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When Celebrity Overwhelms Auteurs: Howard Feinstein on Resigning From the Sarajevo Film Festival

When Celebrity Overwhelms Auteurs: Howard Feinstein on Resigning From the Sarajevo Film Festival

We’re publishing Howard Feinstein’s first-person piece on his reasons for resigning from the Sarajevo Film Festival with the caveat that we’re not taking sides; there’s two for every story and here only Howard has the floor. (We’ve extended an invitation to the Sarajevo Film Festival for their take on events.) However, the issue of celebrities impacts every film festival.

— The Editors

Why I Left my Heart in Sarajevo: The Schizophrenia of Film Festivals

Daddy always said I was a quitter. He was uneducated, a champion Golden Gloves boxer and proud salvageman in Texas who lunged for his goals without detours. On account of his hard work, I had more choices at my disposal and prematurely abandoned Boy Scouts, United Synagogue Youth, B’nai B’rith Youth, Pi Lambda Phi, pre-med, and architecture, ending up first a film academic, then a critic. But I believe that he would not have condemned me for resigning as an international programmer three weeks ago after 13 years at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Management’s unrelenting quest for celebrity actors – and I know that their appearance is a reality of the festival world and the sponsors and media who support it – began to spin out of control, so much so that it infringed on my principle goal: to present the best and/or most original films revealing a singular vision from around the globe that had had their premieres over the previous year. As much as I respect what thespians do, my heart belongs to directors. A dream job became a nightmare.

Why am I writing about what could be construed as an internal problem? Because it is not: The issues that led me to resign are endemic to festivals worldwide. Two tasks of film festivals that render them rather schizoid – wrangling stars and providing high-quality cinema – is something that needs to be balanced, or they run the risk of crassly catering to the rich and famous while showing merely mediocre films; or of having a roster with galas for mediocre movies with B- and C-list stars to satisfy journalists and staring locals. (Eric Kohn’s recent indieWIRE interview with Locarno director Olivier Pere suggests that that festival has become more balanced by adding some big stars to supplement its fairly esoteric fare.)

It doesn’t need to be like this: No matter which celebrities appear, the New York Film Festival is always first and foremost about the films themselves, as is Torino. Cannes and Venice get name performers but, Janus-faced, are able to remain showcases for esoteric fare. Deauville, on the other hand, unapologetically emphasizes American stars. Most festivals occupy, uncomfortably, the gray zone in between.

I curated two strands at Sarajevo: Tribute to…, a retrospective of a contemporary filmmaker, who presented one or two of his or her works daily, ending with a public career interview I conducted; and Panorama, a selection of about 25 fiction features and docs for which the filmmakers frequently came and interacted with the viewers. Both programs attracted a large, loyal following. I honestly think that their popularity stems from my having selected alone, without a committee or restrictions.

This year, however, the heads of the festival, Miro Purivatra, the director, and his wife, Izeta Gradevic, the creative director, suddenly began to restrict my choices. Interference is anathema to a programmer. The following examples might help explain.

Tribute To…

I invited the great Serbian director Oleg Novkovic to be the subject of a second tribute (after Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, the main honoree). I had done this combination of an international director (Abel Ferrara) with a regional one (Bela Tarr) before, at Purivatra’s request. But they nixed Novkovic. They kept changing the reasons, but it was clearly payback because he had pulled his most recent film, White White World, from last year’s regional competition in favor of Locarno. At the suggestion of the festival’s programming coordinator, I added White White World to Panorama. The management, who brought my guests this year alone from countries like Uruguay and Mexico, refused to pay his air fare—from nearby Belgrade.


At 12 noon and 6 pm daily, I showed films from Panorama in the state-of-the-art Meeting Point cinema. (The 3 pm slot was reserved for the Tribute.) The 9 pm screening time was the most desirable. The film was projected outdoors, in the large atrium of a functioning fire station called Vatrogasac, with old stucco walls heightening the soundtrack. I selected the films based not only on their aesthetic merit, but on their ability to push spectators to stretch their minds and senses.

The festival directors have always chosen more accessible films based on the availability of “talent” to wave at the crowd for their much program, called “Open Air,” which takes place in a much larger outdoor space. We never before competed; in fact, we occasionally showed some of the same titles. This year deemed certain titles from Berlin and Cannes unavailable for my Panorama, the kind of films that would have always been possibilities in the past—just in case someone might end up available to stand before the throngs and smile.

Someone was going to come from the Dardenne brothers’ “Kid With a Bike”? Of course not. I had to salvage it from the scrap bin. I had to fight to include in Panorama “The Guard,” which had been earmarked as the closing night selection for Open Air should Brendan Gleeson or Don Cheadle become available. Through the Irish producer, an old friend, I invited them and the director, John Michael McDonagh, the only one I cared about. Purivatra, who was only interested in the performers, gave his blessing. Only McDonagh came and, unbelievably, management wanted to keep him only for the Open Air screening, so he could blow kisses. I had to fight to have him do a Q & A with the Panorama audience. This is that murky area in which cult of (perceived) celebrity and the qualitative characteristics of selections overlapped in a negative way.

The celebrity craze reached its climax, though, just before the Open Air screening of The Guard. At the closing ceremony inside the National Theater, Purivatra presented a last-minute honorary Heart of Sarajevo award to Angelina Jolie, in town to direct her very first (as yet unfinished) feature, based on the rape camps run by the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 genocide.

Simultaneously, for Panorama’s closing night presentation in the packed Vatrogasac, less than 10 minutes’ walk away, I was doing an onstage Q & A with veteran Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, a proven director and humanitarian who had been honored with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar earlier this year, about In a Better World (a Bosnian premiere). It had taken me four years of effort and interviews to get Bier to come. Jolie was, of course, mobbed by cameras. For Bier, there was not a photographer in sight. In the past, there had always been photographers sent to that event, alerted by the festival’s press office.

A fate similar to Bier’s befell Martel, even though the cinema was completely full for all of her screenings (three features and two shorts), with people sitting on the steps and floor. Virtually no photographers, not even for the annual career interview, which had always been filmed and its honoree photographed. No matter that her presence for the Tribute was a real coup for the festival. I find it symptomatic that their neglect followed the receipt of my letter of resignation three days into the festival. But also, taking into account the festival’s initial unwillingness to invite McDonagh, I, sometimes incredibly naïve, knew that directorial talent would increasingly take second billing to star wattage.

