'Beautiful,' 'Jesus' debut at film festival

ROME — The Sarajevo Film Festival, which started during the seige of the war-torn Bosnian city, will celebrate its 10th anniversary August 20 to 28.

Far from losing its significance after the war, it has continued to grow in size while other fests in the former Yugoslavia have shriveled. It is currently the most important film event in the Balkans, outside Greece’s Thessaloniki meet.

Much of its success is due to a strong regional focus, which artistic director Mirsad Purivatra and his programmers have tenaciously developed. This year’s program, announced today, includes a healthy number of world, international or European premieres. Two featured Croatian debuts are “That Beautiful Split Night” directed by Arsen Ostojic and “Jesus’ Company” by Silvije Petranovic. Well-known Serbian actor-director Ljubisa Samardzic is bringing his new film “Autumn Is Coming, My Quince.”

Another growing section is the Panorama Documentary Program, which includes two U.S. entries this year: “Born Into Brothels” by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicling the plight of the children of Calcutta’s prostitutes, and Jehane Noujaim’s “Control Room.”

Beginning this year, the Sarajevo festival becomes the permanent home of a new grant awarded by the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation. The late British actress, who attended the festival shortly before her death in 2002 at the age of 41, worked on two award-winning films from the region, Milcho Manchevski’s “Before the Rain” and Danis Tanovic’s “No Man’s Land.”

Mike Leigh, who directed Cartlidge in her breakthrough film “Naked”, will nominate the first recipient, to be announced on August 24 during a gala ceremony in the National Theater.

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