The ‘Old Town’ of Dubrovnik is the original walled city, the heart of the maritime Republic of Ragusa, and though the city has long outgrown those walls and established a new port on the other side isthmus that joins the Lapad peninsula to the mainland. Nevertheless the original buildings and layout have been largely preserved, and this, combined with the proximity of the botanical gardens and nature reserve on Lokrum (an island just a few hundred metres from the old port) have made it a superb location for film and TV work.
In March this year the main street (The Stradun) was apparently taken over for the shooting of the next instalment in the Star Wars franchise to the delight of the Mayor, who sees the tax revenues of high spending film crews as a boost to maintaining the city, but the dismay of the tourists whose photographs were ruined by cables, floodlights and a rogue spaceship.
It’s a difficult conundrum. After the physical and economic devastation of war in the early 90’s the opportunity to bring in additional revenue is very appealing, but such a small town can only accommodate so many people and if the hotels and restaurants a full of film crew then the tourist is squeezed out and may not return. They may even be unable to enter the city at all; one lunchtime the flow of people through the narrow entrance at the Pile Gate became completely gridlocked.
Still its a nice problem to have. Better be faced with trying to manage your popularity than having nothing to offer, and it’s a similar problem to that faced by their former rulers in Venice who must struggle with the choice between the revenue of the cruise ships and the damage they do to the very buildings that attract them.
And when the film is released, will those city walls be crammed with a new breed of visitor intent on walking in the footsteps of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren? If so they may be disappointed, for while the creamy coloured stone of the old town is certainly photogenic, it will be enhanced by physical and CGI “extensions” to the point where it is difficult to recognise. Those already walking the town in search of sets from their favourite TV show are learning just how different reality can be, though it doesn’t stem the flow of fans from around the globe. As my youngest daughter Holly put it “King’s Landing is the same in any language”. Those who seek the Iron Throne will find it (with the word “replica” in small print) in a photo studio down a narrow alley. The “original” is in a studio in Belfast where Star Wars also benefitted from the vast spaces that were once the shipyards that produced Titanic. I mean the ship, not the film!
Sorry – just had to join in!