Home » Croatia, Europe

Cool Croatia Hosts World’s First Music Documentary Film Festival

Submitted by on 13/08/2010 – 20:18

By Rupert Parker

In August, Starigrad Paklenica staged the first ever festival of music documentaries together with performances by Croatian bands.  This could well become an annual event.

I’m in the seaside resort of Starigrad Paklenica, really just a thin ribbon of campsites, guesthouses, hotels and restaurants sandwiched between the Adriatic and the mountains.  The idea that there might be a film festival here seems unlikely as there are no cinemas and the Balkan holidaymakers with their screaming kids don’t really seem a potential audience. Of course I’m wrong as the festival organisers have set up two open-air screening venues just inside the National Park and also erected a stage by the sea. Media types have decamped from Zagreb and they’ll be showing up to five music documentaries daily, with a rock concert in between. Of course this all happens after dark so I have time to explore the area


Known as the “Cool Capital of Croatia”, the walled town of Zadar is surrounded on three sides by sea. Roman remains sit side by side with medieval churches and the traffic-free centre is surprisingly compact.  Religion is important in a place which boasts more than 30 churches, and the most outstanding is the circular Church of St Donat dating from the 9th Century.  It was built over the Roman Forum, and they reused the original stones as building materials.  Inside two complete pillars have been incorporated into the design and nearby is another pillar where criminals in the middle ages were chained and humiliated. 

It’s not all ancient history as, in 2005, local architect Nicola Basic created the first sea-powered musical organ. Underneath the quayside he installed 35 musically tuned pipes – as the water rushes in, air is pushed through and random sounds are created, a sort of sea symphony.  A couple of years later he created the  “Greeting to the Sun” nearby – a 22 metre glass circle filled with 300 solar panels that collect the sun’s energy during the day. The sounds from the Sea Organ trigger a lightshow and singers have been known to arrive in boats and create impromptu seaside duets.

What really makes Zadar cool is the numbers of bars, festivals and clubs.  The most famous is the Garden, set up by UB40 members, in an open air venue on the ramparts overlooking the sea.  It also has a sister club, Barbarella’s, just 15 minutes north of the town which is done out in 70’s retro style and hosts the yearly Garden Festival, with the best of Europe’s DJ’s and live acts.

Starigrad Paklenica Film Festival

I get back to Starigrad just in time for the opening concert from TBF, The Beat Fleet, one of Croatia’s most innovative trip-hop bands. At midnight the festival’s first film, “How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin”, is screened under the stars with the British director, Leslie Woodhead, as guest of honour.  His film deals with censorship of the Beatles in Soviet Russia and it strikes a chord with Croatians who still remember the Communist regime of former Yugoslavia 

Movies about Joy Division, Leonard Cohen and Beethoven share the bill at the festival and there is a commendable selection of Balkan documentaries as well as performances from local bands.  The mix works well and it seems that the Starigrad Paklenica Film Festival is now firmly on the movie map.


Rupert recommends:


Croatian National Tourist Office – 0208 563 7979.

Starigrad Paklenica Film Festival


Croatia Airlines flies from London to Zadar (via Zagreb) from £143 return.


Hotel Alan offers all inclusive accommodation by the sea

Hotel Rajna has 10 comfortable rooms and serves excellent food

Hotel Bastion in Zadar is a designer boutique hotel with a great restaurant

And finally, something Cool:

The Garden Club and Festival


No Comment »

  • Rupert says:

    Hi Andy

    Thanks for your comments – I was just repeating what they told me at the festival, so sorry if it’s misleading – perhaps I should take it up with them! And Leslie is a great guy

  • Andy says:

    Hi Rupert, nice piece, I wasn’t aware of this festival (and keeping an eye on music documentaries is one of my jobs), and I’ve long wanted to check out Zadar and the region. (I lived in Prague for several years, and Czechs are mad for the Croatian coast.)

    But … the headline is quite misleading. This is far from the “world’s first music documentary festival.” There are several such events (see the Association of Music Film Festivals, amusiff.com) – in fact it’s not even the first in Croatia (see Dorf, http://dorf-vk.com).

    But always glad to learn about a new event, so thanks for shining the spotlight on music docs! And that Leslie Woodhead film is really good.


Leave a comment

Add your comment below. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar