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Drvengrad: A Traditional Serbian Village That’s Actually A Movie Set

Two hundred kilometers southwest of Serbia's capital, Belgrade, on Mokra Gora mountain only a few miles from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina is a bustling little mountain town called Drvengrad. It means “timber town”, which is correct, for the entire town is made of wood obtained from the area’s numerous conifer trees. Even the streets and main square are paved with wooden tiles.

Drvengrad has a church, a library, a cinema, a couple of restaurants and shops, but it’s not a real town. Drvengrad was built by the enigmatic filmmaker Emir Kusturica in 2004 for his film Life is a Miracle.

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Drvengrad in Serbia. Photo credit: Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com

“I lost my city [Sarajevo] during the war. That is why I wished to build my own village,” Kusturica says. “I will organize seminars there, for people who want to learn how to make cinema, concerts, ceramics, painting. It is the place where I will live and where some people will be able to come from time to time. There will be of course some other inhabitants who will work. I dream of an open place with cultural diversity which sets up against globalization”

Drvengrad—also called Küstendorf, after its creator— is set up as a tourist attraction, a theme park. Visitors can see works of art at the Macola gallery, or watch movies in the Underground Cinema, located in the basement of the Stanley Kubrick building. This building contains a gym, a pool, a sauna, and private rooms where Kusturica and his family live.

Streets in Drvengrad are named after famous people such as Nikola Tesla, Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Argentine football player Diego Maradona, Serbian actor Miodrag Petrović Čkalja and famous film directors Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.

Drvengrad is at its busiest during the annual Küstendorf International Film and Music Festival where young filmmakers and students can meet famous actors and directors. Films from all over the world  are screened during the festival. A special highlight of the festival is a “bad films burial” at the Bad films cemetery. The festival was officially opened in 2008 with the burial of Die Hard 4.0.

The festival emphasizes independent, creative filmmaking without the big budgets of Hollywood blockbusters. It does not host a red carpet, but over the years many Hollywood and International film celebrities have visited the festival such as Johnny Depp, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Abbas Kiarostami.

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Photo credit: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock.com

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