At this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, “Yellow Bread” caught up with Asja Krsmanović, the programmer of the newly established “Competition program – Student Film” section. During the Short Talk, we discussed the new category and this year’s lineup, her work as its programmer, the situation of the short form – especially in Southeast Europe – and, last but not least, the House of Shorts, the festival’s new venue dedicated to Short Film.
The “Competition program – Student Film” section is new this year. What motivated its introduction?
Asja Krsmanović: The Sarajevo Film Festival has always been focused on discovering new talented filmmakers from the region. Through its competitive and non-competitive sections, in the past twenty-two years, the festival has screened many films made by students within the framework of their studies. When we summed everything up, we realized that one third of the submitted films in the “Competition Program – Short Film” category were made by students. So, we decided it was the right moment to launch a new program reserved only for students. It was also a logical step in rounding off our program activities. As we already have educational and networking platforms for young filmmakers through Talents Sarajevo, the CineLink Industry Days for project development and, finally, Competition Programs for short, feature and documentary films, we decided that the best way to promote students is by promoting their work. So, we opened the category to student documentary, fiction and animated films up to 60 minutes in length.
What impact do you think it can or will have on the careers of the selected filmmakers?
A.K.: Regional students are not all in the same position. While some schools are very active in promoting their students’ films, others do almost nothing to promote them. It is then up to the students to step up for their film and try to do something more with it than just pass the exam. The Sarajevo Film Festival is recognized in the region as a major film event and students are very familiar with its values. The fact that we received more than 260 submissions in the first year of the “Competition Program – Student Film” section confirms it. The students recognized that their films will be visible in the world of professional filmmaking and that we can represent a very important platform for their professional development. While attending the festival, they have the chance to meet professional filmmakers, fellow directors, producers, actors from other countries from the region, but also to become acquainted with how the world of professional filmmaking functions, with organized tours of Talents Sarajevo and the CineLink Industry Days. The Award for Best Student Film is 1,000 Euro and a direct participation in next year’s edition of Sarajevo Talents for the director. While the majority of student programs and festivals in the region are only focused on presenting student films, we try to invest in the professional development of the selected student filmmakers.
What can you say about this year’s selection? What do you look for when you select films?
A.K.: Since we have already seen a lot of student films in the past few years and even screened some, I was not particularly worried about their quality. I can only say they bring a very different approach to diverse subjects and that this section is a very nice addition to the already existing sections for short and documentary films. In terms of topics, the majority of student filmmakers are focused on the life of young people and the way they cope with everyday situations, but with a sharpened sense for the context of the society they live in. The films are quite diverse in their authors’ approach and very imaginative in their visual aspect. While selecting films, we always look for something different, fresh and brave. I appreciate authors who know how to tell the story in their own way, who are brave enough to experiment and push it to the extreme, but who also have a fine sense for details.
What is your opinion of short films?
A.K.: Short Film is a special form of Art. Some young authors just consider it as a necessary step on their way to making a feature film, but it is way more than that. Every form comes out of content. If it takes you three hours to tell a joke, it is no longer a joke. It is the same with a film. If you try to stretch or compact the content to fit the form, then it is not a good film. Making a short film is a complex process with no space for mistakes, because all the mistakes are visible and everything is equally important.
How do you see the situation of the short form in the SEE region?
A.K.: It is different from country to country, but the situation is not that bad at all. The regional production of short films is increasing every year thanks to the fact that it is not expensive to rent solid equipment anymore. In terms of quality, the presence of regional films at major film festivals and the awards they win also confirm it. Croatian films have won the EFA Award for Best Short Film two years in a row and that says a lot about the regional production of short films.
And, what is it like in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
A.K.: I think we are way behind our neighbors in terms of both quantity and quality. It is very hard for filmmakers in Bosnia to receive any kind of funding. The Bosnian society is not very friendly to our authors and it is a small miracle to even make a film.
Can you talk about the film schools in Bosnia? What is their rate of success at foreign film festivals and how does the festival help promote the graduation films that come out of there?
A.K.: We have two public and two private film schools in Bosnia: the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, the Academy of Arts in Banja Luka, the Sinergija University in Bijeljina and the Sarajevo Film Academy. The majority of short films come from these academies and some of the films are presented at major film festivals. This year, the film “Lejla” by Stijn Bouma from the Sarajevo Film Academy, was one of the films presented in the Cinéfondation program at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the sixth year that the Association of Filmmakers in Bosnia and Herzegovina organizes the BH Film Program during the Sarajevo Film Festival, where Bosnian student films are presented. “The Competition Program – Student Film” is one step further in the promotion of student works.
What do you think of the underrepresentation of short films in the media?
A.K.: It is not surprising since culture in general is on the margin of media reporting nowadays. Short Film is just one of the neglected subjects, because it is an art form that doesn’t have commercial value. But, real short film lovers know its real potential and strength. It doesn’t mean that these films are not important just because they are not present in the media…
What can you tell us about the House of Shorts, another novelty at the festival this year?
A.K.: The House of Shorts is our new venue, established with the goal to gather all the short filmmakers and film lovers in one place to watch films and talk about them in the relaxed atmosphere of the Kriterion Art House Cinema. Since more than half of the films that we screen at the festival are short films, it was the right time to make them a home of their own – the House of Shorts. I hope our audience will enjoy this new venue and all the activities we organize for the short filmmakers: panels, networking events, and short film screenings.