Before the war, Sarajevo was famed for its multicultural lifestyle and sophisticated arts scene. One Bosnian, a longtime Panorama attendee, commented on the downward spiral. “The Sarajevo Film Festival’s red carpet placed in front of the National Theater runs through Susan Sontag Square. (Sontag had frequented Sarajevo during the war, where she mounted productions.) The irony of Angelina’s triumph at Sontag Square illustrates the shift in Sarajevo’s cultural life toward celebrity culture and spectacle.” He paused, then added, as if having a sudden revelation, “It just may be symptomatic that the opening of Sarajevo’s first McDonald’s coincided with the opening of the festival.”

Jolie is well represented on the festival’s website, but there is little evidence of anything from the Tribute or Panorama. According to a well-known Sarajevan pundit, “The eradication of fact is an example of strategies from the autocratic system of the Communist past that have not only survived but been redeveloped in post-socialist Bosnia.” It’s as if Panorama, Tribute to, and Howard Feinstein had never existed.

My guess is that this is atypical of film festivals in general, though each has its own demons. Most are built on a corporate or nonprofit-arts model, which allows room for disagreement, or at least debate. In the case of the Sarajevo Film Festival, which is owned privately by Purivatra, a rigid organizational template prohibits constructive transformation. As in the time of the Communist dictator Marshall Tito, an inflexible top-down hierarchy is the norm. No one makes waves. Well, no Bosnian makes waves.

I had considered leaving several times over the years, but always thought of the audience and changed my mind. They were passionate about the tributes, many of them first-ever complete ones, to such great directors as Mike Leigh, Alexander Payne, Tarr, Todd Haynes, Jia Zhang-ke, Ulrich Seidl, Bruno Dumont, Tsai Ming-liang, Peter Mullan, Ferrara, and of course Martel. The spectators strongly supported the intentionally unpredictable Panorama, for which I brought such filmmakers as Darren Aronofsky, Michael Winterbottom, James Marsh, Lisandro Alonso, Carlos Reygadas, and Jafar Panahi. But this go-round, I decided to think first of myself: Why do this once the joy had begun to dissipate from the extensive labor of programming?

The focus on regional films at the Sarajevo Film Festival is, and should remain, first and foremost. My hope is that bringing Sarajevo’s problems with films from outside its orbit out into the open might help nudge priorities in a direction that would serve it and its culture-hungry spectators well—and, to be frank, aid in maintaining a legacy I can be proud of.

So, what do you think? We want to know your take on the role of celebrities at film festivals; tell us in the comments.

[Check out iW’s coverage of the event this year: 5 Must See Films from the Sarajevo Film Festival

Argentine Filmmaker Lucrecia Martel in Sarajevo: “Avoiding obviousness I discover other things”]

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Celebrity Media Appearances sydney

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Dana Harris

Indiewire received this from the producers of White White World:

As our movie White White World as well as it’s director Oleg Novkovic have been mentioned several times as one of the reasons for Howard Feinstein’s departure from SFF, we feel obliged to express our own opinion as producers of the film White White World.

First of all, we are very saddened by the whole episode. We are very grateful to Mr. Feinstein for including us in his highly respected Panorama program, together with many distinguished authors he chose to present over the years. We are encouraged and flattered by his admiration both for our movie White White World and for our director Oleg Novkovic.

However as far as SFF is concerned, we must point out that White White World would never have been produced without the support of this festival and its whole team. We treasure our relationship with Sarajevo.

SFF has been and is still the most important Meeting Point for the regional film makers. Miro Purivatra and his team have been crucial for opening and nourishing the cooperation among filmmakers and film funds throughout the region, and the whole world. As for us, not only did Sarajevo FF was the first to recognize the potential of White White World, its CineLink program gave us the crucial push to lift it from the ground, and then further onto the festival circuit.

We only hope that SFF will continue to grow, developing even more programs for educating young talents, hosting distinguished lecturers and panelists, and attracting more and more celebrities onto its red carpet — focusing still more attention to the festival and the cinema it so tirelessly cultivates.

Milena Trobozic Garfield
Uliks Fehmiu
West End productions

Howard Feinstein

I understand this mad drive to find out as much as you can about such a complicated situation. The more I read, the less I comprehend. I do try to review the ex-Yugoslavian films at the large competitive film festivals, because I feel I have at least some background knowledge to bring to the table, and that will continue.

As I noted, I saw Danis’s short, Baggage, and it is very very good. He knows just when to move a camera and start the musical score. The subject is sad– the young Bosnian returning from Sweden to collect his parents’ bones–but its relatively simple plot line is elevated by Danis’s formal choices.

You have a lot of information! And the background too. I am sure Danis’s film would have been shown with or without Jolie’s blessing: He is their big directorial star. I would be a bit careful about reporting that the Directorate of the festival was the source of an article printed in the tabloid Dnevni Avaz, a rag that the festival pushes to report what it wants. I know this for a fact. In fact, i refused to do an interview with Lucrecia Martel in advance of the festival for that poor excuse for a newspaper. Among other things, they came down hard on homosexuals at the time of the first Q Fest, and several people were badly injured. (The festival maintained complete silence.) As a journalist, I particularly despise organizations telling papers what to write.

I’m sure Jolie wanted to meet Bosnian filmmakers. That is normal. I had Jasmila and Aida and Danis at a dinner for Lucrecia Martel. That’s how that world works, and I always considered it my job to facilitate that. The good directors have their own way of relating. and it’s wonderful to observe.

Well, we have to wait to see the film. I know it is not at Venice or Toronto festivals, so my guess is that it is just going to open in December. Let’s see: I don’t deny it could turn out very good.

I wonder if Pjer Zalica and Srdjan Vuletic were invited to meet Jolie. They, like Tanovic alone of the three you mentioned, were making films DURING the war, and very good ones. Why does no one honor Michael Winterbottom, who shot Welcome to Sarajevo at the end of the war, under impossible conditions? But that is another story.

