Sarajevo becomes biggest regional film market

Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:27pm EDT
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Romanian film director Florin Serban was overwhelmed after showing his debut film this week to 2,000 spectators at the Sarajevo film festival, where he had shopped around his script as an unknown three years before.

"It was a dream to see my movie on this screen," he said.

His film "If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle," a drama about a teenager's desperate bid to escape from prison, won the runner-up Jury Prize and the Alfred Bauer Prize for cinematic innovation at the Berlin film festival earlier this year.

The low-budget film by a first-time director on a gloomy topic with unknown actors struggled for funding until the Sarajevo Cinelink industry market granted seed money to start filming.

Cinelink hands out between 1.5 to 3 million euros ($4 million) a year, which is donated from national film funds from countries such as France, Germany and Bosnia. Festival officials hope to raise the grant money to 10 million euros in the coming years.

"Before shooting we could not find a partner. We returned to Cinelink and found a co-producer," Serban said. "After the shooting, we were left with no money but came back to Cinelink and won a post-production award that pushed us forward."

The Sarajevo festival, launched 16 years ago as an act of defiance at the end of the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serb forces, has become a major showcase for East European films.

It has also turned into the largest marketplace for regional industry insiders, with the Cinelink market a hive of networking and deals for those interested in southeastern Europe.   Continued...