Located in the south of the Republic of North Macedonia, Bitola is the second largest city in the country with around 122,000 inhabitants. The city’s film heritage originated from the early 20th century with the film industry now representing the backbone of the city’s creative economy. Bitola’s history with film dates back to the Manaki brothers who, as film and photography pioneers, brought to Bitola – formerly named Manastir – the Bioscope 300 film camera. The brothers famously filmed the very first motion pictures shot in the Ottoman Balkans.
Today, the legacy of the Manaki brothers remains unchanged, as illustrated by the Manaki Brothers International Cinematographers Film Festival held in their honour every year since 1979. The documentary genre is a prominent part of the Bitola film culture with many initiatives supporting the field, such as the International Festival of Non Professional Documentary Film - Camera 300. The Cultural Summer Bit Festival also hosts a Documentary Programme which supports nongovernmental organisations and independent directors producing documentary films. Funded by the city, the programme has produced more than 50 documentaries since starting.
As the city is alive with film, the Municipality has recently implemented two main programmes dedicated to supporting film creation: the Open Studio Film City and Filmland Bitola. Both aim to promote the industry and make the city an internationally-known centre for film. Filmland Bitola specifically provides assistance to both local and international filmmakers on technical services, notably on the identification of locations, and has so far benefited 16 films from various countries worldwide.
As a Creative City of Film, Bitola envisages:
- nurturing the vibrant role of film in Bitola’s creative economy, notably by expanding the scope of the programme Filmland Bitola through publicprivate and inter-sectoral partnerships involving public cultural centres, universities, academia and private production companies;
- fostering the city’s cultural offerings through exhibitions, festivals, workshops and other events especially based on the film heritage of the Manaki brothers; positioning Bitola as an international hub for film creation by providing special provisions to both local and international film professionals; and
- exchanging experience and knowledge with other Creative Cities of Film, to discuss how the creative industry of film can foster sustainable and inclusive urban development.