I must tell you, Sunny, it is such a pleasure and a relief to get intelligent, well-informed comments from someone like you. We disagree on some things, agree on others, but the main thing is we can debate. Too many others just don’t seem to understand my main point–that a festival has to strike a balance between delebrities and good films, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to glean that from my piece–but so many wasted our time grabbing on to this thing as if it were all about Angelina,when it wasn’t. It was more about Angelina at the expense of Bier. The festival does have a responsibililty to take care of both. No one bothered with Bier at all; i was completely embarrassed for them. They felt they had someone bigger, and they did, so they blew Bier off, shamelessly. Just two weeks before the festival, Purivatra, afraid he didn’t have anyone from The Guard to be onstage in his Open Air, asked if he could have Bier as his closing night film. When that proved unfeasible, she became garbage, not even worth a call or a note or a visit. I find that humilating at the programmer and the person who extended the invitation. There is room for everybody–but not when you’re shameless opporunists. Angelina and Brad are available? Well, screw Bier.

It seems that eveyone has weighed in on some aspect of these issues, with Purivatra’s wife writing the response piece and claiming they did not reappoint me. Whatever. But we have not heard a word from Purivatra. His press agent disguised as “Mirna,” yes. The guy should have the spine to speak up for himself. That’s the problem: Nothing is done out in the open. Miro, what do you have to say about all this?

That's Incredible!

Thank you, sunny, thank you very much!…Your last comment was perfect!…As a fan of Angelina, I also knew about Tanovic, his wonderful words about Angelina during the not so easy filming of her movie and, of course, Angelina’s special requirement about him at SFF…unfortunately, I can’t speak English very well, not at all as you do, so my comments were short and maybe a little too hard, for which I could apologize with Mr. Feinstein (as hard are expressions like “creepiest”, “turns my stomach”, which I’ve learnt here and here I’ve used for the first time…Right, Mr. Feinstein? Eh, eh…)….At the link below, a pic of Angelina and Tanovic together, for you, dear sunny (but I’m sure you’ve already seen this picture) and for Mr. Feinstein:


Dear Howard Feinstein
Yes, I saw Jasmila Zbanic’s Grbavica and Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land. They were good. I’m Angelina Jolie fan and she made me interested in the Bosnia War-related films. And that’s what she has in her mind. Drawing attention to these unsolved problems is needed when the world has almost forgotten them. I had not any knowledge about the Bosnia War before but now I’m watching several films and reading several books and have been writing my thought on that war.

Tanovic’s film was a story about a refugee boy from Bosnia War and the refugee issue is what Jolie has been working for 10 years. And that’s why Tanovic’s short film was shown at the ceremony. This is a translation of the local report.
– Angelina Jolie didn’t have any special requirements. Only one thing she insisted during her stay is to meet with Bosnian filmmakers. A month before arrival she received the movies from Bosnian authors and we are particularly happy that upon arrival in Sarajevo she met Jasmila Zbanic, Danis Tanovic and Aida Begic – the Directorate of SFF told us.

She wanted to see Tanovic`s new movie

After the closing ceremony at the National Theater Festival, Angelina wanted to see the movie from the director Danis Tanovic and it was the only change of the protocol during their stay in our country, which actually took place at her insistence.

Original link:…aniran-sest-mjeseci.html
Jolie casted only local actors and several actors were from Grbavica , No Man’s Land and Aida Begic’s Snow etc. Those actors flew to LA in this May and saw the film (not completed at that time, though) at a private screening. They may wispered something to their directors. Now Zbanic is in talk of distributing the film( their native language version) through her distribution company. Tanovic also praised Jolie when he was promoting Circus Columbia last year. He said,
“Angelina Jolie is not just a star, she really understands the world”
His quote echos the quotes from the actors from Serbia ,Bosnia and Croatia.

Her film may be not great as Susanne Bier and not awardworthy but the award was meant for her humanitarian work there (one of examples of her contribution was- next month 17 refugee families will move out from the refugee camp to their newly-built houses thanks to Jolie’s strong appeal to US government and BiH’s presidency members) and her intention of drawing attention to post-Bosnia War by making a Bosnia War film. The Balkans’s film industry is small and people know each other and they may had a lot of talk about Jolie and her film and what was like being on the set. They are thanking and praising her for giving them opportunity of expressing themselves. You wrote,

I am just a bit miffed at the way Bosnians bowed so overwhelmingly to Jolie once she addresses this subject 16 years after the Dayton Accords ended.

But 16 years later the refugees are still live in refugee camps and landmines are left in their land. Politicians don’t agree with opponents and they don’t do anything to support poor people. The world had almost forgotten that war but it ‘s still hot topic there and they are still arguing. If you read various reports from Foreign Affairs ( she is a member of the Counsil of Foreign Relations ) or UNHCR or other resources, you will find Datyton Agreement had brought another problem,

And the rape in the concentration camp is in her film. Since the false story (the rumor was : her film was the story of raped woman fell in love with her rapist. This false story was created by Serbia’s Pink Media’s owner. It was his revenge of failing in getting the production into his studios in Serbia.) had spread worldwide, It’s ridiculous rumor but some peole believed it. She had to cancel some scenes in Sarajevo in BiH after BiH’s Cutural Minister withdrew his approval because of the rumor.

The screening of this film has happened a few weeks ago but the viewers are keeping mum.
They only say “it’s very good”. If the production followed their first plan there are 4 versions of the film. English/non-English and colour/ black and white. I’m looking forward to see what Mr.
Feinstein will say because I believe Mr. Feinstein is knowledgeble about the area more than other critics.

Thanks for reading my bad writing of English.

That's Incredible!

“From what I have found, she does not use the word “rape” in talking about the film, which has everything to do with horrid rape camps.”

So, you don’t have seen the film, you even thought the film was yet to be done, but you know exactly what is the plot of the movie? That’s incredible!

Goodbye, Mr. Feinstein, I don’t like to speak with people like you…It turns my stomach…

That's Incredible!

“I know who is sending these under “That’s incredible!,” and it’s another loser I fired as an assistant for incompetence, manipulation, and pathological lying. Ciphers are piggybackers. Write your own article. As I told Elvis, another “commenter” bearing a personal grudge, get a life.”

