The beleagured Serbian film industry was boosted by a strong 35th Belgrade International Film Festival.

Local cinema-going has suffered recently with attendance dropping 42% year-on-year in 2006, with just 40 theatres remaining.

The Belgrade event, closed by Nanni Moretti's The Caiman, by contrast attracted a record 100,000 admissions to see about 80 films.

In the festival's competitive sections, Djamshed Usmonov's French-German-Russian co-production To Get To Heaven First You Have To Die won the Europe Out Of Europe competition.

It was selected by a jury consisting of Serbian film critic Dubravka Lakic, UK-based director Pawel Pawlikowski, and Meinholf Zurhost, German producer and editor of TV channels ZDF 2 and ARTE.

The competition was open to films with strong European influence and heritage but outside the European Union, such as Russia, Serbia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Croatia and Turkey.

Usmonov's film participated in last year's inaugural B2B (Business to Belgrade) market, which this year saw 12 projects from 20 countries presented to three pitching sessions, covering East-European, Euro-Asian and Balkan countries.

Producers and directors pitched their projects to regional and European funds, other co-production markets and distributors, among them French A.S.A.P. Films' Cedomir Kolar; German Bayerisches Fernsehen's Cornelia Ackers, Bavaria Film's Olaf Aichinger, Berlinale Co-Production Market's Sonja Heinen, The Match Factory's Tobias Pausinger, Icon Film's Herbert Scwering; Dutch Holland Film Meeting's Ellis Dreissen and CineMart's Bianca Taal; and Swedish Cine-Regio's Charlotte Appelgren.

They selected one project from each section to get B2B's award of $9,000 (Euros 7,000):

  • Georgian-German production Keep Smiling, by Rusudan Chkonia (East-European section)
  • Kyrgyzstani Adep Akhlak, by Marat Alyukov (Euro-Asian section)
  • Serbian How I Was Stolen By The Germans, by Milos Radivojevic (Balkan section).

The FIPRESCI award went to the foreign language Academy Award winner The Lives Of Others.

The festival welcomed a number of international guests, including Bob Rafelson who enjoyed a short retrospective named Three Easy Pieces.

Other guests include directors Eytan Fox (The Bubble), Ognjen Svilicic (Armin), Christian Volckman (Rennaissance) and Timo Novotny (Life In Loops).

Locarno and Sarajevo winner Das Fraulein was represented by director Andrea Staka and main actresses Mirjana Karanovic and Marija Skaricic.

Actor Hans Uwe Bauer from The Lives Of Others appeared as did The Free Will director Matthias Glassner, Winter Journey director Hans Steinbichler and actors Josef Bierbichler and Sibel Kekilli, and Ruhal Ahmed, from The Road To Guantanamo.