First World War Centenary Events Could Help Boost Sarajevo Film Festival

Festival head says lack of annual budget security biggest threat to its future.

SARAJEVO – Sarajevo's key role in the international commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first World War in 2014 offers an opportunity to focus more attention on the importance of the city's film festival in promoting regional culture, festival director Mirsad Purivatra said Friday.

Talking at a panel discussion on how cultural policy can boost the impact of the creative industries on local societies and economies, Purivatra noted that lack of consistency in political and financial support for the Sarajevo Film Festival was a constant threat to its survival.

"The worst thing I have to contend with is never having a stable budget and constant fear of losing members of my team as a result," Purivatra said.

Although the festival has a raft of commercial sponsors that keep it afloat, lack of coherent political support from the city, regional and national authorities mean that every year the festival starts out with a "zero budget" he said, adding that this year the city council had slashed its usual level of support from $130,000 to just $45,000.

Overall the festival's budget this year of $1.3 million was down 20 percent on last year, mainly as a result of public spending cutbacks.

Next year's centenary of WWI -- the immediate cause of which was the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife, Sophie, on June 28, 1914 -- would put Sarajevo at the center of an international year of commemorative activities.

A French-Bosnian initiative that also involves the U.K., Germany and Austria, Sarajevo heart of Europe, will include cultural events, commemorations, academic reflections upon the conflict, as well as athletic events, since 2014 also marks 30 years since Sarajevo hosted the 14th Olympic Winter Games.

The Sarajevo Film Festival, which marks its 20th edition next year, is involved in one of the projects: a movie, The Bridges of Sarajevo, which brings together European directors in a series of short films contemplating the changes in Europe over the past century.

"The brand of our festival is already created and our vision largely fulfilled. The problem we now have it how to take the next steps to think about the next five or 10 years," Purivatra added.

"We really have to find a way with the authorities here to create that way. The potential is enormous."

Representatives from other cities that host festivals and major cultural events, include Berlin, Manchester and Edinburgh, said that by joining forces with other cultural bodies and presenting hard facts on the economic benefits of cultural events was key to securing political support and public money.

Ken Hey, CEO of the Edinburg International Film Festival, said that his city's fount of annual festivals attract a total of $300 million, compared with the $30 million in public money spent on them.