An Interview with Mirsad Purivatra, manager of Sarajevo Film Festival
Good Fortune of Sarajevo
by Mohsen Beigaqa
Film International: Did your festival start in 1994, after the war ended?
Mirsad Purivatra: No. the first edition of the festival was held during the war. When it opened, a heavy battle was going on between the two sides. However, on the last day of the festival, truce agreement was signed and the war ended!
FI: How come that a film festival arose out of the ashes of a long war of attrition?
MP: During the war, people in Sarajevo suffered from water, power, gas, and food shortages. Therefore, it was important to them to save their lives and survive. On the other hand, people found out that in addition to their bodies, their souls should also be saved and survive. Then they started reading books, writing and doing other things to keep their spirits up. At that time, we talked to our friends about launching a theater to screen war movies at a cellar. Screening continued day after day. A friend from Canada brought us a generator and an American friend gave us a video projector. We found a number of films to screen at our underground theater. About 100 people watched movies every day. A few journalists wrote something about it and Marco Muller, the then manager of Locarno festival, as well as the then manager of Edinburgh Film Festival brought their films to Sarajevo and we arranged a review of those festivals. In this way, we decided to have a festival of our own.
FI: Whence your festival if funded?
MP: Our budget comes from several places. At the first level, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina supplies the lion’s share. After that, Sarajevo province and city supply the budget. Together, the government and province account for 35 percent of expenses and the rest is covered by our partners and sponsors. As you see, big companies work with us as sponsors.
FI: You have received Chevalier Award from representative of the French government during this year’s festival. What was the reason?
MP: I am very happy that France, as a big cultural country with big artists and its huge Cannes Festival, is willing to be in contact with Bosnia and has deemed our festival worthy of this grand prize. They had explained that “The prize is given to festival managers because this festival has been launched in war and has become the most important regional event in a matter of 14 years and in order to attract cooperation for filmmaking in the region and to expand contacts with other European countries.”
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