The History of Avala Film

AVALA FILM, the oldest and the largest former Yugoslavian film company, was founded in 1946.

Avala Film was established during the administrative management of cinematography in the FNR Yugoslavia (1941-1951), when the entire activity was centralized. Belgrade was the administrative and business center of contemporary Yugoslav cinematography, which significantly influenced the development of cinematography in Serbia. Until the dissolution of the FRY Yugoslavia (1991), Serbia was producing about 50% of all Yugoslav films genres. The largest number of Yugoslav filmmakers and technicians lived and worked in Belgrade and Serbia, but that was also the place of the largest production capacities.

Avala Film was founded in 1946 as a national project, and for many years, it was regarded as the largest brand of Serbian culture. It was built right after World War II, with huge expectations. Terrain, studios and other buildings, as well as the recording, laboratory and tone processing equipment were designed to produce about 40 feature films per year. The plan was to make Belgrade one of the biggest European film centers. However, this idea has never been realized. Only dozen of projects have been filmed annually, but “Film City” has become a very popular place on the map of the world.

The Golden Age or the “continuous rise of the film in Serbia” (1961-1991) began in the early sixties. For over three decades, more than 300 feature films have been recorded in Serbia. The achievements of domestic cinematography became an integral part of the national culture, the domestic film won the spectators, and many achievements represented our country at film festivals all around the world.

Start Building Avala Film in 1945

The beginning of the sixties was the first significant period for Avala. It was the time when Ratko Dražević was placed at the head of “Avala Film”. During his time, domestic cinematography was flourishing. Avala Film was highly reputable film studio with extremely professional equipment and people. Slobodan Mihajlović Mihiz, Slobodan Selenić, Miroslav Krleža came to Avala at that time. In his time, one of the most important films of the domestic cinematography – “Skupljači perja”, by Aleksandar Saša Petrović, was filmed. Also, it was the biggest promoter of the “Black Wave”, represented by Dušan Makavejev, Kokan Rakonjac and Saša Petrović.

In Avala, many co-productions, even spectacles, were filmed. Andrzej Wajda filmed “Siberian Lady Macbeth”, Jack Cardiff recorded “The Long Ships”, Denys de la Patelliere “Marco Polo”, Henry Verneuli “The 25 hour” and Sidney Polak filmed “Castle Keep”.

Stars such as Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, Orson Welles, Kirk Douglas, Catherine Deneuve, Ana Karina, Geraldina Chaplin, Annie Girardot added a touch of glamour to the film production.

The second significant period in Avala Film was from 1968 to 1972, under the leadership of Dragiša Gile Đurić. However, the consequences of conducting luxurious business and a large number of loans started to show. In that period, Đurić managed to pay off 30% of the loan and to maintain production. The greatest artistic success of his time is the film “Rani radovi” by Želimir Žilnik, which won “The Golden Bear” in Berlin.

Avala Film Movie Set in 1962

Avala Film Movie Set

Avala Film Movie Set "Mahovina na Asfaltu"

Avala Film Laboratory Building

In 1974, Avala Film merged with the Central Film Studio “Košutnjak”, and during the seventies and eighties, the quantity of production was maintained. Then a strategic decision was made. Avala Film joined “Jugoexport”, which promised a great investment in Avala Film. Act on the Founding of the Joint Stock Company “Jugoexport Avala Film International” was adopted, according to which Jugoexport was given 51% and Avala Film got 49% of the capital. However, the company “Jugoexport” began to collapse and enter bankruptcy under the burden of the sanctions in the 1990s. Thus, Avala found itself in even more difficult position. The legal status of Avala Film didn’t change until its sale.

There was an attempt to revitalize Avala Film with the help of the state. Then, there were several investors, who wanted to invest in this company, but those attempts failed as well. Thus, Avala Film had been collapsing since the 1990s. Studios and warehouses were mostly ruined. The technology was outdated. Film laboratory ceased to work and it was in a very poor condition. All film workers, painstakingly and carefully selected for the film (costume designers, make-up artists, set designers, decorators), left Avala long ago. Fundus of costumes and props was in a total mess.

From time to time, some film crew would appear and film something in the ruined, empty rooms with poor decoration, but the production had definitely died 20 years earlier.

The film tapes with the most valuable films of our cinematography were transferred to Yugoslav Film Archive, just before the sale of Avala Film.

Two hundred and twenty feature-length films, four hundred and thirty documentaries (each fourth film in the former Yugoslavia), and about a hundred and twenty co-production films with foreign partners were recorded in Avala Film.

At domestic and international festivals, the films from the production of Avala Film have won over 200 awards, among which the most significant are:

  • The Grand Prix Special in Cannes for the film “Sakupljači perja” by Aleksandar Saša Petrović
  • The Golden Globe in Los Angeles for the film “Sakupljači perja” by Aleksandar Saša Petrović
  • The Golden Bear in Berlin for the film “Rani radovi“ by Želimir Žilnik
  • The Silver Bear in Berlin for the film “Nevinost bez zaštite“ by Dušana Makavejev
  • Nomination of the American Academy for the films “Tri” and “Skupljači perja”, which were in the finals among the top five nominees.

After the successful acquisition, Avala Film got extraordinary partners, who created opportunities for the company to expand and develop in the field of cinematography.

Having entered the Avala Film Complex, they found abandoned studio facilities and warehouses; many of them ruined by leakage. Then they found unresolved property legal relations, ruined decorations and neglected fundus.

Nowdays, our goal is to keep up with the needs of a modern society in the field of film industry, constantly keeping pace with the technical and technological development and to become the leader in this field.