Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Kratkofil, the 2nd International Short Film Festival in Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The International Short Film Festival Kratkofil is a very young addition to the festival circuit in Europe. It was held only for the second time this year but the organisers already claim it is the second largest of its kind in the Balkans. Well, they might be right. However, the most important thing is that the people behind it are trying to put Banja Luka on the map for other reasons than the ones the city became (in)famous for just a little over a decade ago. And that is highly commendable in itself.

The festival took place between 11 and 15 June and the competition programme consisted of 55 films from all over the world. Apart from that the festival offered a number of different programmes with various themes including my own selection of gay and lesbian shorts.

The festival had its own hub on the premises of the local Youth Centre (Omladeni Centar) which had an official reception with a hospitality team, a press centre and workshop space.

Inside the centre there was also a lounge area which basically worked as a meeting point. These cushion-like chairs were in fact made of tyres.

An original solution, I guess, although not always too comfortable to sit on. From the left: Thomas Pors, a maker of animated films from Denmark, Alejandro Andrade Pease, a Mexican/Spanish documentalist and Alistair Paxman, a Scottish musician from New York.

My programme was scheduled for Friday, 13 June. Since I'm not a superstitious person I didn't object to that and nothing unfortunate happened either! Here I'm presenting my programme in a cinema called Kozara.

There was no mentioning anywhere of my programme actually being a gay and lesbian one. It was simply titled Over The Rainbow and marked with a discreet Q by the organisers, so quite a few people in the audience had no idea what they had come to see. My presentation made some people giggle nervously and some of them left during the screening. On the other hand, I have the suspicion that not many people would have shown up at all, had it been promoted as a gay and lesbian programme. Not that there aren't enough queer people in Banja Luka but for all the same reasons why I have difficulties attracting large audiences during my very own LGBT Film Days in Riga. So, in a way I guess I ended up forcing these people to deal with homosexuality and that may be seen as a reward in itself.

The opening and closing ceremonies were held on the roof of an old trade centre called Boska which was apparently seen as very classy when it was opened back in the 1970's. I must admit that that the idea was not bad at all, especially seen as neither of the two cinemas used for screenings during the festival could have accommodated all the people who wanted to attend the ceremonies in question. The late night competition screenings each day were supposed to take place on the roof too. However, it rained most nights, so "the open air experience" frequently had to be moved to the nearby cinema Palas.
On the right - Darija Buzaković, the festival's director giving a speech during the opening ceremony. Behind her - some of Kratkofil's volunteers.

Heinz Hermanns, the manager of Interfilm in Berlin, one of the largest short film festivals in the world, headed Kratkofil's jury.

The Audience Award as well as The Best Fiction Film Award went to the Swiss-German co-production "Auf der Strecke" ("On The Line"). Thomas Bachmann, the film's editing director was there to collect both prizes.

The Grand Prix of the festival went to "Brædrabylta" ("Wrestling"), an Icelandic film by Grímur Hákonarson (who wasn't himself present at the festival) which is a tale of two gay wrestlers living in rural Iceland who grapple with their love for one another. An interesting choice, especially seen as it was the only gay-themed film in the competition. Without diminishing the qualities of the film (although I must admit that this short has never appealed to me personally), I find it somewhat intriguing that the jury's choice fell on this mini version of "Brokeback Mountain". But be it as it may, it can also be considered a small victory for gay equality in a society that can hardly be described as other than rampantly macho and homophobic.

All things come to an end - last drinks on the roof of Boska. From the left - Alistair Paxman from Scotland/NYC, Kevin Kirchenbauer from Berlin, Thomas Pors from Denmark and Mattias Wright from Munich.

All photos with the exception of the last two by Māra Pētersone.

And here is the festival's official video

Kiril Džajkovski came to town and performed at the old fortress during the festival together with Duke Bijadzijev and TK Wonder from New York. Here is my own recording of one of the songs