I’m from Italy, I’ve never been in Sarajevo, never…before this article, I never heard of you, I don’t know who you are and, at this point, I don’t know what to think about you…I’m almost sorry for you…

Howard Feinstein

This is clearly very personal, not at all about the issues. Yet another coward who is aiming at me personally, like “Mirna” and “Lena.”. Very very sad. Unfortunately, this reflects the reality of the environment around the Sarajevo Film Festival. I know who is sending these under “That’s incredible!,” and it’s another loser I fired as an assistant for incompetence, manipulation, and pathological lying. Ciphers are piggybackers. Write your own article. As I told Elvis, another “commenter” bearing a personal grudge, get a life.

The following is part of a comment above (#25) by someone who worked with me positively in Sarajeo, and I think it applies to you perfectly:

“Real names were written by those who have character, personalty and BALLS, in their comments.Hiding behind false names is virtue of miserable people, and so they do not deserve place on professional web page, like this….

Before your next comment , it is desirable to reed title and article, and realize what is a topic. It would be much better to comment about topic, not others opinions or comments.To be honest, nobody gives a shit about you opinion of their comments. Your English is good enough to understand topic of this article.

My name is Emir Turbo, Howards assistant-driver for last 8 years.”

Howard Feinstein

I stand corrected, if, technically, it’s finished. But it has not opened, I am sure it has not had its “test screenings,” and it has not been reviewed (Sneider is a reporter, not a critic, and I haven’t read his piece, but what you quote is Oscar speculation). Now, who but Angelina Jolie, with a–let’s say completely finished–unreleased film, that has had no feedback from the Balkans or from critics anywhere, could be compared, as a filmmaker, to Susanne Bier?

I’m not trashing Jolie (okay, I do think she has the big movie star’s penchant for reinvention; do you remember the vial of then-husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood she wore around her neck?). But dumping on her was not my point: It is commendable that she has used her stardom to aid in the recognition of some awful human conditions in places like Afghanistan and Africa.

Rather, my point was the LACK of attention–ANY attention–given to veteran Bier, whose last few films have dealt in large part with the ramifications of war both in those same areas AND back home in smug Denmark, as well as amidst the poverty of India (the original Brothers, brilliant and daring, was her film before it was remade in a diluted form in Hollywood). Jolie was a better option for the press and the public. My own problem really was that a film festival should be honoring in some way quality films and proven masters of the filmmaking art. I mean, not ONE photographer at her screening?

I just watched Bosnian director Danis Tanovic’s short film, Baggage, which had been screened after the awards ceremony. It is superbly directed (remember No Man’s Land, for which he also won an Oscar?). Its subject: a young Bosnia (Bosnian Muslim) returns to what is now the Bosnian Serb Republic to find the bones of his parents, murdered in the genocide. Jolie and Pitt were there, and several friends told me that the huge audience stood when the entered, and little attention was given to homegrown Tanovic. Now, not many people know this, but he was the “official” cinematographer for the military during the siege of Sarajevo. His shorts from that period, documentary and fiction, are superb. (I showed them in the U.S. in Conflict & Resolution exhibitions.) He even moved back to Bosnia to found a Human Rights party after finding success as a director in France. It’s not Jolie and Pitt’s fault, but they stole his thunder. In Sarajevo. At the Sarajevo Film Festival. At his film about something he knows very well. Unlike Jolie, he does not claim that it is “universal,” that creepiest of all let’s-get-them-to-the-movie marketing ploys. (From what I have found, she does not use the word “rape” in talking about the film, which has everything to do with horrid rape camps.) What is wrong with this picture?

Trust me, the Sarajevo Film Festival ignored Bier, save for a handful of photographers at the airport when she arrived. Not even one of the festival photographers passed by her outdoor screening. Only my two assistants and I spent any time at all with her, from the moment of her arrival at the airport until her departure two days later. By chance, she and her partner’s room was right next to mine in a small hotel, and during what would have been “free” time, my driver/assistant drove them to see places significant during the war. A trooper, she asked for, and expected, nothing. As the person who invited her, I expected SOMETHING.

Ever heard of the film Grbavica? I tend to doubt it. It won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Its subject: a woman in Sarajevo who had survived the rape camps and tried to hide it from her daughter, who was the product of rape. Director: Sarajevan Jasmila Zbanic. Zbanic knows the subject. I don’t think she ever called it universal.

I’m sorry to go on and on about this, but, having done a story back in 1997 after I interviewed a victim of the infamous camp at Omarska in what became the Bosnian Serb Republic and retraced this brave, unglamorous former judge’s journey from her ethnically-cleansed home town of Prijedor to Omarska, and being an outsider and non-witness myself, I am just a bit miffed at the way Bosnians bowed so overwhelmingly to Jolie once she addresses this subject 16 years after the Dayton Accords ended the fighting, the snipers, and the rapes, but divided the country into two political entities. And, I hasten to add, and this is a guess, but I’m sure that her appearance was in part a PR move, for her project and, without any shame, for the festival.


Dear Howard Feinstein
I’m very looking forward to see Susanne Bier’s In a Better World soon. It was just released in Japan and people are praising it. Bier is an established director and I understand your frustration at Sarajevo FF. I feel sorry for you and Bier.
I hope you will see Jolie’s first film (as a director and a writer),too. I’m from Japan (sorry for my poor English) that locates far from the Balkans but Bosnia War was well covered by our media because then UNHCR High Commissioner was a Japanese lady and she was struggling with UN bureaucracy and Sarajevo’s selfish government to relieve people left in Sarajevo. I admire her and read her momoirs on Bosnia War and there were also Japanese witness’s continuous letters from Yugoslabia at that time and I had learned the war was not all evil and victim thing as Western media had labelled. Jolie is bald enough to take those sensitive issues as her debut film but she will stand criticism from both Serbians and Boanian Muslims. A person who saw her film (it’s not Jeff Sneider)says he was very much impressed by her gut and also by her work.
The award was given to her because of her humanitalian work for refugees from Bosnia War
and her contribution to the Balkan film industry. Her film is a collabolation effort of those actors from the once (and still ongoing) antagonized groups.

That's Incredible!

