EUFCN Location Award 2021 Finalist: Kornati National Park

As the densest island group in the European Mediterranean Sea, the Kornati archipelago, with its eerie and desolate landscape, was granted national park status in 1980.

Kornati National Park is one of the finalists of the EUFCN Location Award 2021, the annual prize for European filming locations organized by the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN). The location was submitted by Filming in Croatia.

In this article, producer Danijel Pek (Antitalent) describes how the Kornati National Park adds sharp tension to Murina, a coming of age story of a teenager as restless and fierce as the landscape.

©Igor Tomljenović – Murina set courtesy of @Antitalent

The islands of the Kornati National Park were used as exterior locations for Murina, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s debut film awarded with the Camera d’Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. The story is set among the harsh white cliffs of Kornati, which intensify the raw emotions of the film.

“We were looking for a landscape so unique that could become a setting for the story without any need for additional production design,” says producer Danijel Pek. “The Kornati National Park was one of our first choices because of the beauty of the vast landscape and the strong contrast between the endless blue sea and the barren rocks.”

Ten months before starting the production the director and the producer travelled to the location accompanied by Kornati National Park representatives. “After a few hours we found everything we needed and confirmed this location as the first option. Complicated logistics were not an issue anymore, we wanted to film there.”

Croatian Tourist Board ©Ivo Pervan

Julija, the protagonist of the story, lives in a physical paradise on a Croatian island, but in a society obsessed with getting rich quick by selling away its own essence, where a daughter’s strength is mistaken for her father’s weakness, and land’s value is mistaken for profit. The land itself plays an important role in the film. Its sale to strangers should lead to building a big tourist resort and bring a fortune to the protagonists.

Surrounded by scorched nature that offers no shade, the characters of Murina  are exposed to the sea, the sun and the rocks. They burn in passion and madness in a place where intense physicality inevitably merges with the spiritual. “There is nowhere to hide for our characters and it is the perfect setting for exposing every action, every emotion, everything that needs to come out,” says Danijel Pek.

Scene from “Murina” courtesy of @Antitalent

The story also tackles a tragic event from recent Croatian history: the death of 12 firefighters during an intervention on Kornat Island. To honour the victims, impressive stone crosses were constructed by hand and without the use of machinery, relying on the centuries-old dry stone construction techniques (“suhozid”).

“The monument to the fallen firefighters by Nikola Bašić, is a masterpiece of simplicity – 12 crosses made from stone found on site, beautiful and frightening at the same time. That scene is a breaking point for the emotional state of our characters.”

Scene from “Murina” courtesy of @Antitalent

Kornati is a National Park area without permanent settlement, roads, cars, stores or anything to facilitate regular film production. The closest town is 2 hours by boat (if the weather allows travel).

“We decided we would film in Kornati with reduced crew at the end of the production schedule.” says Danijel Pek. We lived in small fisherman’s houses, with very limited access to electricity or hot water, but with long sunny days, kind hosts, and with the view on some of the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine. It was a perfect end of shooting for our crew.”

“I would also like to share one very special moment: on Kornati we celebrated the last day of filming in the career of our underwater cinematographer Zoran Mikinčić-Budin, our beloved Mika. He is now happily retired and I hope his memory of his last job is as perfect as it is ours.”

©Igor Tomljenović

With no sources of fresh water, life on these barren islands has always meant struggle for survival. Fascinated by the stark beauty of this magical archipelago of 89 islands, the great George Bernard Shaw wrote: “On the last day of Creation, God desired to crown His work, and thus created the Kornati islands out of tears, stars and breath.”

©Igor Tomljenović

The general public has now the chance to vote for their favourite location among the 5 in the EUFCN Location Award shortlist:

Berlin for The Queen’s GambitBerlin Brandenburg Film Commission (GERMANY)

Cahir Castle for The Green KnightScreen Ireland (IRELAND)

Kornati National Park for MurinaFilming in Croatia (CROATIA)

Malaga for The Crown (Season 4) – Andalucía Film Commission (SPAIN)

Stadlandet for DuneWestern Norway Film Commission (NORWAY)

A lucky name will be picked among the voters and will have the chance to visit the best European filming location of 2021.

The European Film Commissions Network is a non-profit association that supports and promotes the European film industry and culture. It currently represents 95 European film commissions and film institutions from 31 different countries.