Local feature kicks off festival

SARAJEVO — The world preem of “It’s Hard To Be Nice,” the second feature by local writer-helmer Srdan Vuletic (“Summer in the Golden Valley”), kicked off the 13th Sarajevo Film Festival Aug. 17 in front of an aud of thousands in two theaters.

Following a red carpet entrance at the ornate National Theater, the tragi-comic melodrama also unreeled at the fest’s massive open air venue.

Produced by Ademir Kenovic’s Sarajevo-based Refresh Productions, the pic reps a homegrown triumph in more ways than one. It’s a product of the fest’s co-production market CineLink, where it attracted funds and production partners in Slovenia, Serbia, Germany and the U.K.

“It’s Hard to Be Nice” is one of 10 competitors for the top prize, the Heart of Sarajevo, and a Euros 25,000 ($33,700) cash prize. The jury, headed by U.K. thesp Jeremy Irons, will see the world preem on Aug. 18 of a second CineLink alum, “I Am From Titov Veles,” by Macedonian writer-helmer Teona Strugar Mitevska.

Based on Rotterdam’s Cinemart, the highly competitive CineLink provides project development workshops and a co-production market for new work from Southeast Europe. Taking place Aug. 23-25, it will draw some 300 guests from all sectors of the film industry. Three projects from a short list of 15 (whittled down from more than 60 entries) will receive Euros 10,000 ($13,500) in cash, plus an additional Euros 2,500 ($3,400) in services from fest sponsors.

Among other Fest highlights is a retrospective devoted to Austrian helmer Ulrich Seidel, whose latest feature “Import/Export” preemed in competition at Cannes.

The large contingent of industry guests includes American helmers Michael Moore and Alexander Payne, German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, and Cristian Mungiu, the writer-director of Cannes Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.”

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