Lordan Zafranović

Lordan Zafranović

Lordan Zafranović watching his movie Zalazak stoljeća. University of Basel, October 2016.
Born (1944-02-11) 11 February 1944
Maslinica, Šolta, Yugoslavia (now Republic of Croatia)
Years active 1961 – present[1]
Awards Cannes Palme d'Or
Nominated 1979 Occupation in 26 Pictures
Big Golden Arena for Best Film
1978 Occupation in 26 Pictures
1981 The Fall of Italy
Golden Arena for Best Director
1986 Evening Bells

Lordan Zafranović (born 11 February 1944) is a Czech-Croatian film director, and a major figure of the Yugoslav Black Wave. He lives in Prague and in Zagreb.

First films

Zafranović first engaged in making films as a 16-year-old teenager in his hometown Split. A member of the Kino klub Split, he did a series of experimental shorts, such as Poslije podne (Puška) (1968), which won him first awards as an amateur filmer.[2][3][4] After receiving a degree in literature and visual arts at the University of Split, he was awarded a scholarship at the famous FAMU in Prague in 1968. He graduated in film directing as a master student of Elmar Klos in 1971. The films that marked the beginning of his regular feature filmmaking were Sunday (1969), with Goran Marković in the leading role, and Passion According to Matthew (1975), which earned him the critics' award at the Pula Film Festival.[5][6][7][8]


Zafranović belongs to the so-called Prague School, a group of acclaimed Yugoslav directors of the 1970s and 1980s who all had studied there, his peers being Rajko Grlić, Goran Marković, Goran Paskaljević, Srđan Karanović, and, a few years later, Emir Kusturica.[9]

His most important work is the cult film Occupation in 26 Pictures (1978), which he co-wrote with acclaimed writer Mirko Kovač. The film reinvented the genre of the Yugoslav Partisan film with its lush Mediterranean setting of Dubrovnik and its aesthetics, contrasting the happiness of an affluent aristocratic family and her friends with the arrival of evil, through fascist occupation and violence, and the collapse of morale and society.[10] The film was a huge box office hit in Yugoslavia and in Czechoslovakia. It won the Big Golden Arena for Best Picture at the Pula Film Festival, and was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival and submitted as Yugoslavia's entry for the Academy Awards.[11] He continued his WWII trilogy with The Fall of Italy (1981), set in his native island Šolta during the Italian occupation, which evolves around the rise and fall of a young Partisan officer who is corrupted by power, and Evening Bells (1986), also co-written with Mirko Kovač, which tells the life of a village lad (played by Rade Šerbedžija) who went to the city and became a Partisan, and who then ended up first in internment in Nazi Germany and second, after the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, in a Yugoslav prison. The Fall of Italy won him the Big Golden Arena for the second time, Evening Bells the Golden Arena for Best Director at the Pula Film Festival.

In the mid-1980s Zafranović turned to more intimate themes, with films such as An Angel's Bite (1984) and Aloa: Festivity of the Whores (1988), notable for their psychological drama and erotics. He also directed numerous TV productions for Radio Television Belgrade and Radio Television Zagreb.

Zafranović has been praised as "one of the great masters of modernism" (Dina Iordanova), "one of the great masters of Yugoslav film", and "a Mediterranean classic whose films can be compared with those by Angelopoulos, Bertolucci or Liliana Cavani" (Ranko Munitić), and by others defamed as "a poseur who bombastically exploits sex and violence" and a "regime's director" indulging in "manierism" (Nenad Polimac).[12][13] British-Bulgarian film researcher Dina Iordanova correctly states that his "main occupation has been to explore the pressures experienced by ordinary people under extreme historical circumstances. His films challenge the deepest foundations of nationalism and question the justification of historical violence."[14] As in the case of other authentic and free thinking Yugoslav directors, such as Dušan Makavejev or Želimir Žilnik, Zafranović's films caused controversy, which culminated in his occupation with the crimes of the NDH and the Ustaše during World War II and his documentaries Jasenovac: The Cruelest Death Camp of All Times (1983) and Decline of the Century: The Testament of L.Z. (1993) about the war crimes trial against NDH Minister of Interior Andrija Artuković.[15][16]

Exile and Return to Croatia

Shortly before the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991, Zafranović joined the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Croatia in 1989 for a short period.[17] When Franjo Tuđman came to power as the first President of Croatia and when shortly after, the Yugoslav Wars broke out, Zafranović was forced to leave the country. He took along his film on Artuković, which he finished in exile as a personal account on the reemergence of fascist ideology and violence in Croatia: His Decline of the Century: The Testament of L.Z. (1993) is, in the words of Dina Iordanova "a powerful indictment of past and present-day Croatian nationalism".[18] He settled in Prague and continued to work for Czech Television. More than a decade later, he returned to Zagreb to make his monumental TV series on Josip Broz Tito, Tito – the Last Witnesses of the Testament (2011), co-produced by Radio Television Zagreb.[19]

Selected Filmography


  1. http://lordanzafranovic.com/hrv_filmografija.html
  2. Branka Benčić, Diana Nenadić and Adriana Perojević: Splitska škola filma – 60 godina Kino kluba Split. 3 vols. Split 2012.
  3. http://www.kinoklubsplit.hr/zanimljivosti/monografija-splitska-skola-filma-60-godina-kino-kluba-split-od-sada-dostupna-za-prodaju-i-u-klubu-2/ [accessed 22.08.2016]
  4. http://www.hfs.hr/nakladnistvo_zapis_detail.aspx?sif_clanci=32702#.V7tVnOcbqQ8 (accessed 22.08.2016)
  5. Daniel J. Goulding: Liberated Cinema. The Yugoslav Experience, 1945–2001. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2002.
  6. Nenad Polimac: Leksikon YU Filma. Zagreb 2016, 294f.
  7. http://www.csfd.cz/tvurce/5603-lordan-zafranovic/ [accessed 22.08.2016]
  8. http://lordanzafranovic.com/index.html
  9. Daniel J. Goulding: Liberated Cinema. The Yugoslav Experience, 1945–2001. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2002.
  10. Daniel J. Goulding: Occupation in 26 pictures (Cinetek). Flicks Books 1998.
  11. http://org-www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/artist/id/317555.html [accessed 22.08.2016].
  12. Jurica Pavičić: Controversies by Lordan, http://kinotuskanac.hr/en/article/kontroverze-po-lordanu [accessed 25.08.2016]
  13. Nenad Polimac: Leksikon YU Filma. Zagreb 2016, 105.
  14. Dina Iordanova: Cinema of Flames. Balkan Film, Culture and the Media. London: Palgrave Macmillan 2001, 99.
  15. http://www.danas.rs/danasrs/kultura/lordan_zafranovic_shvatio_sam_da_su_svi_nasi_filmovi_bili_uzalud.11.html?news_id=299686 [accessed 24.08.2016].
  16. Ranko Munitić: The sunny inferno of Lordan Zafranović, http://kinotuskanac.hr/en/article/kontroverze-po-lordanu and http://pulse.rs/suncani-inferno-lordana-zafranovica/ [accessed 24.08.2016].
  17. Davorka Budimir: Hrvatska politička elita na početku demokratske tranzicije, Anali 2010., p. 81
  18. Dina Iordanova: Cinema of Flames. Balkan Film, Culture and the Media. London: Palgrave Macmillan 2001, p. 100.
  19. http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/lordan_zafranovic_tito_je_fenomen_koji_se_treba_istraziti/24523333.html [accessed 24.08.2016].

External links

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