The Sarajevo Film Festival, however, continued. In 26 summers, the number of participants has grown from 15,000 to an astonishing annual audience of 100,000.
More importantly, the festival has become a core identity for Sarajevan’s identity. Fatic, 29, has competed in all editions since 1996, when he was just four years old. âIt was my first experience of cinema when I was a child. My mother took me to see [Disneyâs animated] Hercules, and other cartoons. I was hypnotized.
As a teenager, Fatic honed his understanding of cinema by joining the arthouse cinema club run by Obala Art Centar, the same organization that runs the festival. Then, in 2015, he joined the festival team: first as a volunteer, then shortly after as a member of the media team. He wrote his first film reviews thanks to the festival’s talent program, which helps young film professionals develop their skills and knowledge through masterclasses. Today, Fatic lives in Ljubljana and plans to move to Zagreb in the near future. But every summer the festival brings him back to Sarajevo for a few months. âIt’s my favorite time of year, when Sarajevo is at its best,â he says.
These opportunities for the local population, whether through networking, education, volunteering or employment, have built a solid base of support for the festival all over Sarajevo. During my stay, I interviewed the city’s curators, artists and writers – all of them have enthusiastically attended the festival over the years. Many also get temporary jobs. “For my seven days of work at the festival, I earn the same salary as what I would usually get a whole month at any other time of the year,” says contemporary artist Kemil BekteÅ¡i, who has worked on the red carpet for the 27th of the festival. editing. Others, like artist Alma GaÄanin, pay the bills by translating film subtitles, working long days for more than a month before the festival.
Such income is desperately needed. The Bosnian and Herzegovinian government provides little economic support to the country’s cultural sphere – even national museums, including the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the National Gallery, do not receive enough to pay staff salaries. Suddenly, these institutions operate a bit like NGOs, renting out their space and asking for subsidies in order to survive. The independent art sector is in an even more precarious situation, often lacking real exhibition spaces. The capital’s other major international festival, November’s Jazz Fest Sarajevo, has not received any state funding for the past two years.
With a third of its budget provided by the authorities, the Sarajevo Film Festival is both a bit of an aberration and a lifeline. (Another third of their funding comes from private sponsors, while the rest comes from box office sales.) It’s a situation that causes some anger: If the Sarajevo Film Festival wasn’t so dominant, other cultural initiatives would likely get more funding.