Robert De Niro Opens Sarajevo Film Festival

Robert De Niro GETTY - H 2016
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A restored version of Martin Scorsese’s 'Taxi Driver' was screened as the festival's opening-night film.

Robert De Niro on Friday attended the opening ceremony and collected the first Honorary Heart of Sarajevo lifetime achievement award at the 22nd edition of the Sarajevo Film Festival, which launched in the Bosnian capital with a screening of a restored version of Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic Taxi Driver.

"I will treasure this award," the actor said at the ceremony. "I don’t think there is another city in the world that has shown such heart in the face of so much tragedy."

De Niro pointed to a similarity between the Tribeca Film Festival, which he co-founded, and that of Sarajevo, grown from a series of screenings organized by film enthusiasts in a basement during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

According to De Niro, the Sarajevo festival "was born during a dark and dangerous time to counter the butchering of war with a celebration of art and humanity."

He added: "Six years later, on September 11 in 2001, my own New York neighborhood was attacked and we started the Tribeca Film Festival as a gesture of hope, resilience and defiance."

Scheduled to run through Aug. 20, the Sarajevo Film Festival will feature world premieres of the Montenegro/Serbia co-production Igla Ispod Praga (The Black Pin), directed by Ivan Marinovic; and Die Liebhaberin (A Decent Woman) by Lukas Valenta Rinner, co-produced by Austria, South Korea and Argentina.

The fest's tribute section this year will focus on Mexican writer-director-producer Amat Escalante.

The "In Focus" section, meanwhile, will feature Romanian director Cristi Puiu's Sieranevada, which premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and Danis Tanovic's Smrt u Sarajevu (Death in Sarajevo).

The festival's industry section, the region's biggest meeting place for film professionals, will include the CineLink Co-Production Market, a showcase of works in progress, and Talents Sarajevo Pack&Pitch, a program for young filmmakers.