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28 May 13

Kusturica Controversy Overshadows Festival Opening

Film-maker Emir Kusturica used his opening speech at Serbia's prestigious Sterijino Pozorje theatre festival to hit back at criticism and reflect on tensions in the northern Vojvodina provimce.

Nemanja Cabric
BIRN Belgrade

Kusturica’s comments in his speech at the opening of the annual Sterijino Pozorje festival came after a Bosnian theatre director boycotted the event in protest at the film-maker’s alleged nationalism.

Selma Spahic from Sarajevo withdrew her play 'Grebanje ili: Kako se ubila moja baka' (‘Scratching, or How My Grandmother Killed Herself’) from the festival, saying the event was “accepting nationalistic rhetoric and giving it legitimacy” by booking Kusturica to speak.

Opening the festival, Kusturica indirectly referred to the row, stating that there were attempts to stop him from coming, but that "times have changed since the rule of the central committees".

Competition programme of the 58th Sterijino Pozorje festival:

  1. 'Zona Zamfirova'- Musical based on a play by Stevan Sremac; Composed by Marko Grubic; Written and directed by Kokan Mladenovic; Produced by the Theatre on Terazije, Belgrade
  2. 'Othello' - Written by William Shakespeare; Directed by Milos Lolic; Produced by the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, Belgrade
  3. 'Gospodja Ministarka' ('Minister's Wife') - Written by Branislav Nusic; Directed by Oliver Frljic; Produced by the Satirical Theatre Kerempuh, Zagreb
  4. 'Carobnjak' ('The Magician') - Written by Fedor Sili, Directed by Boris Lijesevic; Produced by the National Theatre in Sombor
  5.  'Virus' - Written by Sinisa Kovacevic; Directed by Hakob Kazancjan; Produced by the Youth Theatre, Yerevan, Armenia
  6.  'Galeb' ('The Seagull') - Written by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov; Directed by Tomi Janezic; Produced by the Serbian National Theatre, Novi Sad
  7.  'Sunce Tudjeg Neba' ('The Sun of Another Sky') - Written by Milovan Mravcevic
    Directed by Aleksandar Lukac; Produced by Puls Theatre, Lazarevac
  8.  'Konstantin' ('Constantine the Great') - Written by Dejan Stoiljkovic; Directed by Jug Radivojevic; Produced by the National Theatre in Belgrade and the National Theatre Nis

The festival, which is taking place in Novi Sad, capital of the Vojvodina province, from May 25 to June 3, includes eight plays produced by theatres across the region chosen by Igor Bojovic, with an accent on works written by domestic authors.

In his speech, Kusturica also referred to a recent political dispute over a declaration on the protection of Vojvodina’s constitutional and legal rights within Serbia which led to protests in the province.

The film-maker mentioned famous figures from Vojvodina's cultural history who are also considered Serbian artists, including writer Milos Crnjanski, poet Djura Jaksic, painter Sava Sumanovic, Serbian playwright, poet and teacher Jovan Sterija Popovic and others.

"I suggest that these famous names become the one and only declaration that cannot be circumvented by any means," Kusturica said, alluding to the declaration that was adopted in the parliament of Vojvodina on May 20.

“If only politicians could understand that they too could become a part of this great list if they would not back away from the principles established by the aforementioned great figures when they created their masterpieces," Kusturica said, drawing applause from the audience.

He said that Sterijino Pozorje was one of few places where “the divine ingredients of which art is made up replace the tabloid elements and petty politics of everyday life”.

However his words were criticised by the youth wing of the Socialist League of Vojvodina, which said that “with his opening speech and his declaration, Kusturica confirmed the opinion” of Bosnian director Spahic who boycotted the event.

It said that Kusturica should open “a film festival in his hometown Sarajevo, instead of opening a theatre one in Novi Sad”.

International selection of this year's edition of the festival will include only two plays – ‘Odysseus’, jointly produced by theatres from Belgrade, Novi Sad, Brioni, Zagreb, Maribor and Skopje, and ‘Unterstadt’ by the Croatian National Theatre from Osijek.


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