Sarajevo film festival, symbol of resilience and creativity

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The Independent Culture

Born as an act of resistance when the Bosnian capital was under siege 16 years ago, Sarajevo's film festival has become a cutting-edge event where young European talent is revealed.

Organisers of the July 22-30 festival say they hope to use the gathering's growing international fame to promote young film-makers from the Balkans.

"Nowadays, people are coming to the Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF) to meet young authors from Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and other countries in this part of Europe," festival director Mirsad Purivatra told AFP.

"Our goal is to show to the world what is great here," he said.

The festival was created during the siege of the beautiful city, known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans, by the Bosnian Serb forces and opened with a screening of Quentin Tarantino's cult "dark comedy" Pulp Fiction.

The festival instantly became a symbol of the battered city's resilience and of its creative genius.

"Among eight films in the competition, seven are first movies directed by young authors. We are presenting a new generation of authors from our region," Purivatra said.

SFF programme director Elma Tataragic insists that the festival enables "small" films to meet large audiences.

"A space like the SFF, open to these discoveries, to new authors, endowed with a new energy, where we try to open the doors for the bigger festivals, is absolutely necessary," said Tataragic.

The movies to be presented at this year's festival take a "new contemporary look" at society in a region too often defined by its blood-drenched history.

"For the first time, we will have the occasion to look at the stories of a new generation which does not remember the (post-World War II) communist era and relates to the problems of the present. This is a new force," she said.

In one of these works, "Fleke" ("The Spots"), Croatian director Aldo Tardozzi describes the emotional flutterings of a teenager in Zagreb, in a film reflecting on the new Croatian generation's sense of disorientation.

In "Amnesty", Albania's Bujar Alimani weaves a sentimental tale of attraction between a man and a woman who meet during the prison visits to their spouses.

The winner will be chosen by an international jury, presided by the Israeli director Ari Folman, famous for his movie "Waltz with Bashir".

Besides the official competition for the "Heart of Sarajevo" award given to the best movie, 200 films, long and short, are to be screened at the festival, which has now grown to be one of the largest in Europe.

Screenings are scattered over nine theatres, several open-air.

Despite a modest budget (1.2 million euros, $1.76 million), the festival boasts a dazzling guest list that includes German film director Wim Wenders, British actress Charlotte Rampling and Danish director Susanne Bier, whose film "In a Better World" won the 2010 Oscar for best foreign film.

The festival opened Friday with Aki Kaurismaki's "Le Havre", a comedy-drama on solidarity between immigrants in a northern French port city.

The great Finnish director and lead actor Andre Wilms of France were in attendance.

The festival wants to resolutely turn towards the future, away from the tragic circumstances of its origins, said its founder and director.

"We always had a spirit that we could not base our success on this symbol of a city in agony and that we must build up on quality, work and vision," Purivatra said.

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