YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Pride returns to Bosnian films

After last year's Oscar win for 'No Man's Land,' movie production is picking up and interest in the Sarajevo Film Festival is high.

August 20, 2003|Daria Sito-Sucic | Reuters

SARAJEVO — A huge silver plane circles over Sarajevo. Because it carries only happy people, it can never land in the Bosnian capital.

The theme of "Summer in the Golden Valley" may be gloomy but the film by Sarajevo filmmaker Srdjan Vuletic and two other movies made over the last year by local directors fill Bosnians with pride.

"Three feature movies in one year for a country of 3.5 million people and one of the poorest in Europe is an enormous success," said Miro Purivatra, director of the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Until 2002, only two feature films had been made in Bosnia in 12 years marked by the 1992-95 war and the economic and social hardship that followed.

The 2002 Oscar to Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic for "No Man's Land" for best foreign film helped stoke a new feeling of optimism among film professionals and fans in a country that is still proud of its prewar film production.

"It was a miracle for the world and for us when Danis won the Oscar. But to produce two features in four months was even a greater miracle," said Aleksandar Jevdjevic, who has been in the film and television business for 50 years.

Last year, two movies -- "Remake" by Dino Mustafic and "Fuse" by Pjer Zalica -- were completed and work on Vuletic's film began. They are all being shown at the Sarajevo Film Festival, which opened Friday, the biggest film festival in the region.

Film production in Bosnia, when it was still part of the socialist Yugoslavia, was modest but highly valued, mainly because of the achievements of filmmaker Emir Kusturica, who won prestige awards at festivals in Venice and Cannes in the 1980s. Kusturica's success encouraged others of his generation to pursue a specific atmosphere and humor that became a trademark of Bosnian film production.

But the postwar period was bleak and the nationalist authorities showed no appetite for film production.

"There has been nothing -- only despair, void, hopelessness," said filmmaker Benjamin Filipovic, who also is the president of Bosnia's association of film workers. "Local production was not possible without help from the state."

Then Tanovic's "No Man's Land" appeared and won 42 awards at film festivals across Europe and the United States, including Cannes and Berlin in 2001 and Los Angeles in 2002.

"Danis came out of the blue. But he proved that it can be done against all odds," Filipovic said.

The Oscar coincided with the establishment of a government foundation for film production in the Muslim-Croat federation, one of Bosnia's autonomous halves. Nothing similar exists in the other half, the Serb Republic. The authorities realized the importance of the publicity that the film industry can generate and decided last year to allocate $870,000 annually for local production.

That amount "is not enough for a movie but is enough for cinematography," Filipovic said.

The foundation allocated 10% of the money for Zalica's and Vuletic's movies but they had to come up with the $1.7 million that each film cost.

"It's been a tough job to convince producers abroad there was film potential in Bosnia," said Ademir Kenovic, who produced both movies.

"Fuse" will compete at this month's Locarno film festival. It also opened the ninth Sarajevo Film Festival, which has become so popular that its online sales ended in an hour after 20,000 people logged on to buy tickets.

The festival, which was established in 1995 while Sarajevo was still under siege, was until the last year the only institution working to promote local film production. In 2000, it established a modest fund for short films, enabling seven young directors to make their first steps in the industry. Three of them have now made feature films. This year the festival has started the CineLink project to create and promote new scripts by young authors from the Balkan region.

Los Angeles Times Articles