When Mladen Vusurovic decided to create a film festival in Belgrade, Serbia in 2008, he consulted a community of filmmakers that comprised several generations, knowing that in the region in which he resides, over a span of just a decade (or less), life can look and feel completely different in all of its aspects. Suddenly there is war, and then, a tentative peace: a reconstitution of all the parts that comprise a culture that is still trying to find its true north. Yet the same ideological struggles go on and on and on. In more peaceful times, the artists in that place attempt to illustrate and provide meaning to those struggles. In deciding to create, what he calls “this cultural event,” Vusorovic and his colleagues offer a program of international documentary work, creating an opportunity where the seeds of dialogue about the universal human condition can somehow ameliorate the propensity of many of the Balkan region’s inhabitants to judge things solely on the basis of past injustices inflicted upon them.
This is a way of life in a place where the very moniker, Balkan, connotes the odd mixture of honey (bal) and blood (kan). “You can find honey here; but first, you have to bleed for it,” says a young musician in Ruggero De Virgiliis’ thoughtful and beautifully shot documentary, Balkan Curtains, which appeared as a selection in the festival’s Serbian Competition Program. This year’s overall program, while not as well seasoned in a curatorial regard as some of the other more established festivals in the region, was substantial enough to fill the theatres, and there is much promise for the growth of this annual event in years to come.