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The Yugoslav Film Archive

The State Audiovisual Archive of Serbia – Yugoslav Film Archive


The Yugoslav Film Archive, Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, was founded in 1949 by the Cinema Committee of what was then the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Its founding document was signed by Marshal Josip Broz Tito himself.

In today’s Republic of Serbia, the Film Archive is a national institution, the key organization concerned with the preservation of an important cultural asset – namely, film materials.

Its organizational foundations were laid by its first manager, Milenko Karanović, following the methods established by the world’s finest film archives. The Film Archive’s mission is to collect, repair, preserve, and also to show films, along with associated film materials, artifacts and other objects from the varied history of cinema.

The Archive’s vast collection of materials started out as only two hundred unsorted boxes filled with nitrate film, found in Tašmajdan cave in Belgrade. The collection grew rapidly thanks to gifts from the public, purchases, acquisition of fresh copies from local producers, and constant exchanges with foreign film archives. By 1964 the Yugoslav Film Archive had already become one of the five most important film archives in the world.

The Archive’s treasure was threatened during the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, but the generation of people working in the Archive at the time, headed by its Director, Radoslav Zelenović, managed to save it. In the spring of 1999, the famous director Bernardo Bertolucci appealed for the preservation of a Film Archive that holds “key memories of this century”.

The nitrate collection is kept in the Archive’s special bunkers, and since 2007, with the help of the Ministry of Culture and the French government, it has been upgraded with a new, state-of-the-art repository, spread over 700 square meters, four stories high. In 2009, the Archive established a Department for the Digitalization and Digital Restoration of Film Materials.

The Kinoteka Museum was founded in 1952 as a specialized movie theatre screening films from the Archive’s collection, with several daily projections. The theatre in Kosovska Street quickly became a cult hangout, and many generations of moviegoers grew up attending projections there.

Its new administrative center, in a renovated building, officially opened in 2011. In 2014 it was opened to the public, furnished and fully equipped, with beautiful interiors accommodating movie theatres, a permanent museum exhibition, a library and the Archive’s management offices.


The Archive’s greatest treasures are its collection of nitrate film materials and its collection of Serbian cinema. The overall collection contains more than 100,000 copies of films.

The nitrate collection alone consists of over than 10,000 titles produced between 1896 and 1953, the period when films were shot on flammable film stock. Some of the items are the sole existing copies of films long thought to have been lost. The only existing copy of an Italian film from 1916, The Poisoner, was found in the Archive’s collection several years ago. Kinoteka collaborated with film archives in Bologna and Turin to prepare a new copy.

The oldest film shot in Serbia held by the Archive is a documentary short, The Coronation of King Peter I of Serbia, from 1904. The first Serbian feature film, The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Leader Karađorđe, was shot in Belgrade in 1911, a copy of which was found in 2003 in Vienna’s Film Archive. Among the Archive’s prized possessions are also documentary features by Serbian producers Đorđe Bogdanović and Svetozar Botorić from the 1910s.

The foreign film collection holds documentary and feature films, newsreels and animated films from more than 130 countries around the world.

The photographic archive contains 270,000 identified (and at least as many still unsorted) photographs from 18,000 domestic and foreign films, along with portraits of various filmmakers. There is also a precious archive of more than 15,000 posters of some 7,500 films.

The collection of artifacts is made up of more than 3,200 exhibits from the history, and also the prehistory, of cinema. In the permanent museum exhibition, one can view the Kaiser Panorama, still in working condition, an original 1896 camera used by the Lumiére brothers, a laterna magica – the ancestor of all movie projectors, Edison’s projecting kinetoscope, the first studio film camera – Lifka’s camera, Edison’s phonograph, photographic cameras from Uglješa Rajčević’s collection, and many other exhibits.

Among the Archive’s vast treasures are also the bequests of various film artists, such as Milena Dravić and Dragan Nikolić, Pavle Vuisić, Ružica Sokić, Lјubiša Samardžić, Veljko Despotović, Miomir Denić, Žorž Skrigin, Karl Malden, among others.

In the Archive’s library there are 22,000 books, magazines, screenplays and other materials.


Since its earliest days, the Yugoslav Film Archive has cultivated international co-operation, and has been a full member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) since 1951.

Kinoteka’s recognition in Europe and around the world grew significantly between 1955 and 1981, when it was headed by film director Vladimir Pogačić. It was invited to join the Association of European Cinematheques (ACE) in 1995, as the first non-EU member.

Dinko Tucaković, who headed the Archive’s museum for years, was a member of FIAF’s Programming Commission. The Archive’s current director, Jugoslav Pantelić, has been a member of the Executive Committee of the ACE since 2018.

The Nitrate Film Festival, established in 1999, offers a rare chance to enjoy film gems from the first half of the 20th century on the big screen. Aleksandar Saša Erdeljanović, in charge of the archive, is the festival’s art director and selector. The program offers films from dozens of the world’s archives.

Paying special attention to Serbian film heritage, in 2016 the Archive organized the selection of the 100 Best Serbian Films of the 20th century, declaring them cultural assets of great importance, which is one of the criteria for their digital restoration.

This was followed by an extraordinarily important and popular project, Vip Kinoteka, where so far ten classics of Serbian cinema have been digitally restored. Premiere screenings of freshly restored copies, accompanied by conversations with filmmakers, receive great attention from the public and the media.

The Archive publishes books about film, and in 2017 it established its own magazine, “Kinoteka”, dealing with both film history and the contemporary scene.

The first time the Archive honored the pioneers of our cinema was in 1956. The Yugoslav Film Archive has awarded commemorative plaques to Milton Manaki, Josip Hala, Ernest Bošnjak, Tito Stroci and others, including, posthumously, Aleksandar Lifka and Kosta Novaković.

The Golden Seal Award for contribution to film art was established in 1995, celebrating the first century of cinema. This accolade has so far been given to many local and foreign artists: Giuseppe de Santis, Liv Ullmann, Theo Angelopoulos, Nikita Mikhalkov, Jiří Menzel, Ken Russell, Harvey Keitel, Wim Wenders, Carlos Saura, Ralph Fiennes, Emir Kusturica, Dušan Makavejev, Mirjana Karanović, Bogdan Diklić and others.

6 June was chosen as Yugoslav Film Archive Day because that day in 1896 saw the first film screening in Belgrade and the Balkans, which happened in the “Golden Cross” tavern on Terazije Square.