Stuart Forster looks at the Zagreb Tourfilm Festival in Croatia.
One of my highlights of 2015 was being President of the Jury at the Zagreb Tourfilm Festival.
The film festival was held in the Croatian capital from 21 to 24 September. More than 600 entries were received from around the world. I can vouch that reaching decisions were by no means always easy. Some long discussions ensued regarding the artistic and technical merits of films.
Following the gala dinner and awards ceremony in the ballroom of the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel I had a chat with Spomenka Saraga, the Festival Director.
“The Zagreb Tourfilm Festival was the mutual idea of the Zagreb Tourist Board and me. With the help of Zagreb city, a lot of enthusiasm and a great deal of energy we were able to realise it for the first time in 2012,” says Spomenka, an experienced film producer whose work includes the 2007 film, Unique Dubrovnik. The film played a role in raising international awareness about the attractions of the Dalmatian city that many people today recognise from Game of Thrones.
Tourism movies and reportage
“At the festival, we show tourism-related movies and reportage. They come from all over the world to promote the nature, architecture, people, culture and activities of different countries. We show the diversity of the world with one thing in common; beauty,” says Spomenka.
“The movies from Bangladesh and Greece always stand out with beauty and humour. This year my favourite movie is Only in Ghent because it’s very different and has an alternative, anti-commercial tone,” she adds.
A film festival in Zagreb
“For Zagreb it’s very important to have a festival like this because it promotes the city and its people. It also provides opportunities for our guests to connect and network with people from other countries and festivals. This kind of promotion of the city is very good for the economy and tourism in general,” says Spomenka.
“We prepared a lot of interesting events for our guests. The festival started with a red carpet opening ceremony. Over the following two days we have excursions and sightseeing events for festival guests. There was an interesting round table discussion on the subject of tourism film production, a wine academy plus a presentation about Dubrovnik’s Good Food Festival,” explains the event’s director.
“We have several thematic categories,” she explained “these include tourist destinations, such as cities, regions and countries, extreme sports, adventure tourism, water-based travel, hotels and resorts, rural tourism, fairs and congresses and work relating to people, events, plus culture and traditions. You can find out more by clicking on the categories section of the festival’s website.”
“We’re looking for professionally recorded films, videos and television reportage; productions that meet professional standards of technical quality. Applications will be accepted if they fit within one of the categories, meet the stated conditions and are within one of the durations. These vary in length. We’re calling for commercial films and videos of up to two minutes, and promotional films, TV reportage plus documentaries of up to an hour in length.”
“Our wish is to educate people and also motivate employees within the tourism industry into promoting destinations in the right way. This also means focusing on target groups as well as inspiring interested parties to search for the new trends,” she said when asked about the festival’s aims.
“We would also like to induce young people to enter the world of tourism, either as its promoters or as tourism professionals. The Zagreb Tourfilm Festival rewards films and audiovisual productions that promote tourism,” she added.
What film critics look for
For newcomers, it might be tricky to identify the most important components of travel-related films.
“A few things are important. When I approach a film, I first think of words and phrases that relate to the message. I try to filter out the main concepts and think of ways to express these ideas on the screen. I want to create a film that makes an emotional impact on the identified target audience, with good information and attractive pictures. When you see the movie, you wish to go and visit that country and see it with your own eyes. A movie can be just as good as photos; if you feel and smell the place when you see it then it’s a good film,” says Spomenka with enthusiasm.
The ideal length of the films entered in the festival varies according to the format. However, Spomenka believes that videos and commercial films have to be short and informative, so people take them in while travelling or at places such as trade fairs. “But at home, when sitting in the comfort of our armchairs, the length of the broadcast is not so important, so TV reportage, documentaries and films can easily be from between 25 and 60 minutes.”
“I suggest that people try to create short, powerful films,” she answers when I ask what key tips she can offer to new filmmakers.
Things to do in Zagreb
“The Zagreb Tourfilm Festival’s attendees have had some time to see Zagreb,” explains Ms Saraga, who has worked with film production companies from around the world.
“I would recommend visitors take a look at Zagreb’s upper town because of its charm, romantic lanes filled with historical and cultural attractions. Highlights include St Mark’s Church, the Atelier Meštrović, where people can see artworks by Ivan Meštrović and the Museum of Broken Relationships. Lotrščak Tower and the nearby promenade have some great views of the city,” she says enthusiastically.
“To feel Zagreb’s pulse, I would recommend Flower Square – Trg Petra Preradovića in Croatian – which has a lot of cafés. Though it’s almost impossible to find a free seat to drink coffee because drinking coffee is part of Croatia’s heritage,” she adds laughing.
“For those who love spending time in nature, I would recommend a walk through the Ribnjak or Maksimir parks, or a visit to the Botanical Garden. It feels like you’re far away from the city but you’re just around the corner from the heart of the city,” she adds.
Take a look at the Zagreb Tourfilm Festival website to learn more about the event and find out how to submit films.
Zagreb Tourfilm FestivaL
The film Time, from Switzerland, won the festival’s Grand Prix.
The category Best TV Documentary up to 60 Minutes was won by When the Villagers Left, about sustainable tourism in rural Vietnam.
Only in Ghent came top of the Best Film up to Seven Minutes category.
Share Istria won the Best Croatian Film up to Three Minutes award.
Screenings during the 2015 film festival were held within the Mimara Museum in the heart of Zagreb. Learn more about the city’s attractions on the Zagreb Tourist Board website.
See the Croatia Tourist Board site for ideas for travel around the country beyond Zagreb.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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Stuart flew from Newcastle to Zagreb with British Airways via London Heathrow. Zagreb is around two hours 20 minutes’ flying time from London.