Pula and its famous antic Arena are the sight of the Pula Film Festival, one of the most renowned film festivals in this part of Europe. The Festival has been going strong since its debut year in 1954 and continues to be a strong presence to this day, taking place every July. Located in the Arena it offers an impressive connection between the antic and modern art, creating an experience that is rivaled by few in the world, and allows the visitors to fully immerse themselves in the modern art of film-making while sitting in the same spectator area and arena where people have been gathering for thousands of years.
In 1954 the Film Festival started under the name Pula Film Festival, and in 1958 it already got renamed to the Yugoslav Film Festival, making it de facto the most important film festival in ex-Yugoslavia. In 1961 it got renamed again, this time to the Yugoslav Feature Film Festival, a title that strongly suggests its primary focus being on feature films. The festival itself grew simultaneously with the growth of the film industry in Yugoslavia, and both of them were getting strong international recognition during the 1960s. Pula and its film festival were treated as the launching pad for Yugoslav films, the reason for that being was that all major feature films were shown there before they were released in cinemas, and getting the award for your film in Pula added a substantial amount of prestige to films, even before they were released in cinemas. This in turn also made Pula Film Festival really popular among the film-makers.
1991 marked the first year in Festival’s history in which the Festival was canceled. It was canceled due to the Croatian War of Independence, but it swiftly returned back to the spotlight in 1992 under a new name – Pula Film Festival. In 1995 it got renamed again, this time to Croatian Film Festival, however, due to the fact that the Croatian film industry was pretty much just developing after the war and that it wasn’t able to produce enough films to fill in the program of the festival, the festival got expanded to accept international films for the first time in its history. This happened in 2001 – under the new name of Croatian and European Film Festival – and since then it offers the viewers a chance to enjoy the best cinematographic achievements of both Croatian and European film-makers, along with various retrospective and theme programs.
The main award that is awarded in Pula is called the Big Golden Arena, and it is awarded to the best film shown at the festival. Various other awards are also given out, most notably Golden Arenas for best actor/actress, best screenplay etc.
Over the years many famous directors, actresses, and actors visited Pula Film Festival, most notably Orson Wells, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, John Malkovich, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Jiri Menzel and many others.
Ticket prices for the festival range from 25 kunas (approx. 3.5€ or 4$) for a single day ticket, to 150 kunas (approx. 20€ or 22$) for a ticket that covers the entire duration of the festival.