Pawlikowski, who won the best director prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his film about star-crossed lovers in 1950s Europe, said he was especially delighted to have his film open the festival. “I have been in love with Sarajevo for a long time – haunted by it,” he said, adding that he became enamored of the city after seeing Emir Kusturica’s 1981 film “Do You Remember Dolly Bell?”
During the opening ceremony, festival director Mirsad Purivata presented Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan with an Honorary Heart of Sarajevo for his “extraordinary contribution to the art of film.” “This is great honor for me, really, and I accept it with my heart,” Ceylan said.
The festival is showcasing his cinematic and photographic works, including his 2014 Palme d’Or winner “Winter Sleep,” in this year’s retrospective and an accompanying exhibition.
This year’s Sarajevo fest is screening a record 266 films from 56 countries, including 53 world premieres, among its 18 sections. Its main feature and documentary competitions are dedicated to works from Southeast Europe, with other sections showcasing films from farther parts of the the globe.
Among the international titles unspooling this year in the Kinoscope sidebar are Nicolas Pesce’s U.S. thriller “Piercing,” Bertrand Mandico’s French fantasy adventure “The Wild Boys,” and Vivian Qu’s Chinese drama “Angels Wear White.”
As part of this year’s Dealing With the Past program, the fest’s most unique section, Sarajevo is partnering with the Rotterdam Film Festival and its IFFR Live initiative to simultaneously screen the sidebar’s opening film, Anja Kofmel’s “Chris the Swiss,” in nine cinemas across Europe as well as on the Rotterdam fest’s online video platform, IFFR Unleashed. The collaboration marks the first time that Rotterdam’s live-cinema event, introduced in 2015, has taken place outside of the Netherlands.
Dealing With the Past was launched in 2016 in an effort to promote reconciliation in the region two decades after the bloody Balkan wars. “Chris the Swiss,” a partly animated documentary, recounts the story of Kofmel’s cousin, a young Swiss journalist who died under mysterious circumstances during the conflict.
The largest festival in Southeast Europe, Sarajevo has become a central meeting place for regional filmmaking, especially for young filmmakers, Purivata said. With its many sections and industry events, the festival offers “great synergy, giving us the chance to organize more productive meetings, more productive workshops, very informal meetings and parties in a very relaxing atmosphere.”
Purivata said there was a large increase in submissions in all of the festival’s categories.
The event has also become a major boon for the Bosnian capital. A newly released study by U.K. consultancy Olsberg SPI showed that the festival last year attracted about 10,000 visitors who generated $30.8 million and helped create 1,385 jobs.