Walter Defends Sarajevo

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Valter brani Sarajevo
Valter Brani Sarajevo.jpg
Film poster
Directed byHajrudin Krvavac
Written byĐorđe Lebović (main writer)
Hajrudin Krvavac
Savo Pređo
Produced byPetar Sobajić
StarringBata Živojinović
Ljubiša Samardžić
Rade Marković
CinematographyMiroljub Dikosavljević
Edited byJelena Bjenjaš
Music byBojan Adamič
Bosna Film
Release date
Running time
133 minutes

Walter Defends Sarajevo (Serbo-Croatian: Valter brani Sarajevo / Валтер брани Сарајево; Chinese: 瓦尔特保卫萨拉热窝; pinyin: wǎ ěr tè bǎo wèi sà lā rè wō) is a 1972 Yugoslav partisan film, directed by Hajrudin Krvavac and starring Bata Živojinović, Ljubiša Samardžić and Rade Marković. The film centres around a mysterious figure named 'Walter', who is actively disrupting the attempts of German commander Alexander Löhr to retreat from the Balkans. The film's eponymous character, Walter, is loosely based around Vladimir Perić, whose nom de guerre was 'Valter'.


In late 1944, as the end of World War II approaches, the Wehrmacht's high command determines to pull out General Alexander Löhr's Army Group E from the Balkans back to Germany. They plan to supply the tank columns with fuel from a depot in Sarajevo. The Yugoslav partisans' leader in the city, a mysterious man known as Walter, presents a grave danger to the operation's success, and the Germans dispatch Standartenführer von Dietrich of the SD to deal with him. As no one in the city seems to know what Walter even looks like, Dietrich manages to have an operative infiltrate the resistance under the guise of Walter himself. The partisans are caught in a deadly game of betrayal, fraud and imposture while trying to frustrate the Germans' plans.


At the end of the movie, von Dietrich muses that he has finally realised why he never managed to defeat his nemesis Walter; standing on a hill he points at Sarajevo below and remarks in German: Sehen Sie diese Stadt? Das ist Walter! ("You see that city? That's Walter!") This was intended to send a message of unity consistent with the official politics of the multi-ethnic state of Yugoslavia.



Although not aiming to reflect history, the film's leading character was named after the partisan leader Vladimir Perić, known by his nom de guerre 'Walter', who commanded a resistance group in Sarajevo from 1943 until his death in the battle to liberate the city on April 6, 1945. Hajrudin Krvavac dedicated the picture to the people of Sarajevo and their heroism during the war.[1]

The film marked the beginning of Emir Kusturica's career in cinema. Sixteen years of age at the time, it was his first appearance on film in a small role playing a young communist activist.[2]


The film premiered in Sarajevo on Wednesday, 12 April 1972 in front of 5,000 spectators at the recently built Skenderija Hall. The venue thus hosted another lavish partisan film première, two and a half years after Veljko Bulajić's Battle of Neretva premiered in October 1969. Marshal Josip Broz Tito wasn't in attendance this time, though the premiere still saw its share of Yugoslav celebrities and functionaries including the film's cast as well as the Red Star Belgrade head coach Miljan Miljanić, actress Špela Rozin, Skenderija's director and former Sarajevo mayor Ljubo Kojo,[3] Bosna Film chairman Neđo Parežanin, etc.


Walter Defends Sarajevo received a favorable response from the Yugoslav audience, especially in Sarajevo itself.[4]

The film was distributed in sixty countries,[5] and achieved its greatest success in the People's Republic of China, becoming the country's most popular foreign film in the 1970s.[2] Owing mainly to the Chinese audience, Walter Defends Sarajevo is one of the most watched war films of all time.[6][7]


Walter, a restaurant in Belgrade serving Sarajevo-style ćevapi.

The theme of brotherhood and unity within the Yugoslav population in the face of foreign occupation[4] became a point of reference for the New Primitives' punk sub-culture. Zabranjeno Pušenje, one of the movement's leading bands, named their first album Das ist Walter, in honour of the film.[6]

In China, children and streets were named after characters from the film, and a beer brand called 'Walter' was marketed with Velimir Živojinović's picture on the label. It still enjoys great popularity in the country.[5] The film also continues to remain a mainstay of diplomatic and economic relations between China and the Western Balkans, with Chinese tourists contributing significantly to local tourism industries, and the implementation of visa-free travel between Bosnia and China.[8][9]

The names of numerous hospitality venues throughout the Balkans (mostly in Bosnia and Serbia) have been inspired by the film.[10]

A museum in Sarajevo dedicated to the film was also opened in April 2019.[11]


  1. ^ Levi 2007, p. 64–66.
  2. ^ a b Gocić 2001, p. 16.
  3. ^ Zlatar, Pero (April 1972). "Danas je petak u redakciji Pere Zlatara". Studio. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  4. ^ a b Donia 2006, p. 238.
  5. ^ a b Iordanova 2006, p. 115.
  6. ^ a b Levi 2007, p. 64–64.
  7. ^ Hui, Mary (13 April 2019). "China loves this obscure 1972 Yugoslavian movie—and Sarajevo is cashing in". Quartz. Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  8. ^ Shopov, Vladimir (1 February 2021). Decade of Patience: How China Became a Power in the Western Balkans (Report). European Council on Foreign Relations. JSTOR resrep29125. Retrieved 22 December 2022 – via JSTOR.
  9. ^ Knezevic, Gordana (29 August 2018). "'Walter' Defended Sarajevo, Now He's Bringing Tourists". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  10. ^ "Nekoliko osoba povrijeđeno u tuči ispred sarajevskog puba Walter". 11 March 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Take a Look inside the newly opened "Valter defends Sarajevo" Museum". Sarajevo Times. 7 April 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2022.


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