Bitola- the city of the first motion pictures in the Balkans

3 minutes to read

Many important events from the Macedonian and Balkan history occurred in Bitola. This is the second big City in Macedonia after the capital Skopje and it is placed in the South-Western part. The city was built, ruined, rebuilt, and upgraded since its first settlement in the late Bronze Age. Passing through all historical periods, this city always had the status of a center with a high degree of civilization.

The traditionally strong trade center is also known as the city of consuls because in one period, during the Ottoman Empire, Bitola had twenty consulates from various European countries. In the same period, the city had many schools, including the military academy, which was visited by the famous Turkish reformer Kemal Ataturk. At the end of the XIX century, it was such a powerful city that the population grew steadily and exceeded the number of people in Belgrade. The city was crowded with factories and photographic shops.

Trending spot in Bitola

Shirok Sokak that stands for Wide Street (the official street name is "Marshal Tito", also known as the "Bitola Corso") is the most frequent street in Bitola. Initially, it was designed for cars, while today it is exclusively a pedestrian street and the true heart of the city. The main stores, restaurants, opera house, galleries and many other cafes and clubs are located on Shirok Sokak. Typical Turkish houses, besides the beautiful villas, are not rare in this part of the city. The people from Bitola are widely known for their weird sense of humor and general creativity. They invented a verb that stands for "just chilling in a coffee store on Shirok Sokak". The action is "Kabadaenje" and the one that does it "Kabadaja". Kabadaja is someone who would like to be seen. Shirok Sokak is a must see place and the Kabadaja guy knows this. They even made a documentary about this Kabadaja character. Anyhow, at the very end, the street of Shirok Sokak enters a spacious flower park full of trees, which leads to the zoo and after you’ll reach the ancient site called Heraclea Lyncestis.

In Bitola, the first motion pictures in the Balkans were shot, thanks to Brothers Manaki. In 1905, the brothers moved to Bitola, which at that time was an important political, economic, and cultural center. They opened the famous "Atelier for Art Photography". In 1906, during their participation in the great world exhibition in Bucharest, where they presented their photographs, the Manaki brothers first met the film camera. Then, Janaki traveled through several European metropolises (Vienna, Paris, etc.) in search of a camera in London. He bought a movie camera, the production of Charles Urban Trading, the 300th copy of the BIOSCOPE series. Thus, with that famous "Camera 300", cinema began in the Balkans. The same year, in 1906 in Avdela is filmed the first motion pictures in the Ottoman Balkans.

This event created the occasion, since 1979 in Bitola to hold an annual international Macedonian film festival organized by the Macedonian Film Professionals Association. The award of the festival, as it is expected, is the Camera 300 that is given to the year's best motion pictures chosen by the festival's film committee. The Manaki Film Festival has been hosted at the Center of culture located in the center of Bitola and has been attended by celebrities such as Richard Sammel, Torsten Voges, Rade Šerbedžija, Michael York, Charles Dance, Victoria Abril, Daryl Hannah, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche, and plenty more.

The festival usually takes part in late September and it is the main festivity for the urban Bitola. These days Bitola lives life to its fullest, like a movie diva.


Interesting activities close by


The author

Zlata Golaboska

Zlata Golaboska

I am Zlata and I am an architect living in the Balkans. I am passionate about cities, how people influence architecture and vice versa, and how places change our lives.

View more stories

Stories you might also like