In 1953, the chairman of Kinematografsko preduzeće (The Cinematographic House), Marjan Rotar, came to an idea to organize a film festival in Pula, Croatia, that would provide the Yugoslav public with the opportunity to evaluate the achievements of the Yugoslav motion-picture industry on a yearly basis. In 1954, this idea gave birth to the Yugoslav Film Festival in Pula.
The festival itself consisted of two sections, one for feature films and one for short films, animated films, experimental films and documentaries. The former played its selection in the festival's main venue: the beautiful, elliptical Roman amphitheatre built by Emperor Vespasian around 80 AD. The latter screened its selection in a regular movie theatre in daytime and in the amphitheatre at nighttime, that is just before its counterpart would screen its features.
In 1959, the Federal Chamber of Commerce, the Commercial Association of Yugoslav Film Producers and the Union of Yugoslav Film Workers reached a decision to transform the two sections of the Yugoslav Film Festival in Pula into two separate festivals: the Yugoslav Feature Film Festival in Pula and the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival in Belgrade. In this manner, the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival achieved its independence.
In the same year, the aforementioned three also created the Yugoslav Film Festival, an organization entrusted with the organization of the two aforementioned film festivals.
In the period from 1960 to 1975, the Yugoslav Film Festival entrusted the organization of the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival firstly to Božidar Torbica (1960-61), then Branko Bekić (1962), then Dejan Kosanović (1963-68), then Petar Volk (1969-72), and in the end, to Miodrag Novaković (1973-1975). Initially, the festival possessed only one selection and this selection was usually played in the festival's main venue: the Hall of the House of Syndicates. In 1961, however, Managing Director Mr. Torbica structured the festival into two sections, the domestic and the international one, having the domestic section play its selection in the Hall and the international section play its selection in the theatre of the Yugoslav Film Archive, and so it remained thereon after.
In 1967, the Festival Council introduced the Medal of Belgrade, the festival's official award. It commissioned the design for its form from the prominent Belgrade sculptor Nebojša Mitrić and it bought all the rights to the final product once it had been finished.
In 1975, the federal government decided to disband the Yugoslav Film Festival, now a department of the Yugoslav Film, and to entrust the organization of the two film festivals to the city councils of the cities in which they were being held, and so the organization of the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival befell the City Council of Belgrade.
In the period from 1976 to 1981, the City Council of Belgrade commissioned Beograd publik to run the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival and Beograd publik entrusted the organization of the festival to Borivoje Lečić, the chairman of Beograd publik. In this period, the new doctrine of self-management entailed the expansion of the Festival Council so that it can represent the actors, producers, and filmmakers from all the republics and autonomous provinces of the federal state as well as the officials of the City Council of Belgrade.
In 1982, the City Council commissioned Sava Center to run the film festival instead of Beograd public. In the ensuing period, Sava Center entrusted the organization of the happening firstly to Florjan Haid (1982-1986) and subsequently to Nevena Djonlić (1987-1991).
In 1991, the Yugoslav Film took over the running of the festival from Sava Center and its chairman, Vojislav Vučić, took over the festival organization. In this period, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia began to disintegrate. Consequently, in 1991, some and in 1992, all of the republics apart from Serbia and Montenegro decided not to send their features to the film festival. In turn, the festival program narrowed down and it remained thus thereon after. In spite of the testing times, however, the festival staff, selectors and juries succeeded in remaining neutral. The awards given in this period went generally to films that spoke against the civil wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo and that showed the true face of the horrors that took place there.
In 1999, the NATO booming campaign forced the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival to be held underground, in the bomb shelter of the House of the Youth of Belgrade. In spite of the difficulties, the festival went uninterrupted by the surrounding chaos, demonstrating its own vitality as well as the vitality of the motion picture industry it reviewed.
In 2003, the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.
In 2004, the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival became the Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival.
Filip Vojvodic Medic
Data taken from Kosanović, Dejan. “Pedeset godina Festivala jugoslovenskog dokumentarnog i kratkometražnog filma.” Kniga Filma. Belgrade: Festival dokumentarnog i kratkometražnog filma, 2003. pp.13-19.