Bulajić in 1969
|Education||Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia|
|Vlak bez voznog reda, Kozara, Bitka na Neretvi, Veliki transport|
Veljko Bulajić (born 22 March 1928) is a Croatian Montenegrin film director and UNESCO Kalinga Prize recipient. He has spent the majority of his life working in Croatia and is primarily known for directing the Yugoslav state-sponsored World War II-themed movies from the Partisan film genre. Bulajić was a resistance fighter in World War II having joined the Yugoslav Partisans group at the age of 13. Bulajić and his two older brothers were all wounded in battle and at one point his entire family was imprisoned in an Italian fascist concentration camp. The two surviving brothers, Veljko and Stevan, would later co-write the movies Kozara and Battle of Neretva. According to the Croatian Public Broadcasting Company, his films have reached an audience in excess of 500 million viewers worldwide. The top four most viewed Yugoslav films of all time were all directed by Bulajic.
Bulajić was born in the village of Vilusi near Nikšić, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. He graduated from high school in Sarajevo. After World War II he was stationed at the Yugoslav People's Army base in Zagreb. This is where Bulajic found his passion for film which led him to pursue studies at the Italian Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia from which he graduated in 1959. He then worked as an assistant to Italian film legends Federico Fellini and Vittorio De Sica before returning to Yugoslavia.
Bulajic first produced two short films, before making his debut feature film Train Without a Timetable. The film was a complex drama dealing with the interactions among people who were forcefully leaving their ancestral homes in order to move to new, yet undeveloped farmland. His debut was a major success earning him four awards at the Yugoslav National Film Awards (now known as the Pula Film Festival), an award from the city of Zagreb and the best debut film award at the Cannes Film Festival. His next two films, War and Boom Town were also awarded Gold and Silver awards in various categories at the Yugoslav National Film Awards.
In 1962 his film Kozara brought him international attention as he again won a Big Golden Arena for Best Film at the Yugoslav National Film Awards and the film premiered in the world's largest museum, the French Louvre. It was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival where it won the Golden Prize. Bulajić was a member of the jury at the 4th Moscow International Film Festival.
In 1969 he wrote and directed the legendary war film Battle of Neretva starring Orson Welles and Yul Brynner. The film has been viewed by more than 350 million people worldwideand is one of the most expensive non-English movie ever produced. Pablo Picasso created one of the promotional posters for the film, one of only two movie posters that the Spanish artist ever created. Instead of a payment, Picasso and Bulajic agreed that Bulajic would provide Picasso with a case of Yugoslav wine. The two had met at the Monte Carlo Film Festival several years before Neretva when Bulajic took home the Grand Prix award for his Skopje '63 film. Picasso had decided to attend the festival after being shown a sneak preview of the film by Marcel Achard. The soundtrack for Neretva was created by Oscar-winning composer Bernard Herrmann and the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. President Josip Broz Tito and First Lady Jovanka Broz, Omar Sharif and Sophia Loren attended the premiere of the film. On January 16, 2018 the government of the Republic of Slovenia made a formal request to the Republic of Serbia requesting that the original copies of the film be delivered to Slovenia and officially recognized as part of its national cultural heritage. Bulajic responded through the Croatian media that neither the Slovenes nor the Serbs have a right to the film as it was a Croatian production. At the time that the film was released, all three countries were part of Yugoslavia.
In 2017 Bulajic began filming what is believed to be his last feature length film. The movie, Escape to the Sea, stars Game of Thrones actor Tom Wlaschiha as a German soldier lost behind enemy lines in World War II.
Awards and recognition
Arguably Bulajic's greatest recognition came when the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded him the prestigious Kalinga Prize for the most meaningful global artistic contribution of the year.. The award was in recognition of his documentary film Skoplje '63 about the massive earthquake that destroyed the city in 1963. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and took home the Grand Prix award at the Monte Carlo Film Festival.
Bulajic has earned best director or best film awards at the Cairo Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Saint Petersburg International Film Festival, Florence Film Festival, Avelin Film Festival, Cuneu Film Festival and the Dok Leipzig film festival.
In 2010, the Commission of the 32nd Moscow International Film Festival included Battle of Neretva in its list of the 10 most important films ever made about World War II. This put the film in the company of masterpieces such as The Bridge on the River Kwai by David Lean and Empire of the Sun by Steven Spielberg.
Bulajic's other notable awards include ten golden arena awards at the Pula Film Festival, the Lion of Saint Mark at the Venice Film Festival, the audience award at the Cannes Film Festival, a Golden Nymph Award at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival, the Gold Medal at the Moscow International Film Festival, a lifetime achievement award at the MedFilm Festival and Europe's oldest film prize – the Nastro d'Argento awarded by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.
Bulajic served on the Cannes Film Festival jury in 1968, 1969 and 1980. He is one of only 15 people all-time to have served on the jury three or more times. Bulajic has also served on the juries of the Venice Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival and Delhi International Film Festival. In a 2011 article the American political-journalism organization Politico referred to Bulajic as "one of the most successful director's of his day".
Bulajic has been recognized with several state awards and medals. These include: The city of Berlin award, The Award of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia, which was the highest state award in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the "Sacred Ground of Stalingrad" award of the Soviet Union, the Montenegrin award "July 13th ", the City of Skopje (Macedonia) Award, the City of Zagreb (Croatia) Award and the Vladimir Nazor Award for Life Achievement in Film awarded by the Republic of Croatia for outstanding contributions to the arts and culture.
- Train Without a Timetable (1959)
- Atomic War Bride (1960)
- Kozara (1962)
- Skoplje '63 (1964)
- Looking Into the Eyes of the Sun (1966)
- Battle of Neretva (1969)
- The Day That Shook the World (1975)
- The Man to Destroy (1979)
- High Voltage (1981)
- Great Transport (1983)
- The Promised Land (1986)
- Donator (1989)
- Libertas (2006)
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