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SARAJEVO (Reuters Life!) - The Sarajevo Film Festival opened on Wednesday 15 years after it was launched as an act of defiance at the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian war and the siege of the city, hosting Hollywood stars such as Mickey Rourke.
The film "Tales from the Golden Age" by Cristian Mungiu, the first Romanian film director to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes, will open a festival that has become the largest such event in the Balkans and unique for promoting East European film.
Ten films from the region spreading from Austria in the West to Turkey in the East will compete this year for the 25,000 euro ($35,370) Heart of Sarajevo award, some to be shown for the first time outside their countries.
"Despite recession, we expect to have an even larger and better festival than the last year," said festival director Mirsad Purivatra.
"Our Red Carpet guests are not coming here because of money but because of our reputation and recommendations."
Last year, the festival played host to about 100,000 film fans, many of whom came from neighboring countries. Hoteliers and tourism officials say that nearly all accommodation has been booked up.
The Bosnian capital, nestled among the hills and known for its architectural mixture of multi-religious temples and the hospitality of its people, turns into a large party during festival days every year.
The most famous visitor will be Rourke, who will along with film director Darren Aronofsky and producer Scott Franklin present "The Wrestler," the film that brought him back on the world stage after long isolation.
"The Wrestler," which has earned many international awards and brought Rourke an Oscar nomination, will close the nine-day festival on August 20 at the 3,000-seat opened air cinema. The same crew will present the film in the Adriatic town of Dubrovnik a day later.
Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Paul Casciato