For a few busy days before the frantic fall festival slate hits high gear in Venice, Toronto and Telluride, key players from the international film world can be found mingling at Sarajevo’s stately Hotel Europe, the hub for the Bosnian festival’s CineLink Industry Days.
A highlight of the buzzy industry program each year is the Co-Production Market, which in its 15th year has become one of the leading platforms for emerging talents from the region. According to CineLink industry coordinator Armin Hadzic, roughly 70% of the projects pitched in the market get produced within three years of appearing in Sarajevo, with most of those going on to get international festival premieres and distribution.
Though just 19 projects were selected from more than 150 submissions this year, Hadzic says at least 30 could have made the cut, testifying to the growing maturity of the local market. The co-production forum’s track record is strong; recent films launched in Sarajevo include Adina Pintilie’s Golden Bear winner “Touch Me Not,” and Ljubomir Stefanov’s Sundance-awarded documentary “Honeyland.”
Founded as a platform to introduce key international players to filmmakers from Southeastern Europe – a geographical footprint that in recent years has expanded to include countries from the Middle East, North Africa, and the former Soviet Union – the Co-Production Market has stayed true to its name by building bridges between local filmmakers and international producers and funders. “The region really developed an approach to co-productions,” says Hadzic, a fact that he credits not only to CineLink’s robust platform but a distinctive flexibility embedded in the region’s DNA. “I think we are very adaptable in this part of the world.”
The Sarajevo festival was launched in 1995, in the midst of the four-year siege that laid waste to the Bosnian capital. The Hotel Europe – built during the Austro-Hungarian occupation of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 19th century – has itself survived two World Wars and the shelling that devastated much of Sarajevo during the siege. “[The region] is always in some kind of turmoil – political, social,” says Hadzic. As a result, “filmmakers here are very savvy and can adapt to everything.”
It’s a handy skill set at a time when the global entertainment industry is in tremendous flux. Hadzic has seen a significant shift in how local filmmakers are changing with the times, as a growing number of works-in-progress go into Sarajevo with strong commercial prospects.
“It’s much different than five years ago,” he says. “With Netflix, with Amazon, with all these streaming giants getting into this region slowly but steadily, this younger generation of filmmaker is much more open to the marriage of genre and arthouse films. You’re getting something that is much more crowd-pleasing, and much more interesting for commercial distribution, but still with the voice that has something to say.”
He adds: “We can feel that there is a change of generations happening right now. The new directors are coming.”
The global push toward greater representation for women on screen and behind the camera is also reflected in this year’s Co-Production Market selection: 15 of the 19 projects have female directors and/or producers attached, and a number are strong female-driven stories. But Hadzic notes that this isn’t just an example of a market adapting to the politics of the time.
“We were socialist countries for 50 years—ex-Yugoslavia especially. My grandmother had the right to vote before [women in] half the western European countries,” he says. “You could have a career as a filmmaker, as a politician, as the CEO of a big company. That’s what we realized when we looked at our market, and our filmmakers coming from this region. We’ve always had this [parity].”
Hadzic points to a number of female “powerhouse producers” driving the local industry, such as Romania’s Ada Solomon (“Toni Erdmann,” “Child’s Pose”) and Croatia’s Ankica Juric Tilic (“The High Sun”). While Sarajevo is one of the growing number of film festivals to sign the 5050 x 2020 pledge for gender equality, it’s all but reached that goal already. “We love to be in that position,” says Hadzic.
Here are this year’s CineLink Co-Production Market participants:
“The Anatolian Panther”
Director: Orçun Köksal
Writer: Orçun Köksal
Producer: Alara Hamamcıoğlu, Arda Çiltepe
Production company: Vigo Film Yapımcılık
Logline: Two zoologists searches for the extinct panther in the depths of Anatolia. The photo of a shining pair of eyes in a forest leads them to unknown paths full of secrets, suspicion and wishes.
“Death of the Little Match Girl”
Director: Goran Kulenović
Writer: Goran Kulenović, Zoran Ferić
Producer: Ivor Hadžiabdić, Antun Bahat
Production company: Livada Produkcija
Logline: The story of a pathologist, a returnee to an Croatian island, who gets involved in the investigation of the mysterious murder of a Romanian prostitute.
“Democracy Work in Progress”
Director: Mihály Schwechtje
Writer: Mihály Schwechtje
Producer: Genovéva Petrovits
Production company: Kino Alfa
Logline: Róbert Mravik is a driving examiner. His life turns upside down when one of his examinee, the political activist Júlia Polgár refuses to pay him the usual bribery money for getting her driving license. “Democracy Work in Progress” is the next feature film project of Mihály Schwechtje. It’s a black comedy about everyday corruption.
“Forever Hold Your Peace”
Director: Ivan Marinović
Writer: Ivan Marinović
Producer: Marija Stojanović and Ivan Marinović
Production company: Adriatic Western, SENSE Production
Country: Montenegro, Serbia
Logline: Dragana gives up marrying Momo two days before the date. His dangerously stubborn father forces the disastrous wedding into happening.
Director: Pavle Vučković
Writer: Pavle Vučković
Producer: Stefan Mladenovic
Production company: Plan 9
Logline: A female police detective goes in a search of a missing girl to a region famous for black magic and strong pagan female heritage.
