Prior to the festival’s opening, BZFilm taked to the BHFF Executive Board Member and spokeswoman, Amra Turalic about the upcoming event.
The festival itself has been founded back in 2003, so this year it marks its 10th year. What should be expected from this year’s event? Anything special?
It is a very special year for us. The festival has been expanded to three days and we have more films to show as a result. A total of 13 films will screen, compiled from among 32 submissions from 11 countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, England, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovenia, and the United States. This year is also special because we will have five feature films to show – normally, it is less!
This year’s program includes the world premiere of “Blockhouse”, the U.S. premieres of “Roundabout” (Kruzni Tok), “Something Sweet” (Nesto Slatko), “Thank You For Sunderland” (Hvala za Sunderland); and the New York City premiere of “Halima’s Path” (Halimin Put).
Other films screening this year include “Mirza Delibasic – The Legend” (Mirza Delibasic – Legenda), “Krivina”, “Death of a Man in the Balkans”, “Baggage” (Prtljag), “The Fix”, “Children of Sarajevo” (Djeca), “The Orchestra” (Orkestar), and “Zizi”.
Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t release a lot of feature films per year… How did that change since the festival was first launched?
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country with tiny budgets – as a result, it generates only several feature films per year. However, its filmmakers have gained worldwide recognition, producing award-winning movies on very low budgets. That is one thing that has not changed – the quality of the storytelling, and films produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina and by Bosnian filmmakers abroad.
One thing that has changed is that we are seeing a lot more co-productions between different countries in the Balkans. We are also seeing a lot more new talent – and it is coming from all over the world, reflecting the diversity of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian experience and film. People are no longer just telling stories about the war – the topics are now much broader and often provide an insight into the new countries adopted by Bosnians abroad.
How does, in your opinion, the festival helping the film industry in Bosnia-Herzegovina? What improvements do you think the country needs for its movie industry?
The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival highlights contemporary Bosnian-Herzegovinian cinematography, and films with Bosnia and Herzegovina as their theme. This unique cultural event provides a platform for the exposure of up-and-coming and internationally renowned filmmakers, and contributes to a greater understanding of the Balkan region, its diverse culture, and complex history.
The festival has been consistently praised for its quality of films, and for the level of cultural exposure it provides. The BHFF helps bring together not only the Bosnian-American and other Balkan communities, but also film and Balkan culture enthusiasts.
In an ideal situation, Bosnia and Herzegovina should provide its movie industry a lot more financial assistance, infrastructure and incentives to young filmmakers. However, the economic reality in Bosnia and Herzegovina is quite difficult, with high rates of unemployment.
That being said, Sarajevo Film Festival has done a lot to help the movie industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the region. It is a premier film festival in the region and provides exposure to emerging talent. It is a launch pad for new filmmakers in the Balkans.
Are there any plans for expansion of the festival in the future, or possibly a change of format of the festival?
We are slowly growing and expanding and have come a long way in the past ten years. BHFF has turned from a simple film showcase to a selective competition format and it is quickly becoming an authority on a subject of films from and about Bosnia and Herzegovina for the NYC and U.S. region. Our entries are coming from all over the world now and we have a prominent jury panel. Our location has become more mainstream since our humble beginnings. In 2003, BHFF was held at the Two Boots Pioneer Theatre.
The following year, BHFF moved to larger premises at the Anthology Film Archives, known as an international center for the preservation, study, and exhibition of film and video.
In 2007, BHFF relocated to Tribeca Cinemas, one of New York City’s highly regarded film institutions. As our funding grows, we would like to expand BHFF to more days, invite more filmmakers to attend BHFF, conduct filmmaker Q&A – model it after Sarajevo Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival. That will be our vision for the next ten years.
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