New Wave of Croatian Films Heading to Venice, Locarno, Other Fests

Macall B. Polay/ HBO
Parts of the fifth season of "Game of Thrones" will be shot in Croatia.

Local producers credit a new funding regime and tax incentives with helping to revitalize the film industry.

PULA, CROATIA — New Croatian films are poised for recognition at international festivals this fall as funding reforms and tax incentives introduced in the Eastern European country over the past few years begin to have an impact.

The small former Yugoslav country's first film in more than 15 year at Venice, Ognjen Svilicic's These Are the Rules, is due to screen in the festival's Horizons section next month.

In addition, two movies are heading to the annual festival in Locarno — Andrea Staka's Cure, which screens in international competition, and Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic's co-production Love Island, which is getting a Grand Piazza screening.

More than a dozen other Croatian films are destined for international festival slots during the fall as well.

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Among other successes, 10 films are screening at next month's Sarajevo Film Festival, including Tatjana Bozic's documentary about what is wrong with her relationships with men, Happily Ever After. It sharply divided critics when it premiered at Rotterdam earlier this year.

Croatian director Hrvoje Hribar, who heads HAVC, the Croatian Audiovisual Center, said other films were in contention for Toronto, Montreal and Busan, making this the busiest fall festival season for Croatian films ever.

"The festival lineup we have now is a result of new policies in funding, incentives and legal reforms we've introduced in recent years," Hribar told The Hollywood Reporter. "We've had an approach of both funding international co-productions and attracting international projects to Croatia through the tax incentive introduced a couple of years ago."

Domestic producers could apply for annual funding worth nearly $11 million, and there was $4 million available for tax breaks for international productions.

The country has also attracted foreign productions. International projects shooting in Croatia this year include the third season of TV series Borgia; BBC projects Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell; and Game of Thrones, which local production service provider Embassy Film this week confirmed will shoot parts of the fifth season in Croatia.

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Damir Teresak, producer of These Are the Rules, which is a Croatian, Serbian, French and Macedonian co-production, said that after two decades that had seen local productions suffer due to the civil war of the 1990s and years of disruption that followed, the industry was beginning to reemerge.

"We still lack the infrastructure and trained crews we had before the war, but international productions are shooting here again, and that is helping develop the sector," Teresak said.

British producer Mike Downey, who divides his time between London and Croatia and is a member of the artistic board of the Pula International Film Festival — the 61st edition of which wraps here Saturday — said: "The main thing that has contributed to growing interest from festivals is that there is now a more pluralistic funding approach by HAVC, which has wisely invested in minority co-productions that is helping widen the talent pool."