The Sarajevo Film Festival begins its nineteenth edition this Friday, August 16, and runs through Saturday, August 24. The festival is famed for launching in 1995, in the midst of the Bosnian War, while the city was under siege for what ended up being nearly four years. It has long since established itself as the largest film event in the Balkans, drawing notable international attention – and celebrity guests – each year, while also showcasing films from the region, especially shorts. Of its nearly 100 feature presentations this year, more than twenty are nonfiction, centered in its official documentary competition, but also sprinkled throughout other fest sections. The following offers a selection of newer notable titles that caught my eye.
The official doc competition includes eight features and several shorts. Among the former are Juri Rechinsky’s provocative SICKFUCKPEOPLE, following two Ukrainian streetkids facing the very worst of humanity; Diana Groó’s REGINA, the story of the world’s first female rabbi; Marta Popivoda’s YUGOSLAVIA, HOW IDEOLOGY MOVED OUR COLLECTIVE BODY (pictured), an exploration of state ideology through mass public spectacle; and Mladen Kovačević’s UNPLUGGED, a look at the unusual musical art of leaf-playing.
Nonfiction appearing in other sections includes: Bryan Little’s THE AFRICAN CYPHER (pictured), a survey of South African street dance culture; Hinde Boujemaa’s IT WAS BETTER TOMORROW, which follows a poor Tunisian woman in the aftermath of the revolution; Khaled Jarrar’s INFILTRATORS, an immersion into the experiences of Palestinians trying to make their way through the West Bank; and Kaveh Bakhtiari’s STOP-OVER, an insider’s look at migrants in Greece, in limbo as they try to secure passage to other countries.