by Georg Jacoby and filmed in Dubrovnik; The Little Czar directed by Arthur Maria Rabenalt, also filmed in Dubrovnik in 1954, as well as Sonne über der Adria, directed by Karl Georg Kulb and the 1959 film As the Sea Rages, directed by Horst Hächler.
From the sixties, with the so-called Golden Age in Croatian cinematography, an increased number of foreign productions and movies took place in Croatia. Ancient Babylon, Alexandria and Rome could´ve easily been found in the scenes set in Jadran film in Zagreb. Jadran film studio was one of the biggest and well-known studios in Central Europe between the 1960s and 1990s and some 124 Yugoslav and 145 international co-productions were filmed here.
Some of those are Sheba and the Gladiator from the year 1959 which was filmed in Globus-Dubrava film in Zagreb; Abel Gance´s last film, Austerlitz in 1960, featuring Orson Welles in the surroundings of Zagreb; David and Goliath from the same year, directed by Ferdinando Baldi and Richard Pottier and starring Orson Welles; The Tartars by Ferdinando Baldi and Richard Thorpe, starring Victor Mature and Orson Welles and The Trial from 1962, directed by Orson Welles, starring Anthony Perkins and Romy Schneider.
Adventure novels by Karl May, that followed a noble Apache chieftain Winnetou, set in the American Old West, were adapted for the screen in The Treasure of Silver Lake in 1962 and filmed entirely in Croatia.
Other eight films about Winnetou followed in the next years: Winnetou (Apache Gold) from the year 1963, that was filmed near Paklenica, Krka, Plitvice Lakes and Velebit, and Last of the Renegades (Winnetou – II Teil).
In 1965 came The Desperado Trail (Winnetou – III Teil), as well as Rampage at Apache Wells (Der Ölprinz) and Old Surehand (Flaming Frontier), Winnetou: Thunder at the Border and Half-Breed (Winnetou und das Halbblut Apanatschi) were filmed here in 1966 (filming for the trilogy Winnetou, a remake of the cult films, took place in Croatia in 2015)
The movie Isadora, directed by Karel Reisz, starring Vanessa Redgrave was filmed in Rijeka, Opatija, Mostenica Beach and Maksimir in Zagreb. The movie is a biography of the 1920s dancer Isadora Duncan who changed the idea of ballet. In the Valley of Death, another Winnetou movie, directed by Harald Reinl, was filmed in 1968 in Croatia.
Oscar-winning Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Norman Jewison, was filmed in Lekenik (in Turopolje, central Croatia) and Mala Gorica near Petrinja in 1971.
Cross of Iron, film directed by Sam Peckinpah was filmed in Savudrija and Zagreb in 1977 and 1979 had brought another Oscar-winning film – The Tin Drum, directed by Volker Schlöndorff.
The 1981 movie Egon Schiele – Exzesse, about the life of cursed painter Schiele, directed by Herbert Vesely, starring Mathieu Carrière, Jane Birkin and Christine Kaufmann that was filmed here, recently got its 2016 adaptation.
Famous Sophie’s Choice, directed by Alan J. Pakula, starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol was filmed in Raiserovo castle in Samobor in 1982.
The Winds of War, an Emmy Award-winning mini-series, was filmed in Zagreb (in the Esplanade Hotel), in Samobor and Opatija in 1983 and High Road to China starring Tom Selleck and Bess Armstrong the same year.
Croatia was also the filming location for the Oscar-winning Colonel Redl, directed by István Szabó and filmed in Pula in 1985, and Armour of God directed by Jackie Chan, and starring Chan himself, in 1986 in Motovun.
War and Remembrance, the sequel by Dan Curtis, starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Seymour that won 3 Golden Globes was filmed in Zagreb and Osijek in 1988. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead directed by Tom Stoppard and starring Garry Oldman, Tim Roth and Richard Dreyfuss in 1990 is one other award-winning movie filmed in these parts. Welcome to Sarajevo, starring Stephen Dillane, Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei was filmed in Trogir in 1997.
Mathilde, directed by Nina Mimica, starring Jeremy Irons, Nutsa Kukhianidze and Dejan Acimovic was filmed in Split in 2004 and The Fever, directed by Carlo Gabriel Nero, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Moore, Rade Serbedzija and Angelina Jolie filmed in Zagreb are (not the only) but the most interesting films that took place in Croatia in the beginning of a new century.
Then follows The Hunting Party in 2007 , directed by Richard Shepard, starring Richard Gere, Sigourney Weaver and Terrence Howard that was filmed in Zagreb, Duga Resa, Karlovac, Samobor and the Žumberak region. Among other movies filmed in Croatia was the typical Hollywood adventure film – Season of the Witch.
The most recent productions in Croatia include BBC-produced TV series Dr. Who, that was filmed in Trogir in 2009. In 2011 the island Korčula was the filming location for Venuto al mondo with Penélope Cruz, Emil Hirsch, Jane Birkin, about a mother who brings her son to Sarajevo where his father died in the Bosnian conflict.
Most famously HBO’s Game of Thrones is filmed in Dubrovnik, Šibenik and Split. Diana, the 2012 film starring Naomi Watts, was filmed in Zagreb, Rovinj and Opatija. Borgia, at least its third season, was filmed in Croatia in 2014, as too was season one of the TV series Dig produced by NBC Universal for USA Network.
Crossing Lines starring Goran Višnjić and Donald Sutherland that was filmed in Opatija and Fan, produced by Yash Raj Films in India and starring Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan was filmed in Dubrovnik.
There was also Star Wars: Episode VIII filmed in Dubrovnik, and Robin Hood: Origins movie which was filmed also in Dubrovnik earlier this year and Mamma Mia 2 on the island of Vis this year.
Now, listing only these movies, and knowing there were many others that selected Croatia as their filming location, we can only expect even more internationally acclaimed productions to visit our little part of heaven in the future.