‘Land’ symbolizes Sarajevo

Tanovic's pic a motivational shot in the arm to local film prod'n

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Seven years after it was created partly to boost morale in a city under siege, the Sarajevo Film Festival has finally begun to see its long-range goals come to fruition.

The festival’s mission, apart from helping to normalize life in Bosnia, includes stimulating domestic film production; increasing global awareness of the local film industry; and promoting cultural, intellectual and economic exchange between Bosnian and foreign filmmakers.

Fest, which ran Aug. 17 through Saturday, has emerged as the most important regional film event between Vienna and Thessaloniki.

Nothing could have made the fulfillment of its goals more apparent than the fest’s opening-night film, “No Man’s Land” by Danis Tanovic. Pic’s domestic premiere — it won the screenplay prize at Cannes — was a highly anticipated homecoming for the Sarajevo-born director.

Spurring production

Just two years ago, there was nary a new Bosnian film to present, and last year the fest offered only a handful of new homegrown shorts. Proving the nation can once again spawn talented cineastes, Tanovic’s film is a motivational shot in the arm to local film production.

And yet Tanovic had been unable to finance the film in his native country, obliging him to seek funds elsewhere. “No Man’s Land” is a French-Belgian-Italian-Slovenian co-prod, though it will be Bosnia’s official contender for the foreign-language film Oscar. Picked up by United Artists at Cannes, the film is slated to open Stateside in November.

Despite the pic’s foreign financing, the people of Sarajevo resolutely welcomed “No Man’s Land” as a Bosnian film. A political satire centering on two opposing soldiers caught in a neutral trench during the war, pic stars Branko Djuric, one of his country’s most beloved actors.

After the screening at the filled-to-capacity 2,500-seat Open Air Cinema, festgoers were treated to a lavish fireworks display, the first in the fest’s history.

But with the sound of fireworks discomfitingly reminiscent of shelling and gunfire, some crowd members initially panicked.

Tanovic had deplored the fireworks idea, but festival director Mirsad Purivatra insisted the festivities were healthy and appropriate to the proceedings.

Regional programmer Elma Tataragic rebuked the Bosnian authorities for not having supported Tanovic’s film, adding that she hoped its success will teach them a lesson.

“Now that the film is getting international recognition, the Bosnian authorities are starting to realize that film is important for the promotion of the country; it’s not only art, it’s also marketing,” Tataragic said.

To that end, the fest sponsored a Bosnian cinema co-production project in which filmmakers, having finished scripts and secured a minimum of 30% of their budgets, could pitch projects to a commission composed of producers, script consultants and film fund representatives.

Going beyond borders

In the same vein, the fest mounted two workshops, one to promote an exchange of ideas and practices between foreign and Bosnian docu helmers, the other to stimulate domestic film criticism.

Latter event consisted of a five-day seminar in which international film journalists (Lisa Schwarzbaum, John Anderson, Aaron Hicklin, Merton Worthmann and this critic) were invited to instruct 18 regional college students on film criticism.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Mickey Mouse waves to members of

    Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We're Looking For at D23

    As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith. From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    'Angel Has Fallen' to Dominate Modest Box Office With $20 Million Weekend

    Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman are leading the way at the North American box office with “Angel Has Fallen” on its way to about $20 million, early estimates showed Friday. Should forecasts hold, “Angel Has Fallen” will take in about double the next title, Universal’s second weekend of raunchy comedy “Good Boys” with about $10 [...]

  • Aracne

    Sanfic Standout ‘Aracne’ Filmmakers Discuss the State of Chilean Genre

    A key project at this year’s Santiago Lab, the Santiago Intl. Film Festival industry forum for promising Latin American projects, Florencia Dupont’s “Aracne” is representative of a push from the next generation of Chilean filmmakers into genre cinema and the themes it can explore. “Aracne” turns on Beatriz, a young journalist at a small Santiago [...]

  • Eduardo Machuca

    Chile’s Eduardo Machuca Unveils Machuca Films Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    SANTIAGO, Chile – Eduardo Machuca, the former film co-ordinator of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has launched his own production company, Machuca Films. “After 25 years at the ministry, I felt I needed to tap my creative side,” said Machuca, who is also tying the knot on Saturday (Aug. 24) with a former Sanfic staffer, [...]

  • Robert Downey Jr. Disney Legends Ceremony,

    Robert Downey Jr. Reveals He Was Busted for Smoking Pot at Disneyland

    Robert Downey Jr. celebrated his Disney Legend status by sharing the endearing tale of how the first time he visited Disneyland, he was arrested. The Iron Man actor was being honored in Anaheim at Disney’s biennial D23 convention. After a brief introduction by Disney chief executive officer Bob Iger, Downey felt he had to come [...]

  • Thandie Newton Reminiscence

    Thandie Newton Reteams With 'Westworld's' Lisa Joy on 'Reminiscence' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following her Emmy win for her performance on “Westworld,” Thandie Newton is joining the feature directorial debut of the show’s co-creator. Sources tell Variety that Newton is set to join Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in Warner Bros.’ “Reminiscence,” directed by “Westworld’s” Lisa Joy. WB acquired the rights to the package after this year’s Berlin [...]

  • Ming-Na Wen poses at the Disney

    Original 'Mulan' Star Ming-Na Wen Weighs in on Remake's Controversy

    Ming-Na Wen, who played the leading voice role in the original 1998 version of “Mulan,” has spoken out about the recent controversy surrounding Disney’s forthcoming live-action remake, which has been co-opted by China’s authoritarian regime to attack Hong Kong protestors. “We are living in a world right now where there’s so much change and confusion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content