BUDAPEST — As the world braces for possible conflict in the Middle East, four southern European nations (including three former enemies) are holding cooperative film festivals in a spirit of goodwill rare in a region that has seen four wars in the last 11 years.
Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Macedonia are hosting national film festivals, and three of these fests are sharing movie prints for screenings and filmmakers for seminars.
“We had talks with the directors of the Sofia (Bulgaria) and Belgrade (Serbia) film festivals on a cooperation that will facilitate our exchange of film copies and guests, and in the future it is likely that we will form an association of Balkan festivals,” says Dejan Pavlovic, director of the Skopje (Macedonia) fest, running March 14-23 in the capital’s Millennium Center.
Such cooperation is unprecedented, given that the former Yugoslav republics Serbia, Croatia, and Macedonia were bitter enemies during Yugoslavia’s bloody civil wars in the 1990s.
In Serbia, the 31st Belgrade Film Festival closed its doors on March 9 after 10 days and the screening of 95 theatrical releases and documentaries. Belgrade screenings did not shy away from making discreet political statements on possible war, launching the festival with “The Quiet American.”The Sofia Film Festival kicked off on March 6 and will run until the 16th. Organized by Bulgaria’s Art Fest Ltd., the Sofia fest offers an international and national competition for feature films and screenings in a number of categories.
Lineup of the Skopje fest has an international focus, with top titles including “24 Hour Party People” by Brit Michael Winterbottom, “Russian Coffin” by Russia’s Aleksandar Sokurov and Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.”
The Balkan fests have gathered as many guests as titles. Skopje reportedly invited up to 30 cinematic dignitaries, including famed Yugo director Emir Kosturica and Winterbottom.
Guests at the Belgrade fest included French actor and singer Charles Aznavour, Vietnamese actresses Do Thi Hai Yen and Quang Hai, French thesp Anna Mouglalis and helmer Stefan Arsenijevic, who won the Golden Bear at Berlin for the short film “(A) Torsion.”
The less ambitious Days of Croatian Film runs in Zagreb March 10-16, with a schedule made up of medium and short films of no more than 60 minutes.