he story of the Sarajevo Film Festival began in the midst of war, when a group of enthusiasts aspired to revive culture in their besieged city.
Despite the devastation of the war all around them, the fight for the survival of cultural life proved stronger than the destruction. Toward the end of the four-year siege, a team that gathered at the Obala Art Center decided to create a movie festival with the aim of preserving the cosmopolitan spirit of a city that had once been known in former Yugoslavia for its rich arts and cultural scene.
The first Sarajevo Summer Film Festival was held from October 27 to November 7, 1995 in the Bosnian Cultural Center, where 37 films from 15 countries were presented. Most were shown using 35 mm film and others were in VHS format.
Despite the Siege, the auditorium at the Bosnian Cultural Center was full to capacity every night. The festival was attended by 15,000 people that year and there was a feeling among the citizens of this city under siege, which was completely cut off from the rest of the world, that this event was a window to the world of film and an escape from the cruel reality and danger they faced on a daily basis.
Thanks to the positive spirit of Sarajevans who were fighting as much for their lives as they were for culture, without which life would have been meaningless, the SFF became a unique cultural event. The number of visitors grew from year to year, and the festival soon became known and respected around the world. The festival also gained numerous friends who, even today, don’t miss a chance to visit Sarajevo.
Bono Vox, the front man for the world-famous U2 band, is included among these friends and he enjoys a special connection with both Sarajevo and the SFF. Then there is the French fashion designer, Agnes B.; British director, Mike Leigh; the actors John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Steve Buscemi…. Sarajevo’s long list of friends, especially those who are well known in the film world, also includes the following: Abel Ferrara, Morgan Freeman, Jeremy Irons, Charlie Kaufman, Michael Moore, Gaspar Noe, Mickey Rourke, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt….
The Sarajevo Film Festival offers audiences a chance to see the most interesting new films and provides an opportunity for regional directors to network and promote their films, while aspiring film makers have a chance to gain new knowledge and experience. Today, SFF is a must-see on the world map of film festivals and serves as the most significant place for film in Southeastern Europe.
Next edition of the Sarajevo Film Festival will be held from August 16 to 23, 2019.