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Here is a brief overview of foreign productions shot in Croatia, from 1920’s to 1990’s.
In early 1920’s, famous German director Fridrich Wilhelm Murnau made Finances of the Grand Duke, the first foreign production shot in Croatia. This film opened the doors to many other international productions and positioned Croatia as a filming location.
In the early 1960s, a Berlin based production company, Rialto, decided to adapt for the screen a series of adventure novels by the German author Karl May, set in the American Old West. The novels, hugely popular in Europe since they first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, featured a noble Apache chieftain Winnetou and his loyal white sidekick Old Shatterhand. The first film in the series was shot entirely in Croatia and released under the title The Treasure of Silver Lake / Der Schatz im Silbersee in 1962. The Treasure of the Silver Lake was a success at the European box office and was followed by another eight films in the Winnetou series, all filmed in spectacular locations in southern Croatia.
At the same time, in the early 1960s, far from the rugged landscape of southern Croatia, film production was also booming in the Croatian capital, the genteel central European city of Zagreb. There, on the backlots of Jadran Film Studios, it would have been easy to imagine that you had stumbled into a scene from ancient Rome, Babylon or Alexandria. Jadran Film’s backlots were in those days a thriving film city, an off-shoot of the biggest and busiest film studio in Europe at the time: Rome’s Cinecittà. Dozens of popular historical, mythological and Biblical epics were shot at Jadran Film Studios at a fast, even dizzying, turnaround rate.
Of the many forgettable B-movies shot in Croatia in the 1960s, two films stand out. One is French master director Abel Gance’s last film ever Austerliz (1960) featuring Orson Welles in one of his numerous acting roles at the time. Welles was so pleased with his experience in Croatia that he returned two years later, in 1962 to Zagreb to film part of his screen adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial.
Some of the best-known known films of the 1970s and 1980s were shot on location in Croatia: starting with Norman Jewison’s Oscar winning Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Sam Peckinpah WWII action drama Cross of Iron (1977) followed by Volker Schlöndorff’s Oscar-winning Tin Drum (1979), István Szabó’s Oscar contender Colonel Redl (1985), Alan J. Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice (1982), Tom Stoppard’s only foray into directing Rosenkrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead (1990), starring two then relatively unknown British actors Garry Oldman and Tim Roth, and ABC’s multiple Emmy Award winning mini-series The Winds of War (1983) and its sequel War and Remembrance (1988).
Unfortunately, this production boom was interrupted in the 1990’s for nearly ten years by the war and its aftermath in Croatia and neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Among the most recent productions that chose Croatia for their filming location is HBO's Game of Thrones, who just wrapped up filming season 4 on location in Dubrovnik. Also, the acclaimed British director Peter Greenaway shot his historical drama Goltzius and the Pelican Company (2011) on location in Croatia.
In recent years, Croatia has served as a shooting location for films as varied as Carlo Gabriel Nero's The Fever (2004), starring Vanessa Redgrave and Angelina Jolie, Emily Young’s critically acclaimed BAFTA winning indie film Kiss of Life (2003), Dutch children’s classic Crusade in Jeans (2006), as well as the UK television mini-series Casanova (2005), in a version starring Peter O’Toole and David Tennant. Richard Shepard’s Hunting Party (2007), starring Richard Gere and Terence Howard, was filmed in Croatia, with a script inspired by Scott Anderson’s Esquire article about the failed hunt for one of the most wanted indicted war criminals, Radovan Karadzic. White Lightnin’, debut of director Dominic Murphy was most recently filmed in Croatia. Film starred Carrie Fisher and first timer Ed Hogg.