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With 75 premieres and a combination of commercial and art blockbusters, Serbia’s largest film festival is on track to break its 100,000-tickets record despite the domestic movie industry’s problems.
After more than 40 years, FEST is still by far the largest film festival in the region. But despite the prospect of a good turnout during the nine-day event in Belgrade from February 22 to March 3 it seems to have lost some of its appeal as an event at which global film stars want to be seen.
The loss of the big unified Yugoslav market has moved FEST away from the international spotlight and more towards a domestic Serbian audience.
“Film stars and distributors are interested in big markets. It’s not only that Serbia, with seven million people, is not a big market, but it is a market which has fewer cinemas today than at the end of the Second World War,” said Ivan Karl, the festival’s programme director.
But despite the troubled economy and the poor state of the domestic film market taking some of the international attention away from Serbia’s largest film festival, audiences show no sign of diminishing.
“By combining our motto, which is to show high-quality films to film fans, with Oscar contenders which will premiere at FEST, we are giving our audience the best possible offer and they are responding accordingly,” said Karl.
FEST also serves as a platform for the promotion of Serbian film and there will be four premieres in the section ‘FEST Presents’, including ‘Circles’, directed by Srdan Golubovic, which was well-received by international audiences at festivals including Sundance in the U.S.
This year’s 75 films will be shown in eight categories.
The main programme offers works by directors who come from the world of independent film but have gone on to achieve commercial success. This year’s list includes Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Master’, Gus Van Sant’s ‘Promised Land’, Marco Belochio’s ‘Stolen Beauty’ and a new film by Bernardo Bertolucci, ‘Me and You’.
The Hollywood section will feature some of this year’s Oscar nominees for best actor, including Denzel Washington in ‘Flight’ and Daniel Day Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’.
The competition programme Europe out of Europe will show nine films from Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Israel and Armenia, while the category Europe in Europe will offer films by established European directors like Alex de la Iglesia, Thomas Winterberg and Claude Miller.
There are also programme categories called Selected Documentaries and Focus: South America, as well as the global-outlook category Panorama with films by directors such as Abbas Kiarostami and Takeshi Kitano.
Films will be shown at four venues: Sava Centre, Dom Omladine, Dvorana Kulturnog Centra and Fontana.
Tickets cost between 200 and 350 dinars [€1.7 - €3.1].
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