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news 11 Aug 17

Sarajevo Film Festival Under Way

From wartime screenings while Sarajevo was still under siege in the 90s, the festival now showcases hundreds of local and international films.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
 Photo: Anadolu.

The 23rd edition of the annual Sarajevo Film Festival opens on Friday, August 11, with a screening of Aki Kaurismaki's latest film The Other Side of Hope at the National Theatre and the Raiffeisen Open Air Cinema in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.

This is the second time that a movie by this Finnish filmmaker has opened the festival. His 2011 film Le Havre opened the 17th Sarajevo Film Festival.

The festival’s ‘Susan Sontag’ square has been renovated and will proudly ‘wear’ the red carpet and host other festival activities.

The opening night gala ceremony at the National Theatre will be hosted by Bosnian actress Amila Terzimehic. Famous American director Oliver Stone and legendary British comedian John Cleese will this year receive Honorary Heart of Sarajevo for their remarkable contribution to the art of film.

The award “honours an individual for exceptional contribution to the affirmation and development of film and support in the development of the Sarajevo Film Festival”. Previous award winners include Robert de Niro, Benicio del Toro, Steve Buscemi and Angelina Jolie.

The complete official programme for this year's festival was released at the end of July. With 18 programmes, the festival will screen a total 235 movies including 70 documentaries and 28 animated films, according to the festival press service.

The festival will screen works from 54 countries and boasts 23 international premieres.

Director and founder of the festival, Mirsad Purivatra, described this year’s edition as screening films for “all souls and all generations”.

“We are organising the festival in order for the audience to watch movies, and that is our message. I am especially pleased that we have a strong BH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] programme that gives a special feel to the festival and a complete insight into BH film. I hope that the audience will enjoy the screenings,” Purivatra said at the press conference on July 28.

The event will also host the 15th festival competition programme, which attracts a large number of guests – including directors, screenwriters, producers, actors, actresses and other filmmakers.

Elma Tataragic, the festival's competition programme editor, acknowledged the competition itself is focused on the region but said that now includes 20 countries from Austria to Azerbaijan.

Besides the films within the competition programme, visitors will be able to watch six additional ‘best regional films’ as part of the In Focus programme. Two films from Hungary, as well as films from Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, and Georgia, will be screened.

The first Sarajevo Film Festival was held in the autumn of 1995 when the city was still under siege during the Bosnian war. The aim was to help reconstruct civil society and retain the cosmopolitan spirit of the city.

The festival was set up by people who worked at the Obala Art Centar at the time and ran the first wartime cinema. Two decades later, the Sarajevo Film Festival is the leading film festival in the region, recognised by both film professionals and the wider audience.

The Sarajevo Film Festival will run from August 11 to 18. For more information on ticket pricing and screening times, visit www.sff.ba/en.

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