Sarajevo Film Festival & more

It feels kind of embarrassing to be writing about Sarajevo only from the entertainment point of view. Of course there is so much more to the city than amusement, fun and pleasure. But be it as it is, I always have good time in Sarajevo. Somehow, every time I’m there I enjoy it a lot. Call me trivial, I don’t mind at all.

Sarajlije in action (playing outdoor chess on Trg oslobođenja in city centre)
Sarajlije in action on Trg oslobođenja in city centre

You might remember Sarajevo from the news back in the 90’s when the  horrible siege of the city took place and kept its citizens trapped for far too long. The actual post-war renovations of the city may be slow and partial but it’s the people that form one city’s soul. Sarajevans or Sarajlije, as they’re called locally, are relaxed, modern and proud of their multicultural city. I love to hang out with them. It’s so much fun!

Sarajlije

The Sarajevo Film Festival is a real treat. It seems to be a city’s motor of some sort. It feels as if everybody is hardly waiting only for it to begin. The city itself gets spruced up, so do people who on any other occasion  make very sartorial outings anyway be it a stroll down Ferhadija, main pedestrianized street, a dinner or party, but during the events of the film festival they get very classy indeed.

Night view of Metalac, the most spectacular open air cinema in the world (the official artwork of 2017 edition of Sarajevo Film Festial on screen)
Metalac, the most spectacular open air cinema in the world (the official artwork of 2017 edition of Sarajevo Film Festial on screen)

The films we saw this time were:  On the Other Side of Hope, which won the Silver Bear award in Berlin this year, Aus dem Nichts (In the Fade) starring the fantastic Diane Kruger, a very particular Good TimesŽaba (The Frog), the most impatiently awaited Bosnian film, and a fraction of oldie-goldie A Fish Called Wanda, which showed as a tribute to John Cleese.

John Cleese accepting the Heart of Sarajevo award for lifetime achievement
John Cleese accepting the Heart of Sarajevo award for lifetime achievement in Metalac

Many stars and celebrities come to Sarajevo during the film festival. Oliver Stone and  John Cleese were the most widely known ones this year and they both received the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo award for lifetime achievement. There were of course many more.

Oliver Stone’s gave a sober but kind anti-war speech before receiving the heart of Sarajevo Award in Metalac
Oliver Stone’s gave a sober but kind anti-war speech before receiving the heart of Sarajevo Award in Metalac

The most wonderful venue for watching the films is certainly a huge courtyard known among Sarajevans as Metalac. It’s right in the heart of the city, in the vicinity of so called Festival Square, encircled with Austria-Hungarian townhouses. It’s righteously the most popular venue.

Metalac, an enormous open air cinema, in broad daylight. It can seat 3000 people.
Metalac, an enormous open air cinema, in broad daylight. It can seat 3000 people.

Although we certainly love a good film, it’s not (only) films that we come to Sarajevo for during its famous film festival. It’s the city itself, its personality and vibe.

Central market in Sarajevo
Central market in Sarajevo

Sarajevans are very much emotionally attached to their city. Even as a total outsider I can nod to their uneasiness about any other city. After Sarajevo many other capitals of the West, particularly the monocultural ones, seem justifiably boring.

Panorama of Sarajevo city centre with surrounding hills
Panorama of Sarajevo city centre with surrounding hills as viewed from the terrace of Marriott hotel

 

Related:

Oliver Stone Gets Putin Praise Set Honor via hollywoodreporter.com

Variety.com on Oliver Stone at SFF

I’ve written about some of my previous visits to Sarajevo: https://mrssage.com/sarajevo-or-my-weekend-with-robert-de-niro/ and https://mrssage.com/sarajevo-revisited/

La La Land Zero Points

Why? Because it’s crap. In fact, it shouldn’t even remotely be alluded to the über-kitschy Eurovision Song Contest, it’s that lame.

The story is …. wait, what story? Acting is thin. The film as a whole is what a six-year-old might want to watch if at least it wasn’t for the music. You’re quite right I didn’t like the movie. Now that we’ve gotten this out of the way, let us return to the real world. Thank goodness it does actually exist.

For a healthy(ier) dose of reality (although that too is discutable) Continue reading “La La Land Zero Points”

Sarajevo or My Weekend with Robert De Niro

The title is a bit of a stretch, I admit. Firstly, Robert De Niro was visiting Sarajevo overnight only. Secondly, I never met him. Thirdly, I admire his acting and his films very much, really, truly, but let’s be honest, I’m whispering now, he’s of a certain age.

Robert de Niro in Sarajevo
There he is: Robert de Niro

Coincidentally, Robert De Niro, one of the world’s greatest actors, and I happened to be at the same event last Friday. He was a guest of honour, of course, whereas I was a mere spectator. I’m talking about 22nd Sarajevo Film Festival, a festival that started during dreadful times of war and evolved into the most influential and eminent film festival in the region.

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Robert De Niro was there to open the festival and promote the restored Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and most importantly was awarded the Heart of Sarajevo (what a brilliant name for a prize, don’t you think?) for lifetime achievement. His presence in that city was powerful and meaningful and his thank-you speech at the opening ceremony was nice too. So was the audience at the open-air cinema Metalac. It’s an incredible venue, a courtyard amidst the townhouses (in fact, a high school sports ground), huge, roughly 2000 to 3000 viewers were present, the screen is of king-size XXXL, it felt almost as the Rome’s Colosseum.

“I will treasure this award — my Heart of Sarajevo — because I don’t think there is another city in the world that has shown such heart in the face of so much tragedy,” De Niro said at the ceremony.

