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19 Apr 13

Bosnian Director Boycotts Festival Over ‘Nationalist’ Kusturica

Sarajevo’s Selma Spahic has withdrawn her play from this year’s Sterijino Pozorje Theatre Festival in Novi Sad, because it will be opened by controversial Serbian film director Emir Kusturica.

Nemanja Cabric
BIRN Belgrade

“A festival that gives such an honour to Emir Kusturica is making an ideological statement, accepting nationalistic rhetoric and giving it legitimacy,” Spahic wrote in a letter to the festival’s organisers.

Spahic said she was withdrawing her play ‘Grebanje ili Kako se ubila moja baka’ (‘Scratching, or How My Grandmother Killed Herself’) from the competition programme at the 58th Sterijino Pozorje Theatre Festival, which will take place in Novi Sad from May 25th to June 3rd.

The 27-year-old theatre director from Sarajevo, whose work on plays such as ‘Hypermnesia’, ‘Pobjeda’ (‘Victory’) and ‘Kako sam naucila da vozim’ (‘How I Learned to Drive’) has won praise from  critics, juries and audiences at some of the biggest festivals in the region, explained that she was opposed to using art as a means of political propaganda.

In her letter, Spahic noted that since the end of the wars in the region, “generations of children have been breast-fed with nationalism, limited by hatred, exclusiveness and a lack of tolerance towards diversity, systematically impoverished in spirit and not taught to empathise with others”.

“Artists have an ethical duty to oppose nationalist rot and rhetoric in every way,” she concluded.

Kusturica, twice winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes (for ‘When Father Was Away on Business’ and ‘Underground’) has been both praised for his work and criticised for his nationalist opinions.

He will speak at the opening of the prestigious theatre festival, whose jury will be led by actor Predrag Ejdus and will include playwright Stevan Koprivica, director Cisano Murusidze, theatre theorist Dragan Boskovic and set and costume designer Miodrag Tabacki.

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