×

Dubrovnik fest has uphill battle

Event suffered from inadequate promotion, logistical glitches

DUBROVNIK — Organizers of the third edition of the Dubrovnik Film Fest (May 25-29) admit they have their work cut out to make local auds respond as warmly to the program as the invited guests did to the beautiful host city on Croatia’s Adriatic Riviera.

Career kudos went to thesps Christopher Walken and Emily Watson and helmer Peter Medak. Walken said he and his wife, “The Sopranos” casting director Georgianne Walken, were pleased to attend because they had long wanted to visit Dubrovnik. Their interest was refueled by the historic city’s ongoing tourist renaissance 10 years after the end of the Balkan war, in which it was struck by more than 2,000 shells.

Watson and Medak also raved about the fortified Old City’s architectural charms (recently showcased doubling for Venice in BBC miniseries “Casanova”), but burg’s 47,000 residents were totally underwhelmed by the festival. There was single-figure paid attendance at some screenings for the eight-film international feature competition, based in the 200-seat, municipal Sloboda cinema. Turnout was equally low for out-of-competition special screenings and recent Croatian docs at the adjacent Marin Drzic Theater, a mid-19th-century legit venue.

This was stark proof of the assertion by fest’s Los Angeles-based director Ziggy Mrkich that “there is no film culture” in Dubrovnik, a locale with a long tradition of theater and classical music performance, including a summer festival of live arts heading toward its 56th edition.

Resistance to non-Hollywood pics in Croatia is not confined to Dubrovnik — theatrical market share for domestic features nationally is pegged around 2% — but the situation was exacerbated by manifestly inadequate on-site promotion for Dubrovnik Festival screenings.

The event, funded largely by the Croatian Ministry of Culture, Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the city council, also suffered multiple logistical glitches, including last-minute alterations to screening times and discussion panel venues. Croatian subtitles for the opening film, Charles Dance’s “Ladies in Lavender,” cut out after first 30 minutes.

Substantial improvements to organization and marketing will have to be made if Mrkich, a former Touchstone Pictures production staffer born to Croatian parents, is to build a local audience and compete with other Croatian fests, such as Motovun (August) and Zagreb (October). Biggest national film showcase by far remains the 52-year-old event in Pula in July, when the entire annual output of new domestic features is screened in a 7,500-seat Roman arena.

Dubrovnik competition honors went to Brit helmer Juliet McKeon’s drama “Frozen” (film and dinematography). Best director was Poland’s Ryszard Brylski for “Zhoorek,” and Croatia’s Dana Budisavljevic took the documentary award for “Everything Is Excellent,” about a porn actress.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content