The 24th Sarajevo Film Festival got underway last night (Aug 10) with an opening ceremony that saw Nuri Bilge Ceylan receive an honorary Heart of Sarajevo award.
As per tradition, the festival had two openings: one in the National Theatre for guests and press, and another, taking place half an hour later at the 3,000-seat Open Air, for public attendees.
The ceremony was hosted by Kosovo-born, Sarajevo-based actor Alban Ukaj, who broke out internationally last year with a role in Blerta Zeqiri’s Tallinn Black Nights title Marriage.
After festival director Miro Purivatra welcomed the guests and thanked them for their continued support of the festival, he invited actor Nijaz Hastor to the stage to receive an honorary Heart of Sarajevo award. Hastor is the founder of long-time festival sponsor ASA Prevent Group and non-profit Hastor Foundation, which provides scholarships to young people in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Next up, festival programmer Elma Tataragić gave a brief overview of the competition programmes. The main, feature film competition includes ten films, out of which four have their world premieres at Sarajevo.
Purivatra then came back to the stage to announce the second honorary Heart of Sarajevo, for Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
“Dear Nuri, it is an exceptional honour for me to award you the honorary Heart of Sarajevo. I wish you the best of health, I wish you long life, and I wish the world plenty of your unforgettable cinematic stories,” said Purivatra.
“Cinephiles around the world, especially those of us from the wider region of Southeast Europe, are very much looking forward to [your next films]. Your films tell the lives of us living on the so-called outskirts of Europe. They tell the stories of those closest to us: our families, the neighbours, the cities, suburbs and villages we inhabit.
“Your storytelling transforms them all into an arena of true hopes, anxieties and universal drama that speaks for the whole of humankind. Your stories are as real as they come. Your characters may have more flaws than virtues. Not loving them might come easier than feeling affectionate towards them, but as the real life shows us, this is exactly what makes them human.
“Finally, I would like to address you as a colleague as we co-produced two films together. I believe this sentiment is shared by my fellow producers from this region: Bulgaria, Croatia and Macedonia. Thank you for being welcoming and open for cooperation in your exceptional productions.
“The vision of the Sarajevo Film Festival has always been region-wide and cooperation is our main mission. That is why this festival is your home. May this Heart keep you coming back to Sarajevo,” Purivatra concluded.
After long applause, Ceylan came onto the stage and said: “Thank you. This is really a great honour for me and I accept it with my heart. I came here to the festival three times, and this is one of my favourite festivals. I say this honestly. As Miro said, we worked together on several films and I must say he does not only have a good taste in cinema, but he is also, more importantly, a very good person, I must say. Thank you again for this prize and I will never forget it and never lose it.”
After Ceylan’s speech, Ukaj invited Pawel Pawlikowski to the stage, to announce the festival opening screening of Cold War.
“When Miro invited me and the film to open the festival right after Cannes, I didn’t think twice, I was so thrilled. It is a perfect match of a film and a festival,” said Pawlikowski.
“I have been in love with Sarajevo for a long time. Maybe love is not the right word, I have been haunted by it ever since I saw the film Do You Remember Dolly Bell. So it started through a film and then I have been coming here before the war, during the war and it’s just a part of my life, part of my history.
“It has so many resonances, and I hope this film will have resonance with you. I think it might, it’s about love in hard times, about history and how it impacts our lives, and it’s also about music which is a big deal in Sarajevo too, as I know. So I do hope you find something in it that will resonate with you. I’m very happy to be here and thank you very much, Miro, for being a very good man apart from having good taste.”
The 24th Sarajevo Film Festival runs until August 17.