The “Never Leave me” movie about refugee life of Syrian children is one of a few films about the war and its consequences that will be screened at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival.
The movie directed by Bosnian director Aida Begic will be screened within the Bosnian Film Programme that will present 77 films.
The movie tells a story about Syrian children from an angle we cannot see in the news, the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, is told by Begic. She adds that “the story is told from the perspective of children and orphans with no politics and history involved”.
“The movie features Syrian children, refugees who have lost one or both parents. Some of them were wounded and suffered many accidents. However, the film is not depressive, because it is trying to speak about the refugee life of those children also taking into account all the beauty and love that exist inside them,” Begic said.
She said the film project began with acting workshops involving several hundreds of orphans in Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, border towns in the South-East Turkey, where they tried to bring joy into their everyday life and teach them the basics of acting, theatre and film.
Thanks to a producer from Turkey and “Besir” organization, the children left the orphanage, got scholarships, better conditions for life and love, Begic said. She considers that the mentality of the Syrian people is similar to that of Bosnians. People are the same all over the world, but the politics artificially and forcibly makes up unbridgeable differences, Begic says.
“That is why I think the art can have a positive impact on the change of such perception. I don’t think it will be simple for the world to reverse the evil course it has taken, the route on which fear, animosity ad fascism are built and cherished, but we must continue trying to change that no matter how much our fight may look hopeless. There is always hope, there must be. The film “Never Leave me” should remind us of that,” Begic said in conclusion.
The Dealing with the Past Programme dedicated to new films about painful subjects from the past will present the film “Srbenka” directed by Nebojsa Slijepcevic. The film followed the making of a theatre play directed by Oliver Frljic in Rijeka about the murder of a Serbian girl, Aleksandra Zec, who was killed in Zagreb in the winter of 1993.
“There is a significant difference between the play and the film: the play primarily deals with the crime against Aleksandra Zec and inability of the then Croatia to mourn all victims equally regardless of their ethnicity. On the other hand, the film focusses on a girl who was born around ten years after Aleksandra’s murder. Living in the peacetime Croatia today, the girl can identify with the other girl. I think the play and the film function together nicely: the play is a diagnosis, while the film shows the consequences of the diagnosis for the present and future,” Slijepcevic said.
Describing the film, the official Festival Bulletin indicates that “to actor Nina it seems that the war has never even ended”. Slijepcevic blames that upon political elites. He adds that “wartime happenings look abstract for the children today”, but not even children can avoid “predominant public discourse celebrating war as a key criterion”.
“Football team victories are celebrated by singing war songs, war service is the key criterion for employment, politicians refer to the war as the brightest period in national history. By pushing war themes the focus is turned away from devastating economic results in peace time. Emotions are manipulated, unhealed war traumas are misused with the aim of collecting political points, an atmosphere of tensions is created in order to hide the catastrophic economic policies and cover up looting,” Slijepcevic said.
The Dealing with the Past Programme will also present the film “Chris the Swiss” directed by Anja Kofmel about a young Swiss journalist Chris, who was killed in war-affected Croatia in January 1992. Chris was director Kofmel’s cousin.
In his diary he noted that the sense of war became more and more noticeable with every passing kilometre. “With each stop, the train empties out a little more,” he wrote, “until only a few shady characters remain”.
Elma Tataragic, programmer of the Feature Film Competition Programme, says that films addressing social issues, particularly those related to war, will always be presented at the Festival, because the Festival itself “emerged as a form of resistance to war”. Such films are most often screened as part of the Dealing with the Past Programme. Tataragic says that, considering all the things that happened in Sarajevo, that city is a very good place for facing the hard, traumatic and important topics, including the war-related ones.
“That part of the programme is of great importance to us. It offers us a special new focus, involving a series of NGOs and individuals who suffered traumas,” Tataragic said.
This year’s Sarajevo Film Festival will be held from August 10 to 17.
The 24th SFF will present a total of 266 films from 56 countries, which will be grouped in 18 different programmes.