“The Great Adventure”
Director: Cecilia Șefănescu
Writer: Cecilia Șefănescu
Producer: Bogdan Crăciun
Production company: Libra Film Productions
Logline: A holiday abroad reveals that strangers are not only people who speak a different language or have different values; they can also be those you call family, those you think you know. And, at times, you can be a stranger yourself.
“The Happiest Man in the World, or Lessons in Love”
Director: Teona Strugar Mitevska
Writer: Elma Tataragić, Teona Strugar Mitevska
Producer: Labina Mitevska
Production company: Sisters and Brother Mitevski
Country: North Macedonia
Logline: Imagine after a trauma having to face your nemesis directly in the eyes. Imagine after a traumatic experience meeting your enemy, sitting besides, and perhaps even falling in love. As Asja searches for love, Zoran looks for forgiveness while all are trapped in the question: is there life after war in Sarajevo 2020, 25 years after the war.
Director: Ümit Köreken
Writer: Ümit Köreken, Nursen Çetin Köreken
Producer: Nursen Çetin Köreken, Ümit Köreken
Production company: Drama Yapım Film Medya
Country: Turkey, Germany
Logline: Umut (35), a famous actor of Turkish origin living in Germany, has to confront his past and has a reckoning with his mother when she comes to Germany after 20 years of resentment.
“Like a Limbless Tree”
Director: Tunç Davut
Writer: Sinem Altındağ, Tunç Davut
Producer: Sinem Altındağ, Andrijana Sofranic, Said Nur Akkuş
Production company: Tekhne Films, Nana 143, Arthood Entertainment
Country: Turkey, Serbia, Germany
Logline: When terminally ill Refik gives a sum of money to his Syrian refugee carer, just before the Eid gathering she disappears, leaving her kids behind with him. The aftermath exposes the fault lines in Refik’s family’s relationships.
Director: Maha Haj
Writer: Maha Haj
Producer: Baher Agbariya, Thanassis Karathanos
Production company: Majdal Films
Country: Palestine, Qatar, Germany
Logline: A Palestinian man (40), trying to be a writer, unhappily married and depressed, befriends his neighbor and gradually convinces him to assist him commit suicide that would look like natural death.
Director: Sofia Georgovassili
Writer: Sofia Georgovassili
Producer: Vasilis Chrysanthopoulos, Irina Andreea Malcea
Production company: PLAYS2PLACE, Luna Film
Country: Greece, Romania
Logline: A coming of age story of two girls in a ‘90s department store that unfolds into an unexpected game of power.
Director: Mirjana Karanović
Writer: Mirjana Karanović, Ognjen Sviličić, Maja Pelević
Producer: Snezana van Houwelingen
Co-producer: Damir Ibrahimovic
Production companies: This and That Productions, Deblokada
Countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Logline: Mara seems to live the perfect life until her son commits suicide. She realizes this is a wake-up call and that she has to take responsibility for it.
Director: Andrej Korovljev
Writer: Ivan Turkovic Krnjak
Producer: Dijana Mladenović
Production company: Kinematograf
Logline: A spark of life will be awakened in Mahir, a 28-year-old refugee from Bosnia by Una, a 16-year-old girl from Pula, who is intuitively drawn by his dark, mysterious appearance.
Director: Senad Šahmanović
Writer: Claudia Bottino, Senad Šahmanović
Producer: Veliša Popović, Jean-Christophe Barret
Production company: CUT-UP, Alliance de Production Cinématographique
Country: Montenegro, France
Logline: The past is a foreign land, the one who leaves and one who comes back are not the same person anymore.
“Small Red Circle”
Director: Mahdi Ali Ali
Writer: Mahdi Ali Ali
Producer: Mahdi Ali Ali
Production company: Doha Film Institute
Logline: A boy goes through a psychological change process to discover the reason for the divorce of his parents.
Director: Yorgos Zois
Writer: Yorgos Zois, Yorgos Kozanitas
Producer: Stelios Cotionis, Antigoni Rota
Production company: Foss productions, Squared Square
Logline: Earth has long been abandoned and a privileged part of humanity has found refuge in outer space. But a deadly virus of nostalgia threatens to exterminate their new kind. A mission is sent back to deserted Earth to find the cure.
“Those Who Whistle After Dark”
Director: Pinar Yorgancioglu
Writer: Pinar Yorgancioglu, Emre Gulcan
Producer: Sarah Seulki Oh
Production company: Oh Picture Co.
Country: Turkey, United States
Logline: An encounter with a misanthropic angel pushes recently retired Melih into an existential crisis. Will he and his family manage to find their way out of this black hole?
Director: Emanuel Parvu
Writer: Alexandru Popa, Emanuel Parvu
Producer: Miruna Berescu
Executive producer: Mirona Radu
Production company: FAMart Association
Logline: Nowadays, a young couple of adolescents gets their respective mothers mistakenly killed.
Director: Andrei Tanase
Writer: Andrei Tanase
Producer: Irena Isbasescu, Anamaria Antoci
Production company: Domestic Film
Logline: Shocked by the sight of her husband having sex with another woman, Vera, a 30 year old veterinarian from the local zoo, starts acting erratically and puts the entire city in danger by causing the escape of a tiger.