Coming to a cinema near you past Aprils
Could it be that, together with all the flowers, imagination is in bloom, too?
I looked up this thought and found some events that could prove it right. April is one of the months that has spontaneously celebrated Zagreb-based creativity over the course of time. A On-Screen Storytelling month, one might say. With the capital S, just like some famous titles that marked some Aprils in the past.
For instance, the popular Zagreb TV show Smogovci aired for the first time in April of 1982. Its fun name is hard to translate because it doesn’t sound as harsh as its core word. Smog is... well, smog. Here, it's part of the name of a group of people and a fun reference to the realities of city life.
Based on the books by Zagreb writer Hrvoje Hitrec, the show follows the Vragec family on their everyday adventures. The family name is not easy to translate either...vrag is devil, but Vragec, little devil, sounds fun and cute. If you ever wish to join the locals in their nostalgia and see Zagreb in the '80s, simply find the available Smogovci videos online.
Specifically, Smogovci was filmed in a part of the town called Peščenica, which is off the beaten tourist track. If you do wander into that area, you won’t be disappointed. It is one of the most Zagreb-feel neighborhoods. The whole city associates the good-old Pešča, as we nicknamed it, with Smogovci.
It’s only fair to mention that Smogovci was broadcasted across the world. If you come from Australia, Sweden, or even China, there’s a chance you might have seen them, too. I am positive that the Smogovci intro tune would sound familiar to you, wherever you are from. They used the famous musical theme from the Hollywood classic The Magnificent Seven. That tune, in these parts, brings back an image of the Vragec family walking down their poor street dressed as cowboys.
Smogovci might have borrowed something from Hollywood, but now that I mentioned the Hollywood glory... Did you know that in Zagreb, there is a 34 centimeters tall gold-plated statue of a mystery man generally known as Oscar? It was in April of 1962 when Croatian director Dušan Vukotić did not travel to Santa Barbara as he didn’t believe he stood a chance against Walt Disney’s Aquamania, or Chuck Jones’ Be Prepared. However, his cartoon The Substitute (Surogat) won an Oscar after all, as the first non-American short animated movie ever to win the Academy Award! It is still considered to be one of the greatest Croatian cultural successes (and back then Yugoslavian), which still fills us with pride and joy to this day.
Surogat is the most renowned animated movie from Zagreb, but another cartoon from the '60s is more popular across Croatia. Professor Baltazar is a product of the same Zagreb School of Animation. Ahead of its time in terms of popularisation of creative thinking and science, the animated series still successfully immerses Croatian children in the trippy colorful world where anything is possible.
I hope the examples of Smogovci and Surogat, the iconic storytelling products of Zagreb that marked their milestones in April, are enough to persuade you. If you are searching for a creativity boost, and especially if you are in the movie industry... come to spend your April here in Zagreb. Among all those blossoming flowers, there is a gentle bud, which hides your next story between its petals.
Header image credit: Iva Silla
Author: Iva Silla