Guide to SKOPJE

Festival where films, music, sea and mountains meet

Interview with Admir Čulumarević, director of the festival

Admir Culumarevic, Niksa Bratos, Sasha Losic

For the last three years the national park Paklenica in Croatia, on the outskirts of mountain Velebit, hosts a festival named Starigrad Paklenica Film Festival. It is a festival which program is entirely devoted to music documentaries and through its rich and diverse program it celebrates music and cultures from all corners of the Earth. Each August, the festival welcomes artists and directors that have made significant contributions to this genre and this year is no exception with plenty of documentaries to present. We talked about this festival with its founder and general manager Admir Čulumarević.

How did you get the idea to start SPFF that is entirely devoted to screening music documentaries?

I can freely say that probably I was dealing with my own teenage frustrations. I think all of us that love both films and music, at least once in our lifetime, we have felt delighted when we saw some of our musical idols either on the TV or projection screen, in totally unusual situations where until that moment we didn’t have the opportunity to see them often. I was especially delighted by the fact that the movie makers have taken the opportunity and made a film about a certain music star, and have given the film its necessary political, cultural and social dimension. Those are great films and the reason is very simple.

The festival is taking place on exotic locations at Stara Paklenica national resort, deep in the mountain Velebit which is actually a well known mountain climbing centre.

Velebit and Starigrad Paklenica are great locations. Actually, people have forgotten that many films were shot at these locations. The Winettou TV series and films were shot here, Kirk Douglas shot  Scalawag,  Richard Burton shot some of the Sutjeska movie, Omar Sharif, many partisan films an co-productions done by Jadran film. On one hand, it is a location which movie tradition should be respected and continued. On the other, the magnificent surroundings of Velebit and the canyon of Paklenica where the  projection screens were placed, are very near the beaches, which guarantees many joys both for the audiences and the guests of SPFF. It has to be seen with your own eyes.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of organizing a film festival on locations such as these and not in a big center such as Zagreb?

I would say that there almost aren’t any disadvantages, except for the expensive fuel, but Paklenica is close to Zagreb and that is not a big issue. Production-wise, it is a difficult and demanding  task and it would have been easier if we were to organize it in Zagreb, but on the other hand, I think that in Croatia we have to develop cultural tourism as more as possible. I think we give our own contribution to that idea by doing SPFF at Stara Paklenica. It is important to note that Starigrad Paklenica is a small resort and we are sentenced to great fun and fraternizing, as the audience is coming and going from the projection almost hand in hand with Oscar winners and movie greats that until few minutes ago you saw them on the movie screen.


Roger Ross Williams

To your opinion, what were people’s reaction to these types of films, and how did it translate into numbers, if these documentaries are intended for a different profile of viewers?

The music documentary has become a genre that is experiencing a great expansion. We were facing a task to promote it further and I think we were successful since year after year we have more and more visitors at our wonderful open air cinemas at Paklenica. It is also wonderful to see people from the region or from other countries, come to Paklenica to see films. People are often surprised by the quality of what is presented and there are a lot of tears and plenty of laughter, fun, because you can find that in these films.

What is the influence of this festival either on people that work both in the film and music area in Croatia?

I think that for a short time, in just three years, we managed to direct the attention toward this festival as an entity that wants to be different, with something more to offer, both regarding the program and the off program. The influence is built for a long time and we are aware of that, just as we are aware that we can build only on a good program that will be recognized by young film makers and musicians. I think that younger people are rarely given a chance to be part of the program shoulder to shoulder with acclaimed directors from all parts of the world.

What are the criteria for choosing the films?

Selector Zoran Pezo, a director of one of the cult films in formerYugoslavia, “The Demise of Rock and Roll” myself and renowned music producer Niksha Bratosh, we aim towards a program that is attractive and above all of high quality. Pezo is receiving more and more material from all corners of the planet, and this year we received the first application fromAustralia, something we are most proud of as this was the only continent from where we didn’t have any film application from. The idea is to present different approaches towards documenting someone’s work that are common in the film. It matters that the film should have that detail that makes it different and of importance for the audience and that is the main criterion.

What is the concept of the festival? How is it organized?

There are two competition categories, a category of featured documentaries and short documentaries. Films from both categories can compete for the SPFF rewards. This year we began awarding people for their contributions to this art and we awarded British musician Sting for his contributions to the music and film industries. Also, each year we try to promote one of the European cinematographies within this genre through a special program out of competition. During the first years we had Regional Week, the previous a French week, and this year we have Austrian week. In a period of 5 days, the audience will have an opportunity to see 30 well chosen films and they will find something that is to their taste. Naturally, there is plenty of music or concerts after each screening, lots of bands, which means parting until early morning hours.

Arsen Dedic

Judging by the applications and the films that were already screened at the festival, what is the quality of the production of music documentaries in formerYugoslaviaand the Balkan’s region?

There is always something happening in this part of the world. We see that every day. Each year we had the opportunity to see at least one great film from the region of former YU, which confirms that this is an area rich with talented and creative people. There are lots of renowned film makers that work in this genre like Pier Zalica, who was awarded with Best Movie by choice of the audience. That serves only as an additional inspiration for everything they do and produce. We receive films from the whole region, from Slovenia to Macedonia and that confirms what I said previously that this is a region full of especially talented and witty people.

zoran pezo, zoran predin and brian rasic


-Winners Week?


Winners Week is an opportunity for the people ofZagrebthat did not have the opportunity to attend the festival at Paklenica to see the awarded films from the previous SPFF. The five awarded films, are some sort of The Best of SPFF and an opportunity to announce the next SPFF. I already mentioned Zalica as a laureate, also the film about the White Stripes. Roger Ross Williams’ Music for Prudence, which is an Oscar awarded film, was also awarded for the Best script, and the Award for the best film was given to Cure for Pain: The Story of Mark Sandman by directors Bralver and Ferino. I think that this year we will take this a step further and the Winners Week will be available to people from other cities as well.

In August, the SPFF will be happening for the third time. What will the festival’s program feature this year?

The visitors will have the opportunity to see films by some of the greatest directors – Scorsese, Davis Guggenheim, films by some of the greatest bands in the history of music. We have a rich music program that will feature Vlatko Stefanovski. The complete program is available at Some of the musicians from the films will also be there at the fest. The third SPFF 2012 is one of the most attractive film happenings in this part of the world. I invite You and Your readers to join us and see and feel for themselves.

Nenad Georgievski