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Countries of former Yugoslavia select Oscar submissions

Bosnia sends Un Certain Regard title Children of Sarajevo [pictured], Slovenia opts for festival hit A Trip, Croatia selects visceral corruption story Vegetarian Cannibal, Macedonia chooses WW2 football-themed The Third Half, and Serbia goes for Nazi concentration camp drama When Day Breaks.

Five of the countries of the former Yugoslavia have chosen their candidates for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

The selection committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Association of Film Workers has chosen Aida Begic’s Children Of Sarajevo as its Oscar submission. The film world-premiered in the Cannes Un Certain Regard section, where it received a Special Distinction of the Jury. Later in the year it opened the Sarajevo Film Festival, and won awards at Pesaro and Herceg Novi. International rights are handled by Pyramide Distribution.

Slovenia has selected Nejc Gazvoda’s A Trip, the biggest festival hit the country had in years. The state-of-generation road movie world-premiered in the competition of the 2011 Sarajevo Film Festival and went on to more than 20 festival, winning awards at Nashville and Cleveland, as well as seven prizes at the Festival of Slovenian Film in Portorose in 2011, including best actor and best actress. Insomnia World Sales handles the international rights.

Croatia will send Branko Schmidt’s Vegetarian Cannibal to the Oscar race. The story about a wildly ambitious and unscrupulous gynecologist (magnificently played by Rene Bitorajac) who gets entangled in the world of organized crime and human trafficking is fast-paced and visceral with gory shots of dog fights and remnants of illegal abortions, realistically condemning corruption on all levels of Croatian society. The film won five Golden Arenas at Croatia’s national Pula Film Festival, including best director and best actor, and had its international premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival.

Macedonia has chosen Darko Mitrevski’s The Third Half, based on a true story about the Macedonian football team led by German Jew coach Spitz (played by German actor Richard Sammel, best known internationally for his role in Inglourious Basterds) during the Second World War. The team had become a champion of the National Football League of Bulgaria, which at the time occupied Macedonia.

Budgeted at €2.1m, the film was produced by Kino Oko and also stars Sasko Kocev (from Juanita Wilson’s As If I’m Not There), Rade Serbedzija and famous Macedonian model Katarina Ivankovska in her first film role. The Third Half premieres at this week’s International Cinematographers’ Film Festival Manaki Brothers in Bitola and then goes into theatrical distribution.

Last year Serbia also opted for a football-themed period piece, Dragan Bjelogrlic’s local blockbuster Montevideo. This year the country has selected Goran Paskaljevic’s When Day Breaks, about a modern-day music professor who finds out his real parents were Jewish, and had given him away to Serbian friends before being sent to Nazi concentration camp Semlin in the heart of Belgrade in 1942. Co-written by Paskaljevic and Filip David, the film stars Mustafa Nadarevic and was co-produced by Serbia’s Nova Film, Croatia’s Maxima Film, and France’s Wanda Films and Arsam. When Day Breaks had its international premiere in the Masters section of Toronto.

Paskaljevic is best known for Cabaret Balkan (aka Powder Keg), which won the FIPRESCI prize at the European Film Awards in 1998. In 1980, his film Special Treatment (Poseban tretman) was in the Cannes Competition.

The selection of Serbian Oscar candidate by the committee of Serbian Academy of Film Arts was surrounded with some controversy, as Paskaljevic’s film had not been seen by critics and audiences before it was chosen, and had just one closed screening in Belgrade after the selection, having played only the obligatory seven-day run in the central Serbian city of Kragujevac. In addition, the Academy changed the eligibility rules, requiring producers to submit their films with a €300 fee. The other two submissions were Srdjan Dragojevic’s The Parade (winner of three prizes at the Berlinale, including the Panorama Audience Award) and Miroslav Terzic’s Redemption Street (winner of Heart of Sarajevo for best actor for Uliks Fehmiu).

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