The most famous Croatian movie location of the past is the site where Winnettou was filmed and where the European western movie was founded. Today the title of the most famous film location belongs to the walls of Dubrovnik, where Game of Thrones is filmed. All throughout history, however, Istria has played a modest, yet key role as a movie location for a number of films.
Istria is vital for the film industry in Croatia: in addition to being the home to two of the finest film festivals in the country, the biggest and most renowned one being the Pula Film Festival, and the other being the cult Motovun Film Festival, it is also a favorite destination for numerous acting legends. Stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Kirk Douglas, and the director Orson Welles used to visit Tito on Brijuni Islands, but many, such as George Lucas, Michael York and Nastassja Kinski came to Istria to work!
George Lucas in Motovun
The famed creator of Star Wars came to film Red Tails in the summer of 2009 without much fuss in the media, using Istria to represent the small towns of the south of Italy, and using locals as the extras in the movie – so don’t be surprised if you see a familiar face in the crowd! Watching the movie, you will easily recognize Rovinj, Draguć and the filmmakers’ favorite – Motovun, where the movie had its first, unofficial premiere. A few decades earlier, Bale served as the film location for a movie about Garibaldi, played by the Italian actor Franco Nero.
Draguć i Vižinada become unrecogniazble
The small town of Draguć is a true Istrian star, appearing in 9 movies in the last 40 years, both local and foreign. Among them, the most famous one is The Three Musketeers, one of whom is played by Michael York.
But that wasn’t the first time Istria would pretend to be France! The small town of Vižinada appears in a key role in a 1970 film Kelly’s Heroes about World War II, gold and a robbery! Namely, in the movie, there is a bank in Vižinada with $16 million in gold being fought over by the Germans and Americans, and precisely on the main square in front of the local church! It is none other than Clint Eastwood plowing through the streets in a tank!
The films go, the fiords stay
France and Italy are not the only countries that Istria stars as in the movies! Lim Bay became a Norwegian fiord for the movie Vikings in 1958, starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. A Viking settlement was built in the entrance to the Bay, and since then the Bay has been renamed by the locals as the fiord.
Istria also plays itself in the movies, but in this case, it usually stars in documentaries. It rarely appears in feature films, including Na istarski način, based on the novel Riva i druži by Milan Rakovac, and Crveni i Crni, the film adaptation of the miners’ strike in Labin, directed by Miroslav Mikuljan.