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Pula film festival

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59TH Pula Film Festival


Nowadays, the Pula Film Festival is the most visited cultural event in the Republic of Croatia with more than 73.000 visitors, 15 days packed with festival events in Pula, and satellite screenings at summer festivals across Croatia, from Dubrovnik, Split, Šibenik and Zadar, to Rijeka and Zagreb. Long ago, in 1938, even before the establishment of the Cannes Film Festival, a well visited first film revue took place in the Pula Arena and since 1953 Pula has established itself as a place where you can enjoy the film under the starry sky.

From July 21 to 28, 2012, the National Programme, thanks to which Pula proudly holds the title of the oldest film festival in the world, expects to present more a dozen Croatian titles, including two co-productions in which Croatian artists took part and in which Croatian film locations where used. A recently launched short films programme, which introduced many young talents to Pula, is especially interesting.
From July 14 to 28, 2012, the 12th consecutive edition of the attractive International Programme will host a feast of cinematic delicacies from around the world, from selected films from festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Rome, to hits targeted at a broad audience.
And we should also mention the Sidebar Programmes: Pulica – Children’s Film Programme, Professor Balthazar’s Adventure Laboratory, Pula Film Factory, Cinemaniac Exhibition, Bring Your Own Film and Films at Portarata. All of this will be accompanied by sponsor events and social gatherings as well as entertainment programmes.


ArenaPula Film Festival is the most popular film festival in Croatia (77.558 visitors in 2010.), a big screen, open air, summer festival founded in 1954 which makes it the oldest national film festival in the world and one of the oldest festivals in general. London newspaper The Guardian in 2005 wrote that Pula is "one of the three most spectacular open-air festivals in Europe". Its National & Popular programme, opening and award ceremonies are traditionally held in ancient Vespasian’s Amphitheatre (constructed in the mid-1st century B.C), popularly called Arena, that in summer becomes one of the biggest open-air cinemas in the world (along with Locarno and Taormina). In ancient times it was used for gladiator battles, and now is used for cultural events. It can accomodate more than 5000 spectators. Screenings of the films in the International Competition are held on the Pula Castle and in the Cinema Valli.

KaštelUntil 1991 Pula Film Festival was the Yugoslavian national festival, while now the festival has two competition programs, Croatian national and international, with separate awards. All the films in the International programme will be competing for the Golden Arena for the Best Foreign Film of the Festival and two jury prizes. Our recent guests were John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons, Jiri Menzel, Greta Scacchi, Christopher Lee and James Ivory.

Short History and Cronology of the Festival

ArenaThe Pula Film Festival is the most long-lived national film festival in the world. Thanks to the large number of visitors in the Arena, the traditional venue of the Festival, Pula is at the same time a national festival with the highest number of viewers per screening in the world.

The first film revue in the Arena took place long time ago, in 1938. In 1953, on the initiative of Marijan Rotar, an international film revue took place in the Arena, the success of which served as a basis for the organization of the national film festival. In 1954, the Yugoslav film festival was established in Pula, taking place up until 1990.

Since 1992, the Croatian film festival was held in Pula and in 2001 the festival was transformed into an international one, awarding best foreign film. In 2010, it incorporated competition sections for minority co-productions and Croatian short subjects and since that year the films have screened at summer festivals in Dubrovnik, Split, Rijeka, Osijek, Zagreb, Šibenik and Zadar.



Il Corriere Istriano, br. 164, 18. lipnja 1938. Francuski plakat filma La chaste SuzanneThe first screening in the Arena takes place on June 18, 1938, presenting André Berthomieu’s film La chaste Suzanne (Italian translation Casta Susanna), starring Meg Lemonnier and Henry Garat. This was the opening film of the first film revue which ran until August 28.

This revue was ignored and completely forgotten about for decades (Miodrag Kalčić reminded about it in a text in Glas Istre from June 18, 2010) but in the context of festival’s internationalization it acquired a new meaning.

The revue of Italian and international premiere films moves to the Small Roman Theatre and after this year the project is stopped due to war.

