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18 Jan 14

Kustendorf Festival Kicks Off With Archduke's Death

The seventh six-day Kustendorf Film Festival opens on Saturday with a choreographed performance of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek. 

Harriet Salem
BIRN Mokra Gora

More than 200 artists will take part in a re-enactment of the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary - the event that sparked World War I - against a backdrop of fireworks, Johann Strauss’s “Beautiful Blue Danube” and some 1970s disco music.

The festival, as usual, is in Drvengrad, the artificial village built by the event-organiser, Serbian director Emir Kusturica, as a set for his 2004 film Life is a Miracle.

Located in southwest Serbia, near the border with Kusturica’s native Bosnia and Herzegovina, the village is used as a venue for cultural events and seminars and features a golden statue of Johnny Depp who attended the festival in 2010.

This year, high-profile guests at the event include the French actress of Argentinean descent, Berenice Bejo, the Mexican screenwriter and director, Guillermo Arriaga, and the Polish photographer and cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski.

A special emphasis will be given to the work of the multiple-award winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose movie “The Past” will be screened on the opening night.

Farhadi, whose films have featured in the festival several times over the years, is also chairing a master class for event participants.

But, true to its roots, the film festival, which has no commercial sponsors, will continue with its traditional ban on red carpets and Hollywood-esque celebrity glamour, instead concentrating on promoting the work of up-and-coming and amateur cinematographers.

“At a time when the industry is in crisis, this is an opportunity for young directors to meet great directors who have found a way to have voice in their art,” one of the festival’s organisers, Ana Otasevic, told BIRN. “This is about bringing two generations together.”

This year, the young directors competing for the Golden Egg award, for use of original cinematic language, hail from France, Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, the US, China, Iran, and Slovakia.

Throughout the event there will also be a special programme of films from, or inspired by, the 1970s wave of New Hollywood cinematography.  Featured films include: They Shoot Horses Don’t They (1999), Easy Riders Raging Bull (2003), and Cabaret (1972). The subversive genre, which Kusturica sees as the most important and influential in the history American movie making, will also be the focus of a workshop led by Greg de Cuir; an expert in the era.

As well as the daytime programme of movies, festivities will continue into the evenings with performances from musicians including Serbian rock band Riblja Corba, French star Isabelle Geffroy (stage name Zaz), and the director’s own band, Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra.

“This festival puts Serbia on the world map of events and shows that great art can be made without making concessions,” Otasevic told BIRN.

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