“If you had read my article carefully, I wrote that “Purivatra presented a…Heart of Sarajevo award to Angelina Jolie, in town to direct her very first (as yet unfinished) feature…”

You are wrong, Mr. Feinstein, sorry, but you are wrong! The movie IS FINISHED and some of your “colleagues” saw it in pre-screening!

This is a comment about the film from VARIETY’s Film Reporter Jeff Sneider:

“Great job w/ the dark horses but I think the biggest one is Jolie’s IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY. Total BP Oscar wild card…”

And If you want to know what a real humanitarian does, check the link below…I really hope you’ll change your mind about Angelina…

Howard Feinstein

To “That’s Incredible:”
I read your comment in Italian (#5), which indicates you are as much of a starf—– as Purivatra. Of course I expect there to be lots and lots of coverage for Jolie; that was not my point. Often I wish that we could go back to the early 19-teens, when no star system was in place until an actress named Florence Lawrence insisted that her name be on screen about the film’s title.

However, it is a fact of cultural life. But your knowledge, and logic, is way off when you compare Jolie as a director with Bier. If you had read my article carefully, I wrote that “Purivatra presented a…Heart of Sarajevo award to Angelina Jolie, in town to direct her very first (as yet unfinished) feature….Simultaneously, I was doing an onstage Q & A with veteran Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, a proven director and humanitarian…

Hello! UNFINISHED vs. PROVEN. Jolie has no resume as a director; we don’t know how her film will turn out. Bier has a long and distinguished one, which is why I invited her to present In a Better World as Panorama’s closing night film. She is one of the best anywhere, as an Oscar for directing In a Better World indicates. She addresses global issues–war, torture, First World neglect of the Third World, among others–without making it about herself as well. She is more a creative artisan, not a celebrity who performs well, made it as a star, and married Brad Pitt.

It’s not just Sarajevo, it’s the state of the world, and as I point out, film festivals, which are, in theory, meant to be about cinema as an artful form of expression. More and more they are about the Jolies etc. I tried to make the point that what we need is a balance. About the Vanity Fair picture: frankly, tossing some excellent regional actors in a movie about rape camps directed by an A-list Hollywood star into an LA photo shoot turns my stomach.

4x See You next year ?

Lena, what is good for me ?
Even more, humanity, philantropics, educational … contribution of Mr Howard Feinstein to SFF as part of Sarajevo, we all have and we all will ( imperativ ! ) to respect. Transitions manners and ladys will not stop developing SFF. This year is big experience for all of us. Because of Miro, who is really excellent boy I will stop here, but continue on other places whose are more effective to clear all non professionalism and nepotism from SFF. It will be very painfull for SFF staff, but people are not gloves.

Dear Mr Howard Feinstein,
See You next year !
Best regards from Sarajevo !

That's Incredible!

And what about all those people around Jolie at the link below?

That's Incredible!

“…but they were all in the service of an Oscar winner at the National Theater. The Oscar was for a performance, and of course she is a big star. Bier is a director, the puppetmaster. And that is the thrust of my article, the fact that auteurs are ignored in favor of celebrities.”

Are you kidding or what??? And what about the movie “In The Land of Blood and Honey”??

3 x See You next year ?

Dear Mr Howard Feinstein,
Young boy who afther 11 years of working in SFF told me ” Call up me from staff to work on SFF this year. I told them no.” I shocked ask “Why”. Answer was ” They become so brutal as SFF is private”. That private as base of brutal is important, and there are difference bettwen “private” and “professional”. International support for SFF is based on historical Sarajevo and all what happened 92-95. But transitions manners “take all” SFF brings in position that people dont wont to work for.
So Mr Howard Feinstein, Your are not only, that become standard, normal.
See You next year !
Best regards from Sarajevo !

Emir Turbo

Ljude koji imaju karakter, licnost, i na kraju muda napisu svoja prava ime i komentarisu. Sakrivanje iza laznih imena je osobina jadnih ljudi, i nije im mjesto na ovako ozbiljnoj stranici. Doduse, ako imas kompleks izgleda onda razumijem zasto se skrivas. :(
Prije nego napises iduci komntar pozeljno bi bilo da procitas tekst i vidite temu , a ne da komentariste odgovore drugih ljudi, kao i presonalna misljenja o nekome ovdje. To u najmanju ruku nikog ne zanima. Valjda ti je engleski toliko dobar da mozes da razumijes o cemu se ovdje radi.

Moje ime je Emir Turbo, asistent-vozac Howardov posljednih 8 godina. Ujedno i vozac audija a 4. I podatci kojie su iznijeli lena i mirna su netacni. Ja sam svjedocio svim dogadjajima, bio sam s svim gostima tako i s Susan.

I za kraj, Howard nije nasilnik, da jeste sigurno bih ja znao za to.No jednostavno to nije istina. Svi koji su dobili ribanje, sigurno su ga zasluzili.On je prefekcionista i ne podnosti nesposobnost i glupe gresk(Nema mikrofona na debati s Michael Moor-om,nema prevoda i zvuka na pojedinim filmovima i slicne greske koje su tolerantne ljudim koji su za njih odogovorni??????)

Sve najbolje iz lijepog Sarajeva , Emir Turbo

Real names were written by those who have character, personalty and BALLS, in their comments.Hiding behind false names is virtue of miserable people, and so they do not deserve place on professional web page, like this. To be honest, if you have complex of way you lock i do understand you. :(
Before your next comment , it is desirable to reed title and article, and realize what is a topic. It would be much better to comment about topic, not others opinions or comments.To be honest, nobody gives a shit about you opinion of their comments. Your English is good enough to understand topic of this article.

My name is Emir Turbo, Howards assistant-driver for last 8 years.Driver of audi a 4. AND DATA PRESENTED BY LENA AND MIRNA WERE NOT ACCURATE.I have been bystander for last 8 years, and companion of all guests, as well Susans.

For end, if Howard is an bully, i would know it, for shore. But, simply, it is not true. Everyone who suffered Howards speaking skills, certainly, deserved such treatment.He is perfectionist and he is zero tolerant for stupid mistakes. (Like there not microphone for Michale Moor during q&a, there is no subtitle for move, or tone and such stupid, mistakes. Mistakes acceptable by those who were in charge for them?????)