Tre storie proibiteA year before the domestic film revue in the Arena, which has been considered the first Pula Film Festival to this date, Marijan Rotar organizes a foreign film revue that runs from August 13 to 23, 1953. An extraordinary success of the international film revue (with 50.000 visitors, and the next year 37.000) establishes the Arena as an ideal location for the film festival. Rotar’s selection of films is quite interesting: out of eight originally planned screenings, half went to Hollywood, and among non-American directors appeared Kurosawa. The first picture ever to be screened in the Arena is the Italian film Three Intimate Stories. Next are the American The Great Caruso, the Japanese Rashomon, the French We Are All Murderers, the American Operation Cicero, the Italian Loves and Poisons, and the American Underwater Heroes and Captain Horatio Hornblower. The revue is prolonged for two days due to its great success – the Slovenian film Svet na Kajžarju, together with nine short cartoons, is featured on the closing night.


1. Pula Film Festival 1954.1954
The first film festival is opened in the Pula Arena on June 24, 1954 - the domestic film revue.

The Slovenian film Vesna by František Čap wins the Audience Award and the Bosnian film Stojan Mutikaša by Croatian director Fedor Hanžeković the Critics’ Prize.

The first Croatian film ever to be presented in the Arena is Branko Belan’s Koncert.

Marijan Rotar serves as Festival’s director.


2. Pula Film Festival 1955.Yugoslav newspaper Vjesnik u srijedu headed by Fadil Hadžić announces a programme similar to Pula’s and requests that the organization of the Festival be taken over by Zagreb. Pula representatives complain to the Socialist Alliance of the People’s Republic of Croatia. The political top decides that the festival should remain in Pula but that Vjesnik u srijedu should act as its co-organizer. First Jadran film director Šime Šimatović testifies that the decision was a political one – in times of territorial issues with Italy, the decision was meant to affirm Pula’s and Istria’s affiliation to the mother country.

Festival gets its first jury, composed of Ranko Marinković and Ivan Šibl, among many others. The first award goes to František Čap’s Deciding Moments. President Tito takes over as patron of the Festival. Among other films, he watches the film Tri novčića u fontani, first film shot in CinemaScope screened at Pula.

The first Croatian winner in the Arena: Don't Look Back, My Son by Branko Bauer, produced by Jadran film, receives the first prize, the Arena Golden Medal for Best Director, as well as the Critic’s Prize. The Festival is prolonged to 12 days. Apart from 11 domestic feature films and 37 domestic documentaries, six foreign films screen as well.


The organization of the festival is transferred from Pula and Zagreb to Belgrade. The Yugoslav Film Producers’ Association founds an institution called the Yugoslav Film Festival with a mission to organize all domestic film festivals.


Due to the establishment of the documentary and short feature film festival in Belgrade, the Pula festival establishes itself as a feature film festival. Belgrade awards two films that were not selected for the competition programme of the 1959 Pula: Concerto For Sub-machine Gun and Three Monuments.


Josip Broz Tito, accompanied by Sophia Loren, attends the opening ceremony at which the film The Battle of the River Neretva is screened. Bulajić’s spectacular film revives state interest in film production, especially in war themes. Next year, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, at that time playing Tito in the film The Battle of Sutjeska, visit the festival.

22. Pula Film Festival 1975.1975

Festival’s management and headquarters go back to Pula. Martin Bizjak becomes director of the festival and remains in that position for the next ten years. In the meantime, the directorship of the festival is held by: Milan Luks, Božidar Torbica, Branko Bekić, Dejan Kosanović (five mandates), Petar Volk (4 mandates), and Miodrag-Miša Novaković (3 mandates). Yugoslav cinema already has 460 feature films.

27. Pula Film Festival 1980.1976

As Jadran film guests, director Sam Peckinpah and actor James Coburn visit the Festival. Festival’s patron Tito makes his last visit to the Festival.


Gorka Ostojić Cvajner takes over as Festival’s director from Martin Bizjak (she remains in this position until 1994, the year in which the Festival does not run due to the lack of films).

An Academy Award goes to the film Amadeus by Miloš Forman who visits the Festival next year.


The winner of the final Yugoslav film festival is Bata Čengić’s Silent Gunpowder.

138. Pula Film Festival 1991.991
Due to the start of war, the Festival Council headed by Antun Vrdoljak, who will remain in this position until 1999, decides to suspend the Festival in protest against violence. The idea of programme director Ivo Škrabalo was that the Festival would present a View to Europe and an Arena Hits programme that year. Furthermore, John Malkovich arrives to Pula for the retrospective of his films and for the promotion of Branka Sömen’s book Ni heroj ni odmetnik.

