Avala Film was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War as part of an ambitious national project to establish Belgrade as one of Europe’s leading filmmaking cities. The terrain, studios, and other buildings, as well as its recording, laboratory, and sound recording equipment, were designed to produce around 40 feature films a year. Avala Film soon became the most renowned cultural brand in Serbia, a position it would occupy for the next five decades.
Directed by Vjekoslav Afrić and starring Dubravko Dujsin, Milica-Carka Jovanovic, and Irena Kolesarwas, Slavica (1947) was Avala Film’s first production and Yugoslavia’s first domestic feature-length film.
In 1949, Avala Film produced the Vera and Ljubiša Jocić-directed Pioneer and the Girl (Pionir i devojka, 1949), Yugoslavia’s first puppet animation. That same year, Pioneer and the Girl was awarded the Venice Film Festival prize for the best animated film for children up to the age of 11. Avala Film’s most notable directors during this period also included Vjekoslav Afrić, Gustav Gavrin, Soja Jovanović, Radoš Novaković, and Velimir Stojanović.
The early 60s were marked by Ratko Dražević’s leadership of Avala Film and the flourishing of Yugoslavian cinema. Among the prominent figures who worked on Avala Film’s productions during this period were Miroslav Krleža, Borislav Mihajlović Mihiz, and Slobodan Selenić. In 1967, Avala Film made one of the most important films in the history of Yugoslavian cinema: the Aleksandar Saša Petrović-directed I Even Met Happy Gypsies (Skupljači perja), which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. Avala Film also undertook many co-productions during this period, such as 25th Hour (25. sat, 1967), directed by Henri Verneuil, Castle Keep (Čuvari zamka, 1969) by Sydney Pollack, The Fabulous Adventures of Marco Polo (Čudesne avanture Marka Pola, 1965) by Denys de La Patellière, The Long Ships (Dugi brodovi, 1964) by Jack Cardiff, and Siberian Lady Macbeth (Sibirska Ledi Magbet, 1962) by Andrzej Wajda. Among Avala Film’s international collaborations were Destination Death (Muški izlet, 1964, Bundesrepublik Deutschland), Fair Wind, “Blue Bird”! (Dobar vetar, “Plava ptico”!, 1967, Soviet Union), Man and Beast (Čovek i zver, 1963, Bundesrepublik Deutschland), The Soldier (Vojnik, 1966, Bundesrepublik Deutschland), and Fruits amers - Soledad (1967, France). Movie stars such as Richard Burton, Geraldine Chaplin, Catherine Deneuve, Kirk Douglas, Annie Girardot, Anna Karina, Sophia Loren, and Orson Welles were frequent guests of Avala Film throughout the decade, which saw the company produce nearly 60 domestic films.
Another important period for Avala Film was 1968–1972, now under the management of Dragiša Gile Đurić. In 1968, the Dušan Makavejev film Innocence Unprotected (Nevinost bez zaštite, 1968) won the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear award, which, in 1969, was followed by Avala Film’s greatest artistic recognition of the time: the Festival’s Golden Bear award for Želimir Žilnik’s film, Early Works (Rani radovi, 1969). Between 1968 and 1972, Avala Film’s co-productions included Fraulein Doktor (Gospođica doktor, 1969) with Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica, Kelly’s Heroes (Kelijevi heroji, 1970) with Katzka-Loeb Productions and The Warriors Company, and War and Peace (Rat i mir, 1972) with the BBC.
In 1974, Avala Film merged with the Central Film Studio "Kosutnjak", during the 70’s and 80’s it maintained the quantity as well as success of it’s productions. Following the financial success of his 1977 comedy Love Life of Budimir Trajković (Ljubavni život Budimira Trajkovića), Dejan Karaklajić became the Artistic Director of Avala Film. During his 1978–1980 tenure, the studio produced or co-produced 17 domestic films, including Backbone (Kičma, 1975), Battle for the Railway (Dvoboj za južnu prugu, 1978), The Farm in the Small Marsh (Salaš u Malom Ritu, 1976), The Love of a Soldier (Vojnikova ljubav, 1976), The Scent of Earth (Miris zemlje, 1976), The Tiger (Tigar, 1978), Tit for Tat (Nije nego, 1978), and Wintering in Jakobsfeld (Zimovanje u Jakobsfeldu, 1975). Avala Film worked with many prominent directors during these years, such as Branko Bauer, Aleksandar Đorđević, Vlatko Gilić, Stole Janković, Dragovan Jovanović, Mića Milošević, and Živko Nikolić.
Beginning of the 80’s Avala Film was led by Dragoljub Panović, from 1986 to 1990, the leadership was taken by Branko Baletić. The first half of the 1980s was marked by a string of co-productions including Italian mini-series Quo Vadis (1985), co-created by Avala Film and RAI and starring Frederic Forrest, Barbara De Rossi, and Cristina Raines. Some of this period’s other significant works were the French film Le Prix du Danger (Cena opasnosti, 1983) starring Gérard Lanvin; the American co-production The Secret Diary of Sigmund Freud (Tajni dnevnik Sigmunda Frojda, 1984) starring Bud Cort and Carol Kane; and Avala Film’s first Mozambican collaboration, The Time of the Leopards (Vreme leoparda, 1985), directed by Zdravko Velimirović. Avala Film also produced a number of domestic films throughout the 80s, most notably Dorotej (1981), The Family (Ožalošćena porodica, 1990), Hunting in the Murky Waters (Lov u mutnom, 1981), Moss-Covered Asphalt (Mahovina na asfaltu, 1983), Part-Time Work (Rad na određeno vreme, 1980), Stumbling Block (Sablazan, 1982), and the commercially successful Dancing in Water (Bal na vodi, aka Hey Babu Riba, 1985).
During this period, due to the complicated economic and political situation in the region, Avala continued working on the local projects out of which some remained a true legacy and a testimony of the times for the generations to come. Some of those classics are: We Are Not Angels (Mi nismo anđeli, 1992), Tito and Me (Tito i ja, 1992), Better Than Escape (Bolje od bekstva,1993), Rage (Do koske, 1997), T.T. Syndrome (T.T. Sindrom, 2002).
The legal status of Avala Film remained unchanged until 2015, when it was acquired by the Sebre Group. Following its acquisition, the Sebre Group renamed the company Avala Studios and began the process of revitalising its facilities. The future project includes both the rejuvenation of existing buildings and the construction of new, state-of-the-art production spaces that will enable Avala Studios to meet the demands of today’s film, television, and gaming industries for decades to come. The rejuvenated Avala Studios complex will consist of six studios with a total area of 11,500 m2. At the same time, while design is being developed and authorities’ procedures are being finalized, the existing complex continues to work. Several TV shows have been recorded in our facilities, such as Vrata do vrata (2018) and Svindleri (2020). From 2015 till nowadays, more than 90% of the sound stage capacities have been long term leased to one of the larges Serbian and regional cable network productions (Grand and United Media) which are recording their TV content in Avala Studios.
...there is more to come...