Local filmmaker Srdan Vuletic‘s “It’s Hard to be Nice” is opening the 13th Sarajevo Film Festival this Friday, August 17, kicking off the event which continues in the capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina through August 25. The Eastern European-heavy festival are also slated to host filmmakers Michael Moore and Terry George in addition to gala screenings for Cannes ’07 Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” by Romanian Cristian Mungiu as well as Austrian director Ulrich Seidl‘s “Import Export.”
Seidl will also receive an SFF tribute. The ten titles screening in the feature competition will compete for the 25,000 euro “Heart of Sarajevo for Best Film” prize in addition to other cash awards for best actor and actor and a special jury award.
In addition to “It’s Hard to be Nice”–about a Sarajevo taxi driver who finds himself in a series of strange circumstances after obtaining a new car–SFF will also screen the world debut of Macedonian/Slovenian/Belgian and French film, “I Am From Titov Veles” by Teona Mitevska. Set in an aging town built during the rule of Yugoslav dictator Marshall Tito, the film centers on the story of three sisters struggling to find themselves against the backdrop of decline and environmental destruction.
Nine films, including five from Bosnia and Herzegovina will screen as world premieres in SFF’s documentary competition. Semsudin Gegic‘s “Ambassadors Learning Languages” focuses on a small group of people who grew up in an orphanage until most of the children were evacuated to Italy during the onset of war. A small group, however, remained and the film spotlights Biba, who searched for her brother and sister who had been evacuated, and take them to the grave of their biological mother.
Kosovar director Ismet Sijarina spotlights discrimination against the republic’s gay population, while Alen Drjevic‘s “Esma” is the story of Esma, the wife of a Colonel who was kidnapped by the Serb army during the war in the former Yugoslavia which resulted in the country’s partition.
As might be expected, the war, which destroyed Yugoslavia is a consistent theme in the doc section, with Aldin Arnnautovic‘s “Fantazy” spotlighting the veterans of the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also taking up the mantra is Namik Kabil‘s “The Interrogations,” which directly confronts the denial of the period by aiming the camera at individuals who experienced the period.
International titles screening in SFF’s Panorama include Brazilian director Karim Ainouz‘s “Suely in the Sky,” which took best film at the Havana Film Festival as well as Gus Van Sant‘s latest, “Paranoid Park,” which received the 60th anniversary prize in Cannes. China is well represented in the section with “The Other Half” by Ying Liang, director Li Yu‘s “Lost in Beijing,” “Still Life” by Jia Zhang-ke and Johnnie To‘s Hong Kong/China production, “Exiled.” From the U.S., Alex Holdridge‘s “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” centers on a depressed wannabe comedy screenwriter suffering from inertia and the phantoms of a failed relationship, but finds, perhaps, some solace in a new friend via Craig’s List.
indieWIRE’s Brian Brooks will be reporting from the Sarajevo Film Festival.