The winner of the first Croatian film festival is Krsto Papić’s Story from Croatia. From a Yugoslav film festival the Pula Festival turned into a Croatian film festival.

Programme director Ivo Škrabalo announces the establishment of an ABC – Alpe – Baltic – Croatia Festival in Pula. However, the idea of festival’s internationalization did not take hold and Škrabalo steppes down the following year.



The festival does not run but there is the screening of the only Croatian feature film The Price of Life by Bogdan Žižić, as well as six American cinematic hits.

142. Pula Film Festival 1995.995
Croatian film production starts to thrive again and six feature films are showcased. International stars arrive too: Festival’s director Branka Sömen brings actors Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley, as well as director Philip Noyce. The Istrian National Theatre is in charge of festival’s organization. In the nineties, after Branka Sömen, the directorship is held by Ljubo Šikić, Davorka Lovrenčić and Arsen Oremović.

Branko Čegec takes over as President of the Festival Council from Antun Vrdoljak who has held this post for ten years. Armando Debeljuh assumes the artistic director position. The decision is made that the Festival should widen its scope to become a European one.

Front page of the Catalogue of 48. Pula Film Festival, 2001.2001

Dalibor Matanić makes the first European film selection. The first foreign film to win the Grand Golden Arena is 101 Rejkjavik by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakura. The first international jury is composed of Vinko Brešan, Uli Gaulke, and Annmaria Percavassi.

The Festival starts screening films at Kaštel, which also serves as the venue for the first Warm-Cold regional programme. On the other hand, European films in competition are presented in the Arena and at the Istrian National Theatre.

The Festival marks its 50th anniversary. The Pula Film Festival Public Institution is founded. Tedi Lušetić serves as its first director and as the artistic director of the 50th and 51st Festival. The European part of the festival is replaced with the Music Programme, selected by Mike Downey.

Jeremy Irons attends the screening of the film Callas Forever, whereas John Malkovich invites everyone to come to Pula in a promotional video shot in Pula.


The Italian Community (Circolo) becomes the Festival’s Centre and place of gathering for all participants. The Circolo also serves as a screening venue for the presentation of Croatian films to the press, as well as the Slovene and documentary films programmes.

Shortly before the 2004 Festival, Mladen Lučić takes over as Festival’s director.

After the European programme, the international foreign film programme is also introduced and presented in the Arena right after Croatian film screenings. The selection of the films presented in the Arena is performed by Branka Sömen and Zlatko Vidačković.

The Critic’s Prize for best foreign film goes to the Uruguayan film Whisky.

After  Zlatko Vidačković takes over as artistic director of the Festival, the Europolis-Meridians (at the Italian Community) and the PoPular Programme (in the Arena) are launched. An international jury for foreign films is reintroduced and it is presided over by Ronald Bergan. The winner of the international programme is Benedek Fliegauf’s Dealer.

Zdenka Višković-Vukić takes over as the director of the Pula Film Festival Public Institution. The Europolis-Meridians International Film Programme moves to Kaštel and is presented as a three-day warm-up programme (the screenings also take place at the Italian Community). Greta Scacchi opens the programme at Kaštel and the Golden Arena for Best Foreign Director is personally picked up by Jiří Menzel. 

Poster of 55. Pula Film Festival2008

The Valli Cinema opens its doors and hosts all daytime screenings. The Kaštel warm-up programme is prolonged to seven days. The Cinema is part of the Europa Cinema chain and the first film it presents is British Flawless by Michael Radford,

Christopher Lee is awarded a Special Golden Arena for Contribution to Film Art.


The European Film Directors Programme is launched. The first retrospective is dedicated to Pedro Almodóvar. A Short Films Programme is launched (for both feature and animated films).

The first Croatian Film Focus takes place with twenty participants from the ranks of foreign film selectors and journalists.


The Festival introduces the Minority Co-productions competition section. The first winner is Jasmila Žbanić’s On the Path. The Croatian Short Films Programme becomes a competition programme awarding Irena Škorić for the film March 9th. The films screened at Pula are showcased at summer festivals in Dubrovnik, Split, Rijeka, Osijek, Zagreb, Šibenik and Zadar.

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