Fatih Akin's 'Edge' to open SMFF

'Diving Bell' also featured on fest's inaugural slate

SPLIT, Croatia -- The Split Mediterranean Film Festival kicks off its first edition Tuesday night with opening film "The Edge of Heaven" by Fatih Akin. The Festival takes place in the ancient center of the city of Split, Croatia's major city on the Adriatic coast, and runs May 27-31. A total of nine features and five shorts are featured in competition.

Other competition titles include festival hits such as Nadine Labaki's "Caramel," Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Samuel Benchetrit's "I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster," "Suddenly Last Winter" by Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi, Abdel Kechiche's "The Secret of the Grain" and Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Orphanage."

Screening out of competition is the much-anticipated "Will Not Stop There" ("Nije Kraj"), the latest film by Vinko Bresan ("Marshal Tito's Spirit," "How the War Started on My Island"), Croatia's most international director.

Further sidebar sections include a retrospective of Mediterranean-themed films from the 1930s through the 1990s and a two-day roundtable discussion on issues such as politics, shifting demographics, religion, tourism and ecology and how they influence the various cultural scenes of a region that spans three continents: Europe, Africa and Asia.

Screenings will take place in the heart of the city center, the still-standing ancient Roman imperial palace, and in an open-air cinema by the sea. There are also musical events scheduled every night, including a concert by Croatian singer-songwriter Arsen Dedic, a trash/karaoke DJ set and closing night gala band Justin's Johnson from the U.S.

The festival's artistic director, Alen Munitic, who with festival producer Tanja Prpic Marenic previously worked for the Motovun Film Festival, says they founded SMFF because they feel that Croatia's second-largest city "deserves a respectable international feature film festival. We wanted to create a festival that would tie in with what is a typically Mediterranean city and which the public would accept." Split also has an experimental film and video festival, whose 13th edition will be held in the autumn.

Given Croatia's recent inclusion in the European Union's Media Program, Munitic's goal is for the SMFF "to gain international recognition within five years and put Split on the map of film metropolises."