Artist, writers and filmmakers can tell stories, raise debate and confront difficult issues that otherwise might be brushed under the carpet. Modern times have seen the valuable role played by art in appraising a country’s recent history and helping a country to accept its past.
Of course, tackling such subjects can have its own issues. In Serbia, a list was circulated naming writers, filmmakers and actors who were considered to have spoken unfavourably about the country’s recent past or social issues.
Unsurprisingly, some of these people have received direct threats and even politicians have openly criticised artists for daring to provide a perspective that does not sit well with officially sanctioned views.
Often these artists receive a more open ear abroad, where their views can be seen and heard at international film festivals, regional conferences and book events.
Recent years have seen Bosnia roll out some memorable and acclaimed films, many of which address the country’s turbulent past and contemporary social issues. Its filmmakers have gained worldwide recognition, producing award-winning movies, often on low budgets.
The BHFF is an annual event, featuring contemporary Bosnian cinema and films with Bosnia and Herzegovina as a theme. Since its founding in 2003, the BHFF has gained a reputation as an important showcase for up-and-coming and internationally-renowned filmmakers, contributing to a greater understanding of the country, its culture and history. The festival is organised by two not-for-profit organizations: the Voice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Inc. and the Academy of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The 16 films screening at the 2014 BHFF were carefully selected from submissions from 10 countries including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the United States, and Canada. The final selection includes four feature films, five shorts and seven documentaries, many of which will receive regional or national premieres.
The films to screen at the BHFF are:
• An Episode in the Life of An Iron Picker (Epizoda u životu berača željez) is a feature by Danis Tanović, who won the Golden Apple award for Best Short Film at last year’s festival. The film centers around a Roma family in central Bosnia, whose harrowing odyssey of survival provides a damning critique of the social conditions that trap them. It will screen on the festival’s closing night.
• Srđan Golubović’s internationally acclaimed Circles (Krugovi) starts in the grips of the Bosnian war in 1993, when Serbian soldier Marko witnesses three comrades brutally attacking Haris, his Muslim friend. Marko interferes and saves the life of his friend, but is consequently killed by the crazed soldiers. In 2008, after the war’s end, the effects of the conflict still resonate as Marko’s family and friends are torn between forgiveness and revenge.
• In Sixten Björkstrand’s Bosnia in Our Hearts (Bosnien i våra hjärtan), three Bosnians travel from Finland to Lithuania to watch the last crucial qualifying game for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
• In Bobo Jelčić’s A Stranger (Obrana i zaštit), the death of an old friend plunges Slavko, a Croat, into a dilemma. He is unsure whether he should attend the funeral in the Muslim part of Mostar, being torn between a feeling of duty and his fear of a hostile reaction.
• Faruk Lončarević’s With Mom (Sa mamom) tells of Berina, a young artist who struggles to come to terms with her mother’s terminal illness and the deterioration of family bonds, while also exploring her awakening sexuality. Lončarević’s powerful coming-of-age story examines the dynamics of a family in crisis.
• Chris Leslie’s and Oggi Tomic’s Finding Family (U potrazi za porodicom) is a British-Bosnian co-production that will have its New York premiere. This documentary about an orphan’s extraordinary journey back to Bosnia twenty years after being abandoned during the siege of Sarajevo won Best New Work and Best Factual awards at the British Academy Scotland New Talent Awards 2014. A Q&A session will be held on closing night.
• Mirza Ajnadžić’s May 31st (Trideset i prvi maj) documents the White Armband Initiative, a controversial commemoration for non-Serb war victims in Prijedor, Bosnia-Herzegovina. A panel discussion with Refik Hodžić and Eldar Sarajlić will follow the screening, to focus on the White Armband Initiative, social activism in Prijedor and life in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
• Shunt (Fasunga), directed by Zoran Ćatić, is a brief analysis of historical and socio-political transitions that constantly challenge the permanence of memories.
• Tales from a Forgotten City will premiere in the US. Directed by Amir Grabus, this short documentary is an ode to the memories of Mostar as it used to be. It follows ambitious producer Dragi Šestić and his musical ensemble, Mostar Sevdah Reunion.
• Nedžad Begović’s Beško, about a modern guy who belongs to a new generation of ‘Walters’ in Sarajevo.
• Mirna Dizdarević’s Vita Mulier, a documentary about two ballerinas struggling to survive in a city that does not value their art.
• Una Kreso’s A Wound That Is Hidden (Rana koja se krije) is about a young woman who fled during the Bosnian war. Eighteen years later, Sanja returns to Sarajevo to answer complicated questions about her identity. She wanders the city speaking with the people of Sarajevo, each with their own perspective on Bosnia’s history. Sanja discovers that she is not the only one struggling with an identity crisis – the city itself continues to search for answers.
• Damir Bašić’s Just to Take a Look (Samo da pogledam), a 60-second social commentary on the daily life of an ordinary citizen in Bosnia.
• Trnopolje, A Forgotten Summer (Trnopolje, jedno zaboravljeno ljeto), directed by Zabou Cârrière, Taina Tervonen and Jean-Baptiste Delpias, about survivors of the concentration camp in Trnopolje, Bosnia.
• Ado Hasanović’s Mum (Mama), a cautionary tale about starting over.
• Amela Ćuhura’s We Survived (Nek je živa glava), a short fiction film about a former POW who returns to Sarajevo to find his family.
Films selected to screen at the 11th Annual BHFF are eligible to win a number of honours, including the Golden Apple audience and jury awards. The jury consists of Los Angeles-based author, filmmaker and photographer Harun Mehmedinović, internationally acclaimed artist Nebojša Šerić-Shoba and Brooklyn-based filmmaker and multimedia artist Amir Husak.
Tickets for all films are on sale from the BHFF website. Any remaining tickets will be available at the box office before each screening. All films have English subtitles.