Basement affair turns red-carpet

SARAJEVO (AP) – The Sarajevo Film Festival, which began in a basement during the Bosnian war in 1995, opened its doors last night as an established cinema event drawing internationally known artists and an expected 100,000 filmgoers. The guest list for the 12th annual Sarajevo festival includes British film and theater director Mike Leigh, actor Nick Nolte and Bosnian director Danis Tanovic, whose film «No Man’s Land» won the 2002 Academy Award for best foreign film. This year, Tanovic is bringing his new film, «Hell.» Also to attend is Mat Whitecross, who with Michael Winterbottom directed «The Road to Guantanamo,» a chronicle of three British Muslims who were held without being charged for two years at the US military prison in Cuba. The film is to be featured during the festival. British actress Emily Watson and American actor Danny Huston, who star in the harsh Australian western «Proposition,» also are to attend. Festivalgoers will have a choice of 165 movies from approximately 40 countries. «Sarajevo today is the center of the regional film industry,» said Mirsad Purivatra, who has been the director of the festival since its beginning. «Everybody who wants to get some insight into the film production in Southeast Europe comes to our festival,» he said. The festival began when this Balkan capital was besieged by Bosnian-Serb forces positioned in the mountains surrounding the city during the war. With people cut off and under attack, the festival was created to remind the world that Sarajevans were starved for culture as well as food. At that first festival, about 15,000 movie-goers dodged sniper fire to attended screenings in a downtown basement. The feature film, «Pulp Fiction,» proved memorable because the boom of explosions outside offered a backdrop to those on screen. Twelve years later, the noise is from fireworks and a 2,500-seat open-air cinema has replaced the basement. «During the first film festival one would think, ‘Is this movie worth getting killed for?’ and now you sip a beer and sit next to Hollywood stars,» said Nenad Grcic, a 42-year-old film fan. The jury for the feature film prize will be presided over by this year’s winner of the Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Award and director of the film «Grbavica,» Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic. The festival gives moviemakers from Southeastern Europe the chance to network and find distributors for their work. More than 270 producers will be present, «basically looking for a new Danis Tanovic or Jasmila Zbanic,» Purivatra said. Eight movies from six countries from the region will compete for the Heart of Sarajevo award this year.

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