EUFCN Location Award 2022 Finalist: Stari Grad

Stari Grad (Old Town) is among the oldest towns in Croatia, dating from 384 BC. Situated on Hvar Island, it is one of the most beautiful islands in the Dalmatian archipelago. Its narrow-cobbled streets, Mediterranean-style houses, gardens, historical monuments and beaches are filming locations of How I Learned to Fly  (Leto kada sam naucila da letim), feature film directed by Radivoje Andrić.

Stari Grad is one of the finalists of the EUFCN Location Award 2022, the annual prize for European filming locations organized by the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN). The location was submitted by Filming in Croatia.

“Stari Grad stands among the most beautiful locations that I’ve ever seen” says Croatian co-producer Ankica Jurić Tilić. “How I Learned to Fly is a warm story that has reached the hearts of many, and Stari Grad and its people made a significant contribution to it.”

How I Learned to Fly is an entertaining family film based on Jasminka Petrović’s homonym novel, which takes the viewer on a charming, yet emotional summer adventure. Stari Grad is the setting of 12-year-old Sofia’s unforgettable holidays, but also the place of forgiveness, family reunion and reconciliation. The wisdom and peace that radiate throughout the town and set events in motion are no coincidence. Stari Grad shares the birth-year with Aristotle and was home to Croatian poet Petar Hektorović, who built the Tvrdalj Castle, featured in the film, the most beautiful Renaissance monument in Stari Grad.

Tvrdalj Castle, Stari Grad ©shutterstock_2041910753

“The great writing style of the novel needed to be transferred to film using different sets of tools,” says Ankica Jurić Tilić. “In that sense, the town itself helped us set the tone of nostalgia and comfort crucial to our film. Although a very popular tourist destination, the town preserved its traditional Mediterranean look and local traditions in architecture, gardening, styles of dress, just as its citizens continue to cherish old customs and traditions. We thought we would have to create a substantial part of the setting, but it was already there, and we only had to be careful in how to capture it and keep the authentic atmosphere.”

HOW I LEARNED TO FLY by Radivoje Andric

One of the most memorable scenes was filmed in the Tvrdalj Castle. In the scene, the kids swear an oath to never let anything tear them apart. The location emphasises the oath that was made, as by building Tvrdalj, Petar Hektorović materialised his idea of creating a microcosm; an enclosed space for all of God’s creatures – fish, birds, plants, and people. Tvrdalj’s most prominent feature is its fishpond, surrounded by a portico, inhabited by fish (mullet), and with a dovecot rising above it. Tvrdalj is also a stone book into which the poet carved tens of inscriptions, one of which is written next to the pond: Fede e realtà, o quanto è bella! (Oh, how beautiful faith and reality are!).

Tvrdalj Castle, Stari Grad ©shutterstock_2041934927

“While filming, we did not expect the sea tide to impact the water level in the pond so this required us to improvise a little brick pedestal for little Ema (Ana in the film) to stand on so she wouldn’t get her feet wet.” recalls producer Maja Popović.

The romantic atmosphere of the town can be felt in the scene of Sofia’s first kiss, which was shot from the viewpoint just above Stari Grad. The idea was to shoot the scene at twilight when the town below would be illuminated by lights. “It took us several tries and hikes, carrying the equipment in order to calculate and capture the exact time, but it was worth it” says Maja Popović. “Only the fireworks in the film are CGI”.

Filming How I learned to Fly in Stari Grad ©Gloria Lizde

Shooting on an island is always a challenge, but thanks to the good prep work and the great welcome from the local people, the production team didn’t feel it as a challenge while shooting.

It must be because of the island’s way of life, which in some way has remained practically intact since the ancient time. Stone houses framed by the Adriatic Sea are nestled among the rolling hills of vineyards and olive orchards, which are divided into plots by dry stone-wall boundaries constructed more than 2,400 years ago, the reason why Stari Grad Plain and the town’s historical centre are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

How I Learned to Fly , directed by Radivoje Andric, was produced by Sense Production (RS) in co-production with Kinorama (HR), Art Fest (BG), Silverart (SK) and Doli Media Studio (BG).

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 30 different countries.