The 16th Sarajevo Film Festival wrapped up on Saturday, July 31st with a screening of Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus” with actor Morgan Freeman in attendance. Having Freeman in Bosnia was a highlight for the festival where not only did he represent the film, but took part in the Sarajevo Talent Campus and participated in a “Coffee With” interview where he noted that “Sarajevo is a town of charming people.”
After a decade and a half since the siege on Sarajevo, ethnic tensions seems to have all but disappeared in this city. Though there are still some visible reminders of the war on buildings and sidewalks, the city comes together to celebrate their love of film; the easing of the tensions can be seen in the list of award winners from the festival. For the second year in a row, The Heart of Sarajevo Award, the festival’s top prize, went to a film from Serbia. Taking the prize this year was “Tilva Rosh,” directed by Nikola Lezaic. The story of a group of teenagers who waste their summer days away by performing “Jackass”-like stunts on and off their skateboards in Bor, a small town in Serbia, that is undergoing a major capitalist change after the privatization of what was once the largest copper mine in Europe. Lead actor Marko Todorovic also walked away with the Heart of Sarajevo Award for Best Actor.
A Special Jury Award was presented to Cannes Competition title, “Tender Son – A Frankenstein Project,” Kornel Mundruczo’s take on Mary Shelly’s novel. Mirela Oprisor was awarded The Best Actress prize for her role in “Tuesday After Christmas,” Radu Muntean’s film about a cheating husband who makes the decision to come clean to his wife right before Christmas.
It is no surprise that Danis Tanovic’s “Cirkus Columbia” (which I wrote about in my first report) received the highest score in audience voting for Narrative Film while Robert Hernández and Geoffrey Smith’s amazing view on the Mexican penal system in “Presumed Guilty” garnered the Best Documentary Audience Award.
Rounding out the festivals other major awards, Biljana Garvanlieva’s aptly titled “The Seamstresses” was awarded Best Documentary with Robert Tomić Zuber’s “Mila Seeking Senida,” the story of a 9-month-old girl who went missing in 1992 after Serb forces invaded her village and was believed to be dead but was placed with a Serb family, winning the Human Rights Award.
In a highly emotional presentation on Monday, July 26th, The Katrin Cartlidge Foundation selected the Cine Institute of Haiti to receive its award this year, this marks the first time in the foundations 7-year history to present the award to an institution instead of an individual. Cine Institute’s mission is to educate and empower Haitian youth in order to grow local media industries. Immediately following the presentation, the festival premiered last year’s recipient Juanita Wilson’s film, “As If Not There”. The film tells the story of Samira, a young teacher, who travels to a small Bosnian village right before it is commandeered by enemy forces. It is a harrowing story of the impact of war on innocence.
As mentioned in my previous report, the Sarajevo Film Festival’s program was a mix of previously premiered films, heavy on work that unspooled first in Berlin and Cannes, while the majority of world and international premieres were featured in the Narrative and Documentary Competitions. Outside of the competitions, screenings ran the entire gamut of films that have been garnering success on this past year’s festival circuit, including screenings of Xavier Dolan’s “Heartbeats,” Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void,” David Robert Mitchell’s “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” Xiaolu Guo’s “Once Upon a Time Proletarian,” Mike Leigh’s “Another Year,” Semih Kaplanoglu’s Golden Bear-winning “Honey,” Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer,” and Juan Jose Campanella’s Oscar-winning “The Secret In Their Eyes.”
After viewing over twenty films at the festival (and also having seen some of the films at previous festivals), there are five films that deserve special mention. They are:
“Bibliotheque Pascal” (Hungary) – After winning the top prize at this year’s Hungarian Film Week and screening in Berlin, this dreamlike film is slowly making its festival rounds. A Hungarian/Romanian woman decides to accompany her father (who has just reappeared in her life after years of being absent) on a trip to Germany, leaving her small child in the care of her aunt. She is then sold into the UK sex trade and finds herself in a bizarre brothel where the prostitutes are forced to act out scenes from some of the greatest literary works.
“It’s Your Fault” (Argentina) – When a mother needs to take one of her sons to the emergency room after rough housing a little too much with his brother, she finds herself being accused of child abuse. Since Anahi Bernari succeeds in creating an amazing amount of tension in what seems to be real time, you end up finding yourself still surprised at every revelation.
“On the Path” (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – Yet another film that screened in Berlin, Jasmila Zbanic’s follow up to the award winning “Grabavica” displays the collapse of what seems to be a loving relationship after a brush with fundamentalist Islam. Luna and Amar seem to be doing well until Amar is fired for drinking on the job. After a chance run in with an old army buddy, he is invited into a secluded community of extremists and tries to lure Luna in. The story is a tale of contemporary Bosnia where cultures continue to clash.
“Paradise Hotel” (Bulgaria) – Documentary about a grand communist social experiment, where a mix of Roma and non-Roma families were moved into a large tower block in order to “be socialized.” It didn’t take long for the non-Romas to move out and more Roma to move in. Soon there were no windows, doors, electricity or gas. Over 1500 people still live in the Paradise Hotel, and they all have dreams to bring it back to its previous glory, or at least bring back running water.
“Tilva Rosh” (Serbia) – What might be the most refreshing thing about this film is the fact that it’s a Balkan film with no mention of the war, but instead shows what life is like in modern-day Serbia. Almost imitating many American “disaffected youth” films, “Tilva Rosh” focuses on two teenagers, Toda and Stefan, as they waste away the summer after completing high school. They live in Bor, which is the site of what used to be the largest copper mine in Europe, but due to privatization, it is now just a giant hole in the Earth, which leads to growing protests against the corporation. After Toda gets hurt in a fight, he finds out that since he is no longer a student, he must apply for insurance leaving him in a vicious circle of bureaucracy.
Full List of Award Winners at the 16th Sarajevo Film Festival:
The Heart of Sarajevo Award for Best Film: “Tilva Rosh“
Director Nikola Lezaic – Serbia
Special Jury Award: “Tender Son – The Frankenstein Project“
Director Kornel Mundruczo – The Netherlands, Germany, Austria
The Heart of Sarajevo Award for Best Actress: “Mirela Oprisor“
Tuesday, After Christmas (Romania)
The Heart of Sarajevo Award for Best Actor: Marko Todorović
“Tilva Rosh” (Serbia)
The Heart of Sarajevo Award for Best Short Film: “Yellow Moon“
Director: Zvonimir Jurić – Croatia
Special Jury Mentions for Short Films: “No Sleep Won’t Kill You“
Director: Marko Meštrović – Croatia
“Stanka Goes Home“
Director: Maya Vitkova – Bulgaria
The Heart of Sarajevo Award for Best Documentary Film: “The Seamstresses“
Director: Biljana Garvanlieva – Macedonia, Germany
Human Rights Award: “Mila Seeking Senida“
Director: Robert Tomić Zuber – Croatia
Heart of Sarajevo Honorary Award: Dieter Kosslick
Director of the Berlin International Film Festival
CICAE Award: “Bibliotheque Pascal“
Director: Szabolcs Hajdu – Hungary, Germany, Romania, Great Britain
Cineuropa Award: “Bibliotheque Pascal“
Director: Szabolcs Hajdu – Hungary, Germany, Romania, Great Britain