Petrova Gora & Netflix's "Tribes of Europa": an overview & analysis

As someone who is always tuned into the developments occurring at and around the WWII commemorative sites of the former Yugoslavia through my Spomenik Database project and related social media accounts, I am always having people message and contact me about things they find at these locations (both good and bad). So, you can imagine my surprise when around November of 2019, I begin having numerous people reach out to me with information that the ruined and devastated site of the Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija at Petrova Gora, Croatia is being closed off to the public by a TV production crew filming at that location. At first, I just assume it is just some music video or commercial (both of which activities have been employing the Yugoslav monuments in increasing regularity as of late). However, I was even more surprised to discover that the production in question here at Petrova Gora was much more significant in scope.

A recent photo I took of the Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija at Petrova Gora

After hearing about this filming going on at Petrova Gora in November of 2019, a bit of detective work quickly yields the answer I was looking for. I find that the monument site is being used by a German production crew as a filming location for a new Netflix series titled "Tribes of Europa", a science-fiction show based in a post-apocalyptic future Europe torn apart by disaster and broken into an array of warring tribes. The people who reached out to me told of private security guards preventing any sort of access in and around the structure for several months during late 2019 and early 2020 as the filming took place there. In an article by the Zagreb news outlet Jutarnji List, they quote academic art historian Sanja Horvatinčić, who exclaimed after she discovered this situation herself: "Is it even legally possible for a registered cultural property to be closed to the public and leased to a private production company?" This same news article also quotes spokesman Davor Žafran of the Blue Sky Adriatic production company that organized the local logistics of the "Tribes of Europa" Netflix production, with him asserting: "We received all the necessary permits for filming from the Ministry of Culture and the competent municipality. As for the ban on entry, there was already a padlock and it was not allowed to enter, and when we arrived at the location." However, despite such assertions, anyone who has visited the Petrova Gora monument site before this filming began knew that the interior of the monument was easily accessible through various points (despite the front entrance being locked), while the nearby municipality offices of Vojnić were always more than willing to unlock the front entrance and give tours to whomever inquired at the town offices.

With the success of the hugely popular HBO series "Game of Thrones" being filmed at locations across Croatia in recent years, such as the scenic Adriatic cities of Dubrovnik and Split, it makes sense that Croatian government officials would be keen on continuing utilizing the Croatian landscape for international filming productions, especially as the success of Game of Thrones has led to huge tourist draws to those two coastal cities. However, this was the first instance of a major Croatian memorial site related to the tragic and bloody events of WWII being utilized in such a commercial fashion for a western television series. Though, it does bear mentioning that just a few years ago in 2018, an Australian eyewear fashion company used the monument at Jasenovac, Croatia as part of a commercial marketing campaign, which led to widespread condemnation from around the world. Furthermore, the unavoidable symbolism of a German film crew employing private Croatian security services to prevent visitors from accessing a public monument dedicated to the massacre of what were largely ethnic-Serb civilians was quickly picked up on by many observers and social critics. Many individuals shared scathing opinions and perspectives on social media about the monument being used in such a way. But at the same time, other voices pointed out that the production employed vast amounts of local actors and could serve to spurn tourism to the region in the same way similar productions did for Split and Dubrovnik.

In the utilizing of the Petrova Gora monument as a set piece for the filming of this Netflix TV series, the production crew cleaned up much of the trash strewn about the complex and cleaned its interior walls of the decades of graffiti that had accumulated all across its concrete facade. Meanwhile, the production crew also constructed several set installations within the monument for the purposes of staging certain scenes, while also painting various markings of their own across the interior walls of the complex. However, as I pointed out in a Facebook post, available at THIS link, many of these stage installations within the monument were not removed after filming and still remain in place up to now.

Stage pieces left over from the filming of Netflix's "Tribes of Europa" inside the Petrova Gora monument complex.

In the lead up to the release of the show, what was completely unknown and unclear to the majority of observers was in what fashion the Petrova Gora site would fit into the filming and story of this TV show. Would the tragic history and grand monumental heritage of the structure somehow be integrated into the narrative of the series or would its devastated and decayed condition simply be used as a tawdry backdrop for the "ruin-porn" aesthetic of the post-apocalyptic world the Netflix's production crew was attempting to cultivate? I guess we would have to wait and see for ourselves when the show was released. When the teaser trailer for "Tribes of Europa" was released in December of 2020, we were only given a short single frame peak of the monument during a quick shot from some sweeping aerial drone footage, which by no means gave any indication about how the monument would be utilized within the TV series.