SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The Sarajevo Film Festival (SFF), which opens on Friday with debut feature “Snow” by Bosnian director Aida Begic, will for the first time show films produced under its own talent program, fulfilling a dream of its founders.
The festival was started by a small group of enthusiasts as a modest showcase of Western film at the end of the Bosnian 1992-95 war in defiance of Bosnian Serb shelling and the siege of Sarajevo.
Since 1995, it has grown into the biggest festival in the region, spreading from Austria to Turkey, and this year five short films produced as part of the Sarajevo City of Film project will be shown during the nine-day celebration of cinema.
“We see the project as the future of the Sarajevo festival -- to be a platform for discovering and encouraging young film professionals from the whole region and give them a chance to make their first short films,” said SFF director Mirsad Purivatra.
The films are low-budget co-productions made this year in Sarajevo by students from the region who attended the festival’s Talent Campus last year. Each member of a team comes from a different country.
“I think this is the festival’s most significant strategic accomplishment this year - to enter the production process,” Purivatra told Reuters, adding that the SFF planned to support the production of one feature next year, along with short films.
“Snow” is directed by Begic, a young Bosnian Muslim female director, and was awarded the International Critics Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Festival.
The film is about a group of Bosnian Muslim villagers, most of them women, returning to their remote village after war.
The festival is also the biggest regional forum for industry professionals - every year some 400 producers and film-makers take part in the CineLink co-production project that is expected to raise over 1.5 million euros for film productions this year.
The competition program jury will be chaired by Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who won the Best Director Award for “Three Monkeys” at this year’s Cannes film festival.
Ten authors from Austria, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey will compete for the 25,000 euro ($37,270) Heart of Sarajevo award, sponsored by the Council of Europe.
Turkey, whose entry “A Man’s Fear of God” (Takva) by director Ozer Kiziltan won last year’s competition, will again show three films in feature competition.
“The competition will be strong due to booming film production in the region,” Purivatra said.
“We’ve seen the success of Bosnian and Romanian films on the world stage in recent years, and now it’s happening with Turkish cinematography.”
Hollywood stars will be present as well -- two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey will close the festival with “The Usual Suspects,” and script writer Charlie Kaufman will present his debut feature “Synecdoche, New York.”