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Bos/Hrv/Srp 05 Apr 12

Co-productions Remain Filmmakers’ Dream in Bosnia

Moviemakers from the country’s two entities hardly ever work together, which is why a short movie called “Happiness”, to be filmed soon, is attracting attention.

Bojana Karanovic
Banja Luka

The movie, written by Tijana Jozic of Banja Luka, and directed by Hari Secic, from Sarajevo, is to be filmed in April. Although only a student project and a short movie, it is a real achievement having in mind that it represents a rare work of “coproduction” between filmmakers from the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, and the mainly Muslim Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The short movie’s success in coming to life probably lies in the fact that it is being financed by the UN’s Department of Culture and Development, UNDP. Till now, not one movie has ever been made together by filmmakers from both entities.

Ideally, many filmmakers believe that film should not only be a part of Bosnia’s cultural and economic offering, but a way of reconciling the divided nations.

But it doesn’t happen. Moviemakers in both entities blame this on the fact that there is no state platform to co-finance such films while budgets at entity level are scant.

Forming a state cultural ministry, or a state movie fund to finance such works, would be the best idea, but this looks unrealistic having in mind the lack of good will between the entities.

In absence of a state body to allocate and distribute money for such co-productions, people vest their hopes in the strengthening of the entity film institutions.

While "Happiness" is the first inter-entity co-production, it is not a totally isolated case of cultural cooperation between the two entities.

In mid-March, several film and theatre projections, concerts and exhibitions were staged in Sarajevo and Banja Luka as a part of a project called “Undiplomatic art”.

Dino Mustafic, director of MESS | Photo by Youtube Printscreen

Dino Mustafic, director of the International Theatre Festival MESS and the initiator of this idea, said they selected the two largest cities in Bosnia, the centres of the two entities, since the “vast majority of prejudices, stereotypes and taboos related to the recent wartime past was carried on between these two cities”.

“This is an attempt to intensify internal communication between artists in Sarajevo and Banja Luka,” he said.

“I believe audiences in both cities will participate in the development of dialogue, breaking down the stereotypes built two decades ago and opening a new era in relations between two centres of political and ethno-national power in Bosnia,” Mustafic said.

Politics and the arts:

Bosnia’s film world is often shaken by political ructions. The last case is the film “In the Land of Blood and Honey”, by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, which, owing to its wartime theme, drew strong reactions and divided the public in Bosnia’s two entities. While the film was received with overt sympathy in the Federation and the premiere in Sarajevo was attended by Jolie herself, in Banja Luka the film has not been distributed at all.

Luka Kecman, professor of the Academy of Arts in Banja Luka, says politics has always been involved in the arts in the region, and that influence is especially noticeable in nations that have not outgrown their romantic and constitutive phase.

“In these years many moves have served this purpose. ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ is one such project and its effect has been the opposite from what was allegedly intended - reconciliation between people. People are polarized more than ever,” Kecman said.

Zoran Galic says one issue is the question of people’s maturity when it comes to dealing with socially sensitive questions.

“We have a problem in the common attitude that one nation is holy, and the other is evil. This is our reality, which is transferred to film,” he says.

Instead of developing more antagonisms, Galic says, filmmakers in Bosnia should make films that deal with the country’s problems. “We have to define our aspirations, and then we can seriously deal with film production,” he said.

Zoran Galic, director of “Vizart Film Production” from Banja Luka, whose film “Usud” was shown in Sarajevo as a part of the “Undiplomatic Art” program, believes that any form of cooperation between Banja Luka and Sarajevo is welcome. 

He points out that he has previously enjoyed good communications with colleagues in the Federation entity.

“In last few years Vizart Film has been a regular guest at the Sarajevo Film Festival and we enjoyed good cooperation but we’ve never generated a joint feature film project,” Galic says.

One reason for this is the Dayton Agreement-based policy, which specifies that Bosnia has two culture ministries operating at entity level. This situation hampers cooperation possibilities.

Srdjan Vuletic, a director from Sarajevo, says interest in mutual feature projects exists but there is no state platform through which such cooperation can be formalized. “I believe this cooperation will happen before that platform is established,” he said. 

“A common fund or ministry of culture at state level would be best but let's first see the establishment of a film fund in the Republika Srpska, so we can open up channels for financing projects that support coproduction between the entities.”

Production dries up:

Over the last 15 years several movies from Bosnia won important prizes. “No Man’s Land”, by Danis Tanovic in 2001, won an Oscar. A Golden Bear went to “Grbavica”, made by Jasmila Zbanic in 2006. “Snow”, by Aida Begic, was awarded in Cannes, Montreal, San Francisco and Prague, “32nd December”, by Sasa Hajdukovic won awards in Novi Sad and Mojkovac, “Summer in the Golden Valley” by Srdjan Vuletic won awards in Rotterdam and Sofia and “Remake”, by Dino Mustafic, was awarded in San Francisco and Munich.

There is no funding of film projects at state level. In the Federation entity, the budget of the Foundation for Cinematography, which works under the entity’s Ministry of Culture and Sports, allocated about 450,000 euros for feature-length projects last year. The Ministry of Culture of the Republika Srpska for the last three years has had no budget for film.

Thus, an industry that once won numerous awards and did much to promote the country's image now produces far fewer movies and is falling into stagnation.

In the Republika Srpska no feature film projects have been entirely completed in domestic production in the last two years.

Zoran Galic, director of “Vizart Film Production” from Banja Luka, Photo courtesy of Lepotaizdravlje.ba

“All the movies filmed in the Republika Srpska in the last few years were co-productions with film companies from other countries in the region,” Zoran Galic notes.

“The current state I would define as a discontinuity in domestic production. The main problem is money and the small budgets invested in film production,” says Srdjan Vuletic.

Different capacities:

Another problem facing filmmakers is the difference in capacities between the two entities. Compared to Banja Luka, Sarajevo has greater film capacities and a more established cinematography and filmmaking tradition inherited from the pre-war era.

For example, Banja Luka has only three film production companies, while in Sarajevo there are around 20. In the Republika Srpska there is no organization or institution dealing exclusively with film, while in the Federation there is the Foundation for Cinematography, which has operated since 2002.

The Law on Cinematography in the Republika Srpska suggests the establishment of the Centre for Development and Improvement of Cinematography in Banja Luka, but the idea has not been realized.

“The Federation has a built system, they have serious producers and a film festival. They make movies, we do not, and that is the main difference,” Galic says.

Srdjan Vuletic, film director from Sarajevo | Photo by Youtube printscreen

But Srdjan Vuletic says the position of filmmakers is challenging in both in Federation and the Serb entity. The fact that there is a film fund in the Federation is deceptive as it is too small to start serious productions, he says.

Director Mladen Djukic says filmmaking as a result depends mainly on enthusiasm. “Since the film production depends on the economy, and in Bosnia there is virtually no economy, success is having any kind of filming at all,” he says.

“The funds we have don’t compare with the region or Europe. Apart from finance, another problem is lack of connectivity between people involved in film, and the professional qualities of people working in film.”

Zijad Mehic, dean of the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, agrees. “Cooperation and exchanging experience is necessary; we need to establish the same standards and criteria to make filmmakers respected both at home and in co-productions with foreign partners,” he says.

Most filmmakers agreed that it is necessary to raise awareness about the importance of film from the government perspective. Film productions attract investment to the country.

“If we can help the authorities to understand the power of the film, they will respect it more and will learn how to use it economically,” Mladen Djukic said.

This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.

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