are the things that unify a country. Music, culture, humor, and you had better
believe sports all very much define a nation’s character. Four short documentaries
addressing such aspects of Bosnian cultural identity (to varying degrees)
screened last night at the 2014 Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival now
underway in New York.
Šestić efforts to assemble and record a sevdah supergroup are not unlike the
Buena Vista Social Club record and film, except the producer was working in his
own country, documenting a musical form that was very vital in his beloved
Mostar not so long ago. Arguably, Sevdalinka song and the sevdah sensibility
are roughly akin to American blues song and the larger feeling for the blues,
but the former is more refined compared to the latter’s earthiness.
Grabus focuses on Šestić’s Mostar Sevdah Reunion, keeping an emphasis on
performance throughout the program opening Tales
from a Forgotten City (trailer here). While the playing is virtuosic, the
mood is rather wistful, befitting Šestić and Grabus’s elegy to the romantic
Mostar that no longer exists. Although Grabus had directed straight-up music
videos for the MSR, Tales is a proper
documentary that deserves further play at musically-focused festivals.
again, BHFF regular Nedžad Begović returned with Beško, another short documentary profile. While musician-filmmaker Beško
is more prominent than the working class protagonist of Zizi, they both project everyman personas and share ruckus senses
of humor. Clearly, Beško was a hit
with festival patrons, but it might be best enjoyed by those who can fully
appreciate the idioms and cadences of his jokes, sans subtitles.
Mirna Dizdarević’s Vita Mulier is
sort of the ringer of the short doc program, documenting the hard times that
have befallen classical ballet in Sarajevo. It is earnest, rather pessimistic,
but relatively brief.
contrast, Sixten Björkstrand’s Bosnia in
Our Hearts is heartfelt and optimistic. 2014 is the first year
Bosnia-Herzegovina qualified for the FIFA World Cup as an independent nation—and
don’t you forget it. The Finnish filmmaker followed several expatriate fans as
they traveled to Lithuania for what might be the game to clinch their World Cup
berth. For the fans that came to Finland as wartime refugees, a Bosnian victory
will be especially sweet.
forced to serve as a crew of one, Björkstrand always managed to be in the right
place to get the right shot. It is the sort of film that captures the extent to
which a sports team can carry its nation’s hopes and aspirations. Frankly, ESPN
should take a good look at it, because it is considerably more engaging and satisfying
than Maradona ’86 and The Opposition, their two very so-so short
football/soccer docs that premiered at Tribeca.
It is hard to go wrong with sevdalinka and
soccer. Tales from a Forgotten City and
Bosnia in Our Hearts were