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What are the partisan movies?

Partisan movies are specific type of movies belonging to a genre that emerged on the territory of former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The protagonists of these movies were partisans. The Yugoslav partisans were main communist led force to oppose the fascist force of Axis in occupied Yugoslavia during WWII. The partisan movies mainly depicted events during the war, so they can be classified as sub-genre of war movies.

The evolution of genre

At the beginning, the movies of this genre were conceived as purely propaganda agent of communist regime in Yugoslavia. However, with weakening of censorship, greater exposure to the effects of Hollywood and other world cinemas, this genre received somewhat more commercial content. Movies didn’t insisted just on the raw ideological propaganda, but more on action and humor. By then, partisan movies became recognizable and genre developed its very own iconography like the American Western and Japanese Jidaigeki. That’s when partisan movie posters became popular. More and more world stars started coming to shoot movies in Yugoslavia.

One of the movie posters printed during the filming of Sutjeska, starring Richard Burton. Sutjeska was another blockbuster among the partisan movies.

Partisan films often represented “state projects” for which large sums of money were carried out. They often involved a large number of the Yugoslav People’s Army members participating in filming. Josip Broz Tito, former leader of the Partisans and leader of Yugoslavia, was huge fan of movies. He was particularly fond of American westerns. He even had man responsible for playing movies in his mansion. Making great movies about Partisans was his main obsession.  So, he didn’t spare money to succeed. He wanted to make Partisan movies as great as the ones made in Hollywood.

Shooting of the Battle of Neretva 

Making of the movie Battle of Neretva in 1969 is the greatest achievement of this cinematography. Some of the biggest Hollywood stars were in the cast, such as Yule Brynner, Orson Welles and Franco Nero. Pablo Picasso designed the original poster. Curiously, this was the only time when Picasso designed the movie poster. The authorities never announced the movie budget. Some are saying that Tito even ordered spending federal reserves in order to finish the shooting.

Original and extremely rare partisan movie poster. Poster was designed by Pablo Picasso. Interestingly, Picasso didn’t want to be paid. He just asked for a case of Yugoslavian finest wine.

Oversea popularity

Over time, Partisan films found their way to the foreign audience They achieved the greatest success in the Third World countries. For example, the movie Valter defends Sarajevo, was the most watched film of his time during his presentation in China. From that period, the unobtrusive name of gibanica western was also emerging. However, the public never accepted this name.

Chinese movie poster for the film Valter Brani Sarajevo, starring Bata Zivojinovic, one of the most influential actors in former Yugoslavia. Valter Brani Sarajevo is still one of the most popular movies in China.


By the 1970’s, partisan movies succumbed to pure commercialization. They played a huge part in popular culture in Yugoslavia, with TV series Otpisani as a leader. However, a part of the filmmakers used the genre to critically talk about Yugoslav regime. Some of them questioned the official truths. Director Zivojin Pavlovic went furthest in this, with his film Zaseda from 1969. The movie shows the victorious partisans as bad guys. Therefore, authorities have banned these movie. Same destiny had a movie U gori raste zelen bor from 1971.

Partisan films gradually stopped recording in the 1980s, to completely disappear with the breakup of Yugoslavia. After bloody breakup, partisan movies became unofficially banned. However, over time they once again gained popularity as a form of cultural yugonostalgia.

If you want to know more on this subject, I highly recommend you to watch the documentary movie about Partisan movies, called Cinema Komunisto.

If you are interested in collecting partisan movie posters, feel free to browse through our collection.

Thanks for reading. See you soon!

Images 1 and 2: from our store
Image 3  from:

Miloš Stanković
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