Sarajevo Film Festival honors Ukrainian film stars

The Sarajevo Film Festival showcased Ukrainian film talent for the first time in its history this weekend.

The festival – which is the biggest industry showcase in the region – allowed Ukrainian films to compete on Friday as an expression of wartime solidarity.

This is the 28th edition of the event, returning after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.

Born during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 90s, festival organizers use the event to highlight Ukraine’s war fate and the impact of the Russian invasion.

The festival awarded Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa the Heart of Honor of Sarajevo for his extraordinary contribution to cinematic art.

Speaking at the event, Loznitsa drew comparisons between Sarajevo’s past and the current war in Ukraine.

“In recent European history, Sarajevo has become a symbol of human tragedy and a symbol of human resilience and dignity. My country today, Ukraine, is also under very brutal attack by an aggressor very brutal and violent.”

“That’s why this support, this award from Sarajevo is so precious to me,” he added.

A total of 235 films from 62 countries will be screened as part of the Sarajevo Film Festival, which has grown to cover the area from Vienna to Istanbul.

Eight titles, including five directed by women, are in competition for the first prize in the feature film section.

The festival was founded towards the end of the savage Bosnian war of 1995 as an act of defiance amid the 43-month siege of the capital by Bosnian Serb forces.

“At the start of the war in Ukraine, it became clear that something has to be done in solidarity with colleagues in the Ukrainian film industry,” festival director Jovan Marjanovic told Reuters.

The festival, which kicked off on Friday, decided to open its competition program to Ukrainian works and granted artist-in-residence status to Ukrainian filmmakers to allow them to work and further develop their films.

It also offered jobs to Ukrainian professionals who had become refugees but had previously worked at film festivals in Kyiv and Odessa.

The Russian invasion halted much film work in Ukraine, with funds diverted to the war effort and people called up to fight.