Return of the Partisans
By Aljosa Milenkovic

It is remarkable when a movie is seen by millions of viewers around the world. It is even more remarkable when that movie is seen by hundreds of millions. But when a film reaches a billion viewers, in an era before streaming video, it is something truly special.

There is such a movie. Its name is "Walter Defends Sarajevo" and it is Yugoslavian flick about partisan guerrillas fighting Nazis in World War II. It was super popular in the Eastern Europe and a mega hit in China.

Now, almost 50 years later, Chinese movie giant Huahua Media, known for co-producing films such as "Transformers" and "Star Trek," has signed a multimillion-U.S.-dollar deal for its remake.

Jasmin Durakovic, director of Film Center Sarajevo, is speaking to CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Jasmin Durakovic, director of Film Center Sarajevo, is speaking to CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Today, Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But just a few decades ago, it was one of the major cities in Yugoslavia. At that time, it was also the hotbed for many WWII movies, of which "Walter Defends Sarajevo" was one of the most iconic. Its protagonist Walter, played by Serbian actor Velimir Bata Zivojinovic, gained international fame and made him a superstar in China.

Even a local Chinese beer was named after him, with his face printed on the label. Lines said by the movie's characters also quickly became iconic.

"The Bridge" is another iconic Yugoslavian movie getting a remake by Huahua.

Film Center Sarajevo owns the copyright for the movie. In its office in the Bosnian capital, the head of Huahua Media met people from Dandelion Production, the company that'll produce its remake, and also the heads of the Film Center Sarajevo. Jasmin Durakovic, director of the Film Center Sarajevo, confirmed that at the meeting three sides discussed possible candidates to direct "The Bridge" remake.

Predrag Antonijevic, executive producer of Dandelion Production, is talking to CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Predrag Antonijevic, executive producer of Dandelion Production, is talking to CGTN. /CGTN Photo

"Today in the meeting with the Chinese partner, it was dialogue about that. So, it is a really hard question, to make a decision. There are some reasons that it could be Chinese director. There is some reasons maybe some other, international film director, we have that possibility also now," Durakovic said.

"The Bridge" remake will be filmed in Serbia with Predrag Antonijevic as executive producer from Hollywood-based Dandelion Production. He explained that the reason for choosing Serbia as a filming location were the financial incentives given by the state.

"Serbia has very strong tax incentives for the companies which are making movies. It's currently 25 percent, it might rise up to 30 percent very soon, that's what I've heard. And that makes us very competitive. For instance Bosnia doesn't have that. Even if you want to shoot the movie in Bosnia that means that investor will actually lose significant amount of money," said Antonijevic.

Yet in the age of blockbusters like "The Avengers," the question is whether a remake of a Yugoslavian WWII movie will find an audience. Wang Kefei, chairman and CEO of Huahua Media dismissed those fears.

"Foreign war movies are often actually quite popular in China. So if we properly use the new technology and new production methods and we manage to produce a top quality movie, such as "Saving Private Ryan," we believe that everyone in the world would connect with the movies," Wang Kefei said.

So, Huahua is optimistic about the project and has dedicated over 10 million U.S. dollars to it.

To us – movie fans – the only thing left is to wait until late 2021 to see the final cut.