Sarajevo Film Festival provides platform for Ukrainian filmmakers

SARAJEVO: The Sarajevo Film Festival, the largest film industry showcase in the region, is for the first time allowing Ukrainian movies in its competition and providing support to Ukrainian filmmakers.

The festival, which has grown to cover the sector from Vienna to Istanbul, was founded towards the end of the Bosnian war in 1995 as an act of defiance by enthusiasts resisting a 43-month siege of the capital by Bosnian Serb forces.

“At the onset of the war in Ukraine it has become clear that something must be done in solidarity with colleagues from film industry in Ukraine,” Jovan Marjanovic, the festival director, told Reuters.

The festival, which was starting on Friday, decided to open its competition programme for work from Ukraine and provided artist-in residence status to Ukrainian filmmakers to enable them to work and further develop their films.

It also offered jobs to Ukrainian professionals who have become refugees but previously worked at film festivals in Kyiv and Odessa.

Script writers and filmmakers Marysia Nikitiuk and Maria Stoyanova arrived in Sarajevo several months ago to develop their projects and present them at the industry platform Cinelink, which brings together writers and producers alongside the film screenings.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine halted Stoyanova’s work on her debut feature as the funding was frozen, the editing director joined the army and the producers got involved in volunteering and filming the war.

“The residency and participation in the workshop became significant support for me as an artist,” Stoyanova told Reuters. “This opportunity to work and think helps to heal mental wounds.”

Nikitiuk hopes to find partners and co-producers for her script dealing with people with post-traumatic stress disorder, inspired by displaced women and children she encountered in a shelter in an Ukrainian village where she had hidden at the start of the war.

On Friday, the festival was due to honour Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa with the Heart of Sarajevo Award.

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund will also be honoured. His film “Triangle of Sadness”, which won this year’s Palme D’Or for Best Picture at Cannes, will open the event.

The festival, which will show 235 films from 62 countries, 51 of them in competition, will also celebrate Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen and U.S. Oscar-nominated actor and director Jesse Eisenberg.