All best form beautiful Sarajevo , Emir Turbo


@3x something – YOU can’t be more naively brutal than you are :))))
You are not just Mr.F personal bully, you are advancing as his PR agent as well. Good for you!


@2 x see you… – it seems you treat people the same way Mr.Feinsten do! or, Mr.Feinstein’s still bulling, this time through his fan’s mouth. too obvious. stop bulling people, both of you, please!

@nežka – have you ever visited slovenia, too? do you live somewhere up on the high mountains? I’m thrilled with your comment: so sweet, so innocent, so full of admiration for auteur’s film. my english is funny, but yours is a piece of art. I bet, your slovenian mast be even funnier. and, yes I do understand your passion for the oscar winner :)))…- btw, A.J. is an oscar winner too, x2.
you say you are obsessed with SB – her car (audi a4- good for you!), her husband, the man next to her… but you simply missed to see her on the red carpet before the award ceremony started at 8.00 (red carpet from 7-7.55 PM for your information). but, do not bother with details – there must be the record of her interview on the red carpet, exact time, and things like that.

2 x See You next year ?

Dear Mr Howard Feinstein
See You next year !
Best regarsd from Sarajevo !

@Elvis, take care what you are talking. (Mars stoko u Zenicu, gdje si to naucio tako govorit. Izeta zaposljavajuci takva govna dovela je do toga da sa SFF usta ispiraju, djubre jedno. Covjek te otpustio pa sta? Drzi se crteza za djecu)


nezka = howard feinstein :)… or a4 audi driver :)

Howard Feinstein

Lena: I have no idea who “2X,” so I couldn’t have been “too obvious” bullying through a “fan’s mouth.” or “See you next year?” is. I did a Google Translate on the Bosnian portion addressed to “Elvis,” and from what I can make of it, it has nothing to do with me. Elvis has two long comments regarding a personal grudge that goes back not seven years but 10 (he references Tanovic’s prize), did absolutely nothing in his job as “project coordinator” for the Critics Seminar I created. That was THE (missed) opportuniay for future film critics to learn from a panel I assembled of the top film critics in the world (Le Monde, Entertainment Weekly etc.), and all he had to do was make sure the room was prepared. His forte is complaining and compensating for his shortcomings by trying to belittle me and what I have done in Sarajevo. Reading his rant, I can only say: Nobody cares about the details of your dismissal many years ago, it has nothing to do with these issues. You REALLY need professional help.

Worse is, I found it rather common when I worked for the festival for most people to complain and pass blame and frankly, rarely go that extra mile to do a good job. It is very different from the New York style I have gotten used to. And honestly, two messages from the festival’s press head under false names? And anyone would refute my mentioning of Communist tactics under the Tito regime?

Lena’s comment to “Nezka,” from Slovenia, is particularly nasty. She makes fun of Nezka’s English and implies that she is a mountain person from Slovenia. That is the cheapest of shots, almost like Izeta Gradevic telling me I was revealing my “prejudices” when I was insisting on doing a Tribute to the Serbian director Oleg Novkovic. I just don’t get how people from a culture can go so far past any boundaries of civil behavior. There are limits!

And, Lena, the Audi Susanne Bier was in belongs to my driver/assistant; I don’t think Bier is “impressed” by such things. If you have ever seen her films, which I doubt, you would know that her concerns are not material, but genuinely humanitarian. She is Danish, for god’s sake, do you think an Audi would knock her socks off? Get out of your bubble.

The man standing with her and her husband is my other assistant, the only one who took her photo at Vatrogasac. Once more, I will say, Bier was at Vatrogasac introducing her film at 9 pm, during the award ceremony, with me on the stage. Does it matter if the photo is from the Q & A? If just one of the festival photographers had been there for the intro, we could have used that photo, but they were all in the service of an Oscar winner at the National Theater. The Oscar was for a performance, and of course she is a big star. Bier is a director, the puppetmaster. And that is the thrust of my article, the fact that auteurs are ignored in favor of celebrities. I have the uneasy feeling that this is now the third comment written from within the Sarajevo Film Festival press office, obsessed with the exact minutes of Bier’s appearances. The English in that office was not good, nor was the office efficient. I had to write my own press releases because they tried something that was awful, then didn’t do anything more. So leave “Nezka” alone. Even New Yorkers can not be as nasty as what I’m seeing here, and in a number of the comments in the assorted Bosnian magazines and websites that have used my article as the basis for long features. Some of them border on a very dangerous kind of nationalism.

See You next year ?

Mr Howard Feinstein, I personally know Miro Purivatra over 35 years. His is very intelligent, enterprising… all best. For Miro SFF is important more than his wife Izeta. Izeta, as one of sisters Gradzevics, transitions phenomena sisters, for Miro is only means, resources for SFF and Your activitu in. Simple question, how will look Bosnia afther American withdrowal? How will look SFF afther Your withdrowal. Is withdrowall best choise?
SFF is not only Miro and Izeta, SFF is Sarajevo !
See You next year !
Best regarsd from Sarajevo !

Nežka Virmar

Before I start, I would like to say that the reason i came to Sarajevo in Slovene was the SB.

The desire to know the SB, I left the old part of the city, and moved to theater Vatrogasac , where was the projection of the film “In a better world”. I stopped at white tents, Festival Square , when i saw the SB and her companion, and some guy with a beard, leaving the audi a4 gray, it was 18:50, i tried to say hello, however, they entered the Festival Square. I stopped briefly on the red carpet, and went to the cafe Meeting Point, where my friends were waiting for me. Then i saw that same car, audi a4 gray standing at the back of the building in which it enters the red carpet. The same group, SB and others went and sat in the car, it was at 18:20 , must add that SB wore beautiful white tight dress and looked beautiful.I went to meeting point , which is 10 minutes walking form there. There i sat with the girls and saw the companion SB and Mr. Feinstein , their table was on end of Meeting Point, on table was written Howard Feinstein reserved, after I’ve read.
SB she came around a bit before the film announced, somewhere around 10 to 9, again in the gray audi a4, but with changed outfit , detained briefly and left. Upon completion of the SB film, her companion, Mr.. Feinstein and another guy came and held a Q and A.
After the movie i approached with the fear sb SB, she was surrounded with fans and with smile she gives everyone an opportunity for small chat and photo. I stayed last , with my friends , and i got a chance to talk with the SB and take photo with her. It was dream come true.
Thank you, Mr.. Feinstein and all those who have made it possible to meet the SB. That was my biggest wish.

p.s The only one who was taking photo of SB at the announcement of the film, and at Q and A, beside audience , was the guy with the beard who was at the Festival Square with SB.

