The 2017 Sarajevo Film FestivalSarajevo is a wonderful city to visit. But the absolute best time to be here is during the week of the Sarajevo Film Festival. The city absolutely comes alive with energy and events.
The festival was this past week in Sarajevo. Initially Dionne and I thought that we would just try and see a few movies. But I was enjoying the festival so much that I decided to view a screening every day...a few times without Dionne even. The pictures were hit and miss...but it was fun.
|John Cleese was a guest of the festival and received a lifetime achievement award. There was a free outdoor screening of his film A Fish Called Wanda.|
Red Dog: True BlueThe first picture we viewed was in the children program section; an Australian film called Red Dog: True Blue. Initially I was thinking that this was the stupidest name for a movie. After viewing it, I realized it was a sequel to the 2011 movie Red Dog, so the title made a little more sense.
|The Red Dog movies were inspired by a dog who lived in Western Australia during the 1970s.|
|This plaque is on his grave. He was legendary in the outback and a number of Australians remember him fondly.|
|We did not read the ticket correctly and we showed up an hour before the actual film time. So we hung out in rainy Ilidja for an extra hour.|
Both Dionne and I enjoyed the movie. It was not little changing or anything like that. The first movie, Red Dog, was a bit of a sensation in Australia, taking in over 21 million Australian dollars at the box office. This one has not done quite as well.
|This was quite the rain storm...fortunately Dionne wore sandals.|
|This worker could not quite figure out why we had arrived to this movie so early.|
A Short History of the Sarajevo Film FestivalThe Sarajevo film festival is the largest in Southern Europe and one of the most important festivals in Europe. Over 100,000 people were expected to attend. All this from a small act of defiance during a time of great trouble and hardship.
|Festival signage permeated the city this week.|
|A flyer for the original Sarajevo International Film Festival. They basically watched whatever VHS tapes they could get their hands on!|
|We bought all of our tickets on-line...not sure I would have attended everyday if I would have had to stand in line in front of this box office.|
|A stamp commemorating the Sarajevo Film Festival.|
A Ghost StoryNext Dionne and I went to a late night screening of A Ghost Story starring Casey Affleck. Described as an introspective saga where a ghost "embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life's ineffable questions and the enormity of existence," the one thing the description did not mention is that it is as slow as molasses and worse than watching paint dry.
|Somehow this monstrosity played was selected to play at Sundance.|
|At least we were able to have popcorn during this movie. It gave us a little diversion.|
|One cool thing was this old European car which we spotted parked near the theater.|
Ninja Cowboy VikingAs I was watching these movies (especially the ones in the children's program), I kept thinking how exciting it would be if Ninja Cowboy Viking were to play at a film festival like this one. For those of you who do not follow the adventures of my family, my brother has been making movies starring the children of my family...and it has gotten dangerously out of control. This summer they have shown there latest movie at theaters in Boise, Kansas City, and Lander Wyoming. These showings were all associated with a Make-a-Wish foundation fund raiser. While I have not seen the movie yet, I am excited to.
|Movie poster from one of the Idaho premieres.|
And they shot the sequel this summer. So it is in the editing and production phase with an anticipated premiere date sometime next summer. I kept wondering how I could get Ninja Cowboy Viking into the Sarajevo Film Festival.
|Crowd posing after a night of shooting.|
MenasheAfter the late night debacle that was A Ghost Story, Dionne looked at me warily as I mentioned another movie the next morning that I was interested in. She sent me on my merry way to Menashe, a story about a father in a small Hasidic Jewish community in New York City. I am quite glad that I went to this screening.
|Poster for Menashe. Although set in New York, the movie is almost entirely in Hebrew...fortunately it had English sub-titles.|
|I kept watching this movie and wondering if this was truly the United States. I amazes me that such strong sub-cultures can exist within the framework of our larger culture.|
|This was a relatively small theater. But it was packed even for this noon showing of a Jewish film (deep in the heart of Muslim Bosnia).|
Film Makers are People TooTypically after a major film screening, the film makers are introduced and take questions from the audience. While I did not see this film, I happened to come into a theater just after the Georgian movie Scary Mother was screened. The film makers were on stage taking questions and I got to listen. This is notable because Scary Mother ended up winning the award for best picture.
|The director, producer, and stars of Scary Mother.|
|The director of Scary Mother.|
|The star of Scary Mother doing a TV interview.|
The RiderWhen I first looked at the list of films playing at the festival, I was most intrigued by this film, The Rider. The synopsis made it seem like an American film which represents wholesome midwestern values. And it has a rodeo cowboy and horses so I figured Dionne would like it.
|We were joined in Sarajevo by the Crnich's. They are from Utah and he is a retired vet who used to work at rodeos. So they joined us for the movie screening of The Rider.|
|The Crnich's in front of a WW1-era replica on the corner where Ferdinand was assassinated.|
|Pro Bull Rider Lane Scott.|
|Brady and Apollo...a horse whom he trains.|
Ultimately the movie is about learning to live with disabilities. All of the main characters are disabled in some way or another. The more I thought about the movies that I had seen this week, this is the one that I like the most. Not an overwhelming endorsement, mind you, but it was a fresh take on old themes.
I decided it would not be a film festival if I did not go to either a collection of shorts, student films, or some documentaries. My schedule allowed me to attend a collection of short films.
Short People Got No Reason
|Most of these shorts were directed by local Balkans. The first, Into the Blue, took the prize as Best Short Film.|
|The directors answering questions about their movies.|
Let me give just one example. The movie SOA is based on a Hercegovina urban myth the director had heard. The basic idea is that a village man had murdered his wife by torturing a ram. He would take the ram out in the woods, dress up like his wife, and then beat the ram. He did this enough that when his wife walked into their barn one day, the ram attacked and killed her. The story is typical of Bosnian dark humor and could made a respectable short film. But the director seemed more interested in showing beautiful Hercegovina landscapes rather than telling his story. Lots of wide shots but very little actual story telling. I did not have any idea of what was going on until the interview session afterwards when he told the plot synopsis.
The only short that told a cohesive story was Into the Blue; the ultimate winner. I certainly understood this story of young craziness that leads to an unfortunate cliff diving death. But I also completely hated the picture. It rubbed me the wrong way almost immediately.
The Big SickOn the final night of the festival we watched a movie outdoors with about 3,000 festival attendees. The movie, The Big Sick, has been playing all summer in the U.S. Billed as a Pakistani My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I was interested to see it. And as a test of it's authenticity, I invited a friend who is married to a Pakistani.
|The outdoor theater at the Sarajevo Film Festival.|
|Shay and Alexis Wood at the festival.|
|Enjoying a crepe at the Festival Food Point.|