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31 Jan 13

Around the World in Seven Stages

This year’s Magnificent 7 documentary festival will soon be transporting Serbian filmgoers east to Bulgaria, up to Sweden and then down to Morocco, among other places.

Gordana Andric
BIRN Belgrade

The festival kicks off with the Swedish documentary and this year’s Oscar nominee, Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul.

For the ninth year, the best of last year’s documentaries, including Cannes critical hits, the winner of the European Oscar and an Academy Award nominee, will be presented to Belgrade audiences at the annual “Magnificent 7” festival.

The festival, which opens on January 30 at Belgrade’s Sava Centre and lasts until February 3, kicks off with the Swedish documentary and this year’s Oscar nominee, Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul.

Over three days Belgraders will also have a chance to see Jérôme Le Maire’s Thé ou électricité [“Tea or Electricity”], Ilian Metev’s Poslednata lineika na Sofia [“Last Ambulance in Sofia”], Palme, by Kristina Lindström and Maud Nycander, Kimmo Koskela’s Soundbreaker, Manuel von Stürler’s Hiver nomade and Helena Trestíková’s Soukromý vesmír [“Private universe”]. All films are subtitled in Serbian and English.

Tue Steen Miller, festival selector and one of the founders of the European Documentary Network, says documentary film is enjoying a golden age.

“There has never been such interest among the younger public, which is turning its back on television,” Miller says.

“There have never been so many good films. I hope you will laugh, shed a tear, get lost in thought and experience something incredible at our ‘Magnificent 7’ festival,” Miller adds.

The festival was set up in 2005 in co-operation between the Centre for Visual Communication Kvadrat and the Belgrade Sava Centre, with the aim of giving documentaries the same kind of glamour usually associated with feature films.

To add a touch of exclusivity, the festival has always had a limited number of screenings and hosted the authors of all seven films.

In the past it has hosted some of the world’s most acclaimed documentarians, including Nicholas Philibert, Michael Glawogger, Mars Isaacs, Kim Longinotto and Nina Hedenius.

The festival directors say they aim to increase interest in documentaries among cinema audiences.

“We wanted a festival that would show that documentary film can be an extraordinary experience… a festival that is more than simply watching films, but a form of communication between films and authors, an exchange of ideas,” Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, the directors, say.

So far the festival has had higher box office figures per screening than any other cinema event held at the Sava Centre, which is where most movie premieres were held. Over 3,000 viewers attended the closing day of the 2011 festival.

Tickets are on sale at the Sava Centre for 300 and 350 dinars [€2.6 and €3.1].


Searching for Sugar Man

Director: Malik Bendjelloul

Date: January 30, 7pm

The story of two Cape Town fans of American musician Rodriguez and their search into whether Rodriguez’s reported death was true. Rodriguez’s music became very popular in South Africa, but his life and death were a mystery to his fans. This Swedish film has entered the official race for the Oscars and both European and American critics consider it one of the hottest contenders for the award.


Thé ou électricité

Director: Jérôme Le Maire

Date: January 30, 9.15pm

An anthropological study, the film takes audiences atop Moroccan mountains to discover a world that is intact and unpolluted by modern technology and by the troubles they bring in their wake. It is a world that has existed virtually unchanged for far longer than its oldest inhabitants can remember. But, huge trucks, metal constructions and howling machines arrive unannounced, bringing electricity and change.


Poslednata lineika na Sofia

Director: Ilian Metev

Date: January 31, 7pm

This film portrays the Bulgarian capital as an entangled labyrinth. There are only 13 ambulance cars in the city, and it seems like just one cruises the streets, lost and forgotten. The film is also a story about a charismatic trio, the crew of this ambulance, whose rescue missions are jeopardized by the turbulent circumstances in which they find themselves.



Director: Kristina Lindström, Maud Nycander

Date: February 1, 7pm

The story of Olof Palme, two-term Social Democratic Prime Minister of Sweden and one of the icons of the 20th-century left. Thanks partly to Palme, Sweden wielded great influence on political developments in the world from the late Sixties until his assassination in 1986. Brilliant in public appearances, driven by passionate enthusiasm and by a vision of a better and more just world, he had a strong impact on supporters and opponents alike.



Director: Kimmo Koskela

Date: February 2, 7pm

A story about an accordion that is no longer an accordion, and about an accordionist who decides to love the accordion, but only if he is not an accordionist. A story about sounds and music that is free from the shackles of the conventional and predictable. A mighty clash of passion, noise, harmony, dissonance, shouts and sighs. Above all, this is a story about surrendering to unexpressed inner voices, and about faith in the power of the irrational and the intuitive.


Hiver nomade

Director: Manuel von Stürler

Date: February 3, 6pm

A middle-aged Swiss man and a young French woman with an unforgettable red hat walk 600 kilometres, filled with passion and escorted by four dogs, three donkeys and 800 sheep. This exciting odyssey, reminiscent of ancient times, happens in one of the most developed parts of Europe - Switzerland. A breathless adventure, filled with drama, beauty and warmth, it shows genuine nomads in an epic saga about migration and quests.


Soukromý vesmír

Director: Helena Trestíková

Date: February 3, 8.15pm

The first space flight. TV sets as a fetish and a miracle. Socialism, enthusiasm, optimism. Beloved pop singer as an icon. Flight to the moon. The demise of Socialism. “Private universe” is a warm-hearted chronicle of an era told by a regular Czech family. Visit their small universe, comprised of grumpy grandmothers, first teeth, living next to the city pool, the first Socialist car, birthdays and babies.

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