This year I watched Panorama program and is really good, with fantastic movies.It is true that everyone, including the staff and waiters (so on capable and diligent workers) that were watching TV because of Angelina and Bred, so you could get even the coffee :( . My humble opinion is that SB deserves more attention, more than a ordinary picture on Red carpet. Because the truth is that Sarajevo was quiet because of Angelina and Bred, nobody was anywhere except on the Red carpet as opposed to the previous day.
Even i was surprised that the SB was walking without ceremony in the company of her companion and one guy walked around. Yet she was this year’s Oscar winner, if you understand me.
I am on the side of the artist, and therefore on the side of mr. Feinstein. and if you compare my story with the times referred to above Mirna s , you can see that this is not true that in between 8 and 8:30 SB was on the red carpet.
Good luck mr. Feinstein and thanks for providing an opportunity.

All best , form Slovenia , Nežka Virmar

Elvis Dolić

Here on a link below are Recommendations for Elvis Dolić from General manager of 7th SFF!

Howard ;) who gets these kind of recommendations from General manager of the Festival and is listed in catalog as program assistant for moving chairs ;))) remember we were only few back at the time…that was when Tanović won award in Canes and academy award came only next year…in that time we were only 20 as coordinators…

…you have been making a lot of problems to everybody and especially to your assistant Vladimir…he was so fed up with you and he had to lie to you in order to keep his job…bulling a lot of people probably make it hard for you to remember one of them…but i remember very well…

..if you read carefully recommendations you will understand that i was employed as PROJECT COORDINATOR but you were trying to treat me as your assistant and that is what i refused…to do you small favors in order to make you happy…that is why you were so angry with me….

…i am not the only one that was treated like this from you…is name Guillermo Garcia Vejar ring any bell…or you can not remember…


You were blackmailing them with your importance and credibility in industry!

Miro was kind enough on the end to say Paula and me on the meeting that in case you continue insisting on my TERMINATION SFF should employ assistant for me in order that you and me do not get in any direct contact…i felt so sorry than for the SFF management because they were bullied by you…

shame, shame on you…..

But u are right that there are more important issues to discuss here:

1. i love most of movies you selected to be shown, but these movies are work of other people and not your work…you are missing the point dear How, so do not hide behind other people credits and do not take other people credits for your self!


3. Angelina Joly and B.P. did more for this country with just one visit to Bosnia that you could ever do…in your life time!

Anything more to discuss?

all the best


Howard Feinstein

I answered “Mirna” already in comment 12. Can I make it any clearer that the INTRO with Susanne and me on stage was at 9, even if the words “Q & A” were in the text?? Same audience, exactly, same filmmaker, same programmer. Does it matter? And of course there are probably no pictures, there were no photographers. “Playing dirty?” From the press head of the festival disguising herself as “Mirna?”

Elvis: To be frank, I had to rack my brain to remember you. This was about 7 years ago, from what you wrote. I notice you posted the same comment on the response of the festival to my article. The I remembered, you were one of many young people they assigned to help me and my programs during the festival. I was only there two weeks each year, so I did little of the hiring. Some worked out beautifully: I have had a few main assistants, and almost all were with me for several years. You were assigned to do fairly simple things, like having the chairs arranged for the critics seminar I created and ran for several years, to train young future film critics. This was something I volunteered, in the morning before the films I programmed, which ran non-stop with Q & A’s, until midnight. You did not do your job. I remember a day when nothing had been organized, no chairs, nothing, and you didn’t even show up. That was it. WHY would I keep you on? When someone didn’t do their job, and I had so much going on during the festival, I would not tolerate it. And you were nasty about it when I said something to you. It’s that simple. I am sure I didn’t “order” Miro to fire you, that was not the nature of our interaction, so I don’t think I “used” Miro’s totalitarianism. Maybe you worked well with some others, but a no-show is a no-show, and I always worried first and foremost about the filmmaker guests, projection quality, keeping my head clear for interviews and Q & As. I”m sorry, during the festival I never had patience for slackers.


@H.Feinstei – I did not know I’m so obvious and transparent ;)))))))
I just wanted to refer to the comment below the photographs, which is kind of summing your whole position in the Festival: left side was taken from 8.00-8.45 PM, and the right one with S.B. during for Q&A – some time after 11 PM – so no matter who is the author of that comment – simply, this is not the SIMULTANEOUS – as far as I understand English. So from now on I doubt the whole ”truth” of the rest of your article – there are probably lot of facts there – but you are forging the meaning the way it presents you as you wish. And you name other people names… How pathetic!
Since it starts to be very important issue, I ask people from SFF to send a photographs from the introduction of the film, at 9.00 PM, when SB was standing in front of people. I hope they have them, so you can finally admit that you are playing dirty (involving the magazine in something so shallow)

Elvis Dolić

Howard Feinstein is a hypocrite! He was using Miro’s totalitarism all these years when he needed or just wanted to for fun and to demonstrate his force and now he is pretending to be the one fighting against it! Howard never cared about people working hard in the case those people did not kiss his behind he would find something against them and literally order Miro to fire them! I have had this personal experience on 7th SFF when he shouted in front of everybody in meeting point garden that he will order Miro to fire me, but Miro first asked Paula Gordon (at that time general manager of SFF who employed me on the festival) who am i and what did i do for SFF workshops and when he realized that my results were excellent he did not fire me although Howard/Coward insisted. Later on Howard came to apologize to me but without witness and i told him to apologize in front of everybody as he accused me in front of everybody…but he did not! Shame on you Howard! Shame on you! Sarajevo and Miro and Izeta gave you a lot of good and this is not the way to pay back for their kindness…i left SFF because i did not want to work in same environment with hypocrite like you are! You know there are witnesses of all this story, and you know it is true…in that time you did not care if all my carrier is at stake, if i have family to feed…you just wanted me fired…shame on you…you are miserable!

Howard Feinstein

Laura: The Panorama and the Tribute were essentially a separate festival, even geographically, so often things overlapped or occurred simultaneously. In fact, only a very small festival could have programs that don’t clash. Also, the awards ceremony is specifically for regional films, and my beat was non-regional. And whether it’s bragging or not–I don’t look at it that way, though I am quite proud of my record and the audience response–the fact that I made selections on my own gave them some sort of personal signature. I did not run the organization itself; I think there is a difference from making film choices alone and running an institution without space for differing point of view.

“Mirna:” Shame, shame, shame. I recognized the writing (and the detailing) immediately and did some investigating on the Bosnian end. This comment was written under a pseudonym by the head of press for the Sarajevo Film Festival, with whom I worked for several years. (I have written her to tell her I recognized it, but received no response.) The premise is all wrong: Susanne Bier and I were both on stage at 9 pm for the introduction before the film played, which is just when Jolie was getting her award. That is a very minor detail, and it is egregious to compare the visual collage, credited to Dana Harris, IndieWire’s editor in chief, and my text to the “worst McCarthy and Ceausescu manner.”Creative director (and fest director Miro Purivatra’s wife) Izeta Gradevic’s response to my piece claimed that I was dismissed for not respecting my contractual obligations. Problem here is: There was no contract–save for some pages in Bosnian with my salary figure on them that I was asked to sign at the very end of the festival. I tried to be politely critical of the festival in my article, given that there were some very good memories, but one of the patterns that drove me away from participating lending them some gravitas was the increasing pattern of, shall we say, truth avoidance. As I wrote, things dripped from the top down.


short comment on the photo – I was attending both of these events – and the photo collage presents them as simultaneous. As in worst McCarthy or Ceausescu manner presents the twist of reality – there are four hours difference in between two of them. If you visit the photo-gallery of the festival (, you will see Susanne Bier, as one of SFF celebrities, giving live interview at the red car (7,40 p.m.)
All respect to Mr.Feinstein for his programing, but this article is ridiculous.


I completely agree with bob hawk when he says that it is impossible to answer the poll, this is not the main point in the letter!
Of course it was a mistake to program the two events at the same time : no Q&A should take place at the same time of the festival’s closing session, had celebrities been invited or not… And M Feinstein doesn’t say whose idea it was, or why it had beed programmed like that. But anyway, shouldn’t Ms Bier and himself attend the awards? Or isn’t the Tribute a part of the festival?
Most of all, I find it almost paradoxical that he ends the text implying a certain dictatorial manner of running the festival, when he himself previously bragged the popularity of the selections he made “alone, without a committee or restrictions”.
It’s a real pity we don’t have the counterpoint of the festival, to understand a little better what happened…

Dana Harris
chris long

shortly? maybe I can’t find it?

Dana Harris

Laura: We received a response from the festival today. I’ll post shortly.

That's Incredible!

Non posso credere che un critico cinematografico abbia avuto questa “reazione” perchè è stato dato più spazio all’ospite internazionale Angelina Jolie, cioè la regista di uno dei film più attesi della prossima stagione, per giunta avente a tema la storia del Paese che organizza il Festival!…mah!

bob hawk

If I were Howard Feinstein I’d be pissed as well — but only at the Sarajevo FF for their unfortunate slotting of these two events at the same time. However . . . sweeping generalities about festivals and their emphasis on celebrities cannot be made. (Thus, I think the latest poll is impossible to answer.)

There are so many different kinds of festivals — ranging from some that have ten things going on at once to others where there’s sometimes only one thing happening. Some festivals are primarily about celebrating filmmakers and they downplay celebrities (or have none), while others whore out on celebs and the glitz. Often their websites’ end-of-festival roundup coverage will reflect their priorities. But I’d say most of the top fests try to maintain some degree of integrity and strike a reasonable balance — as well as offer many different options. (And, of course, if you’re attending a festival with multiple choices it’s very easy to choose your own path and ignore whatever you want to ignore.)

As for the press . . . well, some give very thorough coverage, while others barely scratch the surface — and different publications and media have wildly disparate agendas.

But, again, it’s impossible to make generalizations about “festivals.”

Film lover from Sarajevo

The goal of every filmmaker around the world is to achieve interaction with the audience. This should be a priority far more important than having their picture taken. The programme of the festival (including Tribute and Panorama) was well known even before news of Jolie-Pitt’s arrival and the press obviously made up their own mind (accredited journalists from all over the world). One can hardly blame the SFF management or expect them to somehow force photographers and journalists to feature anyone they choose not to. The problem with the SFF in the past few years isn’t the celebrities (they came before like Morgan Freeman) but with the selection. Although Feinsteins selection was outstanding (both Tribute and Panorama) the Open Air selection is getting worse every year. Local directors (such as Begovic and Zalica) are receiving preferential treatment although their work is at best mediocre. I am deeply sorry that Feinstein will no longer bring us beauty and joy derived from amazing works of art he selected all these years but the celebrities are not to be blamed.

Lisa Nesselson

RE< >
The funny thing about Deauville is that it takes place in a town with a permanent population of 3000 or so and those mostly French folks have a better chance of seeing outstanding American independent features and documentaries than do American film-goers in all but the biggest cities.
My colleagues who make their livings writing celebrity profiles and/or puff pieces are always lamenting how “There aren’t any stars at fill-in-the-blank festival.”
“But there ARE films!” say I.
And if you go to those films, you may see the first performance by somebody who will be a star before you know it.
Or somebody who will never be a “star” — but who will go on to produce a fascinating body of work.
Thanks, Howard, for this account. While we’re on poisonous tangents, is anybody out there in a position to confirm the rumors about how much money some notable names demand to put in an appearance at a film fest ?

Robert Gray

Sadly apt points, Howard. Your eclectic taste and wit will be sorely missed in Sarajevo.

Jay Rider

Good for Howard Feinstein for telling it like it is. Hollywood trumps art once again and once again the struggling Indie’s are waiting at the back of the bus. It’s the mansionization of film festivals.

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