There’s one thing that will always set summer festivals apart from autumn and winter events: open air screenings. You can’t attend Sarajevo Film Festival, the largest film festival in Southeast Europe, without at least watching one film on its Coca-Cola Open Air square, rubbing shoulders with the local audiences in the very heart of the festival center (hence the logo). Just make sure to bring an extra sweater, even in the midst of August it becomes quite chilly as soon as the sun goes down.
Traditionally, those ‘open air slots’ are reserved for so-called audience-friendly feature films. But as vast as the feature films on offer are at Sarajevo Film Festival, as interesting is its short film programme. With an international short film competition, a regional student film competition and a section specifically dedicated to European shorts, there’s enough to choose from and yet no reason to feel overwhelmed. If you’re committed, you can actually manage watching all selected shorts in the span of just two days. Selected filmmakers are up for both Academy Award qualification and European Film Academy candidacy, by the way.
The festival originally was founded in 1995, towards the end of the four-year siege of Sarajevo, with the aim of helping to reconstruct civil society and retain the cosmopolitan spirit of the city. Two decades later, it’s the leading film event in the region. Its special focus on South-East Europe makes it all the more valuable.