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27 Jul 10

SFF 2010 Opening Night

Rob Miller

When I arrived in the Trg Susan Sontag, the square in which the theatre sits, I was almost the only person there. In front of the theatre, some technicians were setting up hot-lights and camera equipment, while a handful of curious office workers, presumably journeying home, were milling curiously about; otherwise, though, the place was deserted.

And so I waited, and watched as the square slowly filled; a trickle at first, and then a flood, all under the watchful gaze of the theatre itself.

It was an imposing structure, two-storied and white-painted, awash with columns and balustrades; a balcony jutted out from the central frontispiece, from which further columns reached up towards a many-corbeled cornice that spread around the perimeter of the whole building. The whole structure dominated the otherwise empty square, casting a shadow that gradually enveloped the whole space.

That day, though, the façade was augmented by the trappings of live TV broadcasts, of pomp and of ceremony. Rolled out from the steps that led up to the main entrance was a large red carpet, flanked by metal barriers and manned by a couple of bored-looking security guards, their cheap suits shiny in the low sunlight.

Above, a gazebo ran the length of the carpet; not even rain, it seemed, would ruin the hairdos of the dignitaries due to arrive—though the crowd would not be so lucky. Dangling from the uppermost point on the centre of the façade was a row of shimmering fairy lights, barely visible at first but glowing ever more orange as the sun dipped below the buildings.

On the east side of the square was the VIP section, a cluster of tents ringed by a fence and guarded intently by security guards. Its red-badged guests came and went with an air of effortless superiority, to the palpable envy of the unbadged proles—myself included—that ringed the area, jostling and craning our necks to catch a glimpse of whatever VIPs might deign to grace us with their visibility.

After straining for a few minutes, I suddenly realised that, for all I knew, I could have been surrounded by celebrities that I wouldn't have recognised; the festival is visited by global celebrities, of course, but so many are either local or film insiders that I wouldn't recognise them if they came up and bought me a drink. And so, dejected and still badgeless, I returned to the red carpet.

Suddenly, there was a commotion. The security guards had opened the gates at the entrance to the theatre: the guests were arriving!

Forgetting my previous conclusion about my pathological inability to recognise celebrities, I hustled for a spot right near the entrance, and watched as a torrent of unrecognisables filtered past from their limousines to the red carpet, to the polite applause of the assembled multitudes.

Like a herd of sheep crossing a road, they eventually passed and the gates were closed once more. A palpable sense of disappointment went up among the crowd when they realised that there would be no more well-frocked A-listers passing them by; they began slowly to disperse, spreading out from the square to Sarajevo's bars and cafés. The festival, though, was opened: bring on the next week!

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