Often I hear people saying that Herzegovina is the California of the Balkans – we’ve got sun and wine near the sea, and we’re close to the mountains.
If it is California, where is Hollywood and all this glamour?
Of course, the glamour and glitz here is not like in Hollywood, but there is plenty of talent – that’s for sure. Perhaps you’ve never heard of the small town of Bileca in Herzegovina, which is also known as little Hollywood. And here in the cafe when they drink a glass, more often than not people will sing “ganga style”!
Oh small town of Bileca, two Oscars have been given to you.
And soon we expect a third!
Perhaps at first, in the moment, all of this will seem like just fun and games – you’ll probably say it’s a combination of good brandy and a vivid imagination. But when the brandy leaves you, you may wonder if what they were singing can be true, and if so, who the Oscar winners are? The first is Karl Malden Sekulovic, who received an Oscar in 1951, and the other is Dusko Vukotic, who received an Oscar for animated film in 1961. It is interesting that here Oscar winners and actors are not molded and shaped – they are simply born, and here they all are born actors, just waiting to receive an Oscar. And not only in Hollywod have they been given awards. They have won at other prestigious film festivals as well, such as Cannes and Venice. Of course we are speaking of famous film director Emir Kusturica, who has family roots in Bileca, and has been filming some scenes for his latest movie here (On the Milky Road with Monica Bellucci and mayor of Bileca, Miljan Aleksic). And that’s not all – if you want to find someone to play the villain in a new Bond movie, then try Kapor from Bileca. Perhaps it may sound strange that the small town of Bileca does not have a film school or cinema, but it does not need them – its citizens are already playing a role in a movie called life.
If Bileca is a nursery for Oscar actors, then Trebinje is the film studio itself.
The first movie filmed in Trebinje was Gypsy Baron, a German production released 1935. Then in 1959, Czech director Frantisek Cap made Vrata ostaju otvorena. In the 1960-70s, a film studio was built in the villages Ivanica and Zupci on the road between Trebinje and Dubrovnik, and here were recorded popular “spaghetti western” and Winnetou movies. At the end of the 1980s, scenes were filmed in Trebinje for the movie Cognac, an American production starring Hollywood actor Brad Dexter, whose parents emigrated from Trebinje to the United States. Brad Dexter was known as a tough guy in Hollywood and became good friends with Frank Sinatra after he saved him from almost drowning in the ocean on set in Hawaii. And don’t think that only male actors have been born here – it is important to note actresses such as Natalia Nogulich, who had a notable role on Star Trek as Admiral Nechayev, and Natasha Ninkovic, who starred in a number of domestic films, as well as young actress Maria Pikic. Also, the TV series Wounded Eagle was shot in Tebinje and then broadcast to regional TV stations. This fact has attracted large numbers of tourists to Trebinje who want to see where they filmed the TV scenes at different locations around city. Certainly the most popular is “Andjelka’s gate.” We left the cherry on top for the end of the film story: diva Monica Bellucci, who spent three summers in Trebinje to work on On the Milky Road – from this she surely will keep good memories of this wonderful region.