Do read the Washington Post’s article on the festival (the above quote is excerpted from it) – it’s filled with all the vital information.

Of his countless performances, the one line I remember most is “I know a thing or two about a thing or two” from … wait, I have to check the title of this movie co-starring young Leonardo Di Caprio …here it is: This Boy’s Life. If you have the stomach for abuse take a look.

Not only was De Niro there, in Sarajevo, the festival is packed with celebrity material: on the second evening Stephen Frears of Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen and Philomena (among others) came to greet the public on stage before the screening of his magnificent Florence Foster Jenkins. He is a regular but he was all the same overcome with the large auditorium.

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Sarajevo is the European capital that appeared regularly in the headlines in the 90’s. Unfortunately, this was due to the so-called Balkans’ war following the break-up of Yugoslavia, which led to this city and its inhabitants being tragically under siege for several years (1425 days actually). The reminders of this brutal war are visible throughout the city still. Today, two decades after the conflict ended, the city is as pleasant and welcoming as ever before. That’s at least what I’m told because my first visit to Sarajevo took place only about 10 years ago. So, I’m not in a position to judge the before and after effect. Not that I’d want to anyway. From what I hear I would’ve liked it before the war for sure and I certainly like it now.

What’s not to like?!

Sarajevo, Bosnia&Herzegovina
Many streets in Sarajevo are quite steep

Friendly people? Check

Food? Check

Sirnica s pavlakom
Sirnica s pavlakom
Baklave
Baklave
Sarajevo, Bosnia&Herzegovina
Market stalls in central Sarajevo

Drink? Check

Bosanska kahva
Bosanska kahva

Sights? Check

Latinska ćuprija
Latinska ćuprija
Vječnica
Vječnica

IMG_1613

Scenery? Check

Sarajevo, Bosnia&Herzegovina
Baščaršija
Baščaršija
Baščaršija

Greenery? Check

Bjelašnica near Sarajevo
Javorov do on Bjelašnica

For those of you awaiting more on Apulia please be patient. It’s coming up as promised.

 

Related:

Sarajevo

Sarajevo Film Festival 2016 Highlights Day One

SFF Official Site

Taxi Driver (1976) on IMDB

Javorov do, Bjelašnica

 

What the Hell Is Wrong with Leonardo di Caprio?

It’s been a couple of weeks since we saw The Revenant. I felt kind of doped afterwards. It lingered in my mind for a while, it somersaulted within the curves of my thoughts, I kept stumbling across the associations that reminded me of the film but I couldn’t come round to it. Let me explain.

View of the snow capped mountains that might reminisce of the ones in the film The Revenant

I’m no fan of Leonardo di Caprio, I’m not a movie freak for that matter, I just like to watch a good movie now and then. Preferably European but by all means a serious, driven by quality movie. That said, I don’t mind a Hollywood production as long as it doesn’t insult my intelligence.

When this year’s Golden Globe winners were announced I accidentally overheard Leonardo di Caprio’s thank-you speech being broadcast on the national TV. Some words on indigenous people and the respect for first nations came out of his mouth. I couldn’t make much of it because, well, as I mentioned before, I only overheard it. Come and gone. It was enough though to produce a mental note that this might be a movie to watch.

The small talk at work added up although it was mostly about Tom Hardy, not the leading-role guy. The big trigger for me was Alejandro G. Inarritu. I loved Biutiful and Birdman. I was hooked by the “subtitle” of the latter: Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Magic. This director certainly knows a thing or two about titles. Among other things.

Luckily, The Revenant is on in our local cinema. Surprisingly so, as it is clearly THE movie and our local cinema is not as frequented. We both hate the gigantic cinema complex in the suburbs and have years ago decided to avoid it altogether. So early evening one Saturday we went.

It’s brutal, butchery, full of blood and slaughtering, it’s as vivid and intense as a movie can be. It was clear to me the first minute that it’s going to be about covering my eyes and ears. And so it was a couple of times during the two and a half hours. But let me tell you: it’s a wonderfully done movie and it goes by in a flash. The sound is fantastic, you hear every drop of melting snow falling off the branches of the trees, the angles and the colours and the rhythm of the sequences and the elements themselves are unforgettable. The countryside and the beauty of the landscape are overwhelming. The story? Here.

I was a fan of Davy Crockett, Robinson Crusoe and the likes when I was a child. I read the books like crazy and of course there came a time when reading was all about adventure in the glorious past times. I think I read Tom Sawyer in the same period. Angelika as well to be honest.

However, Hugh Glass, The Revenant, was not after adventures, I can tell you that. Nor were the Arikaras. Or other fur trappers. Or the armies. The adventures simply happened to them when they didn’t pay enough attention or they paid too much of it. Not sure about Fitzgerald though. He was kind of seeking trouble all the time. You know: asking for it. And here we go taking sides.

The actors are outstanding of course. The directing is superb. Well done. There’s not a second of boredom, none one too many detail. The rest is what you would expect in a Hollywood drama: a dramatic survival story, a constant underdog struggle, a wholesome manly power, to-be-anticipated turns of fate, and a flexible notion of justice.

So, let me ask again: what’s wrong with Leonardo di Caprio? Does anybody know? There must be something he’s done (or hasn’t done) to not get the Oscar continually. He’s an extremely good actor, excellent to be exact, so I guess he must be hard working and devoted and everything by the book. He gave numerous fantastic performances; he grew on me in Revolutionary Road and I found him very convincing in every role that followed. In fact, I can’t think of any disappointing performance by him. But should he get IT for The Revenant it just wouldn’t be just.