In preparation for our newly announced Creative Europe programme of activity, we visited our partners at Motovun Film Festival in preparation for our new co-comissioning programme. Here’s what we found on ‘Film Hill’…

Motovun Film Festival in Croatia is one of the most punk film festivals you’re likely to find anywhere in the world, as well as one of the most beautiful. Beginning in 1999, and its DIY ethic and can-do attitude has seen it survive funding interruptions and defy the odds to become one of the most respect festivals on the circuit.

Motovun itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with little in the way of visible modernisation beyond the introduction of electricity and bar optics. For UK audiences, the best way to describe Motovun is a tiny York, on the tip of a huge, solitary hilltop, in the middle of an expanse of green countryside.

A visit to the festival is a live cinema experience in itself. The views are spectacular, the streets are steep and cobbled, and the surface area of the town itself is so small that you can be familiar with it within about 20 minutes. Paragliders, birds and clouds are often below festival-goers as they sit on picnic tables around the ancient walls to eat their truffle-infused dishes.

Festival attendees either bag a room in one of the limited hotel rooms or, for the most part, they camp at the festival campsite at the bottom of the hill.

Films are screened in the open air of the main square, and in communal buildings around it, with the evening finale seeing a packed outdoor space regardless of the films being shown. In terms of programming, the festival has a strong political focus, but without sacrificing enjoyment in favour of making statements. With it’s main focusses for 2016 being on Italian cinema – the Italian border being just 60 kilometres from Motovun – and the brilliantly titled Where Were You in 2016?, exploring the far right in Europe through documentary and docu-drama from the last two years including the excellent We Are Young, We Are Strong.

The festival is already engaging in live cinema activity as part of its natural leaning towards DIY entertainment, and this year hosted an arm wrestling contest, a VR room, and a talk about Brexit (in Croatian, so we’re unable to report on the conclusion, but we did hear the words ‘Nigel Farage’ and ‘Boris Johnson’).

Despite its tiny size, Motovun Film Festival is a serious party. One of the most notable nods to live cinema entertainment is the night-time activity, with bands and DJs playing through the night and well into the next day.

Regardless of the few talks in Croatian, all films are either in English or subtitled, speeches are provided with a translation if needed, and everyone speaks English, so international visitors are well catered for.

After our visit, we’re even more thrilled that we’re going to be working with this wonderful festival next year, and we’ll keep you updated on our progress as we develop our new live cinema projects around Europe.

Motovun has an amazing self-awareness rarely seen at festivals, addressing political events in Croatia directly with cheek and charm, with its dual meaning tagline of ‘It Was Better Last Year’ speaking as much to the hipsterfication of festivals being better at previous editions as much as the troubling political structure of Europe in 2016. The festival always looks forward however: 1,500 people at the closing night screening of Perfect Strangers were served a shot and asked to raise a glass not to the end of the festival, but to next year’s edition. To Motovun, we say živjeli! Vidimo se iduće godine…

Festival Director Igor Mirković and his team raise a glass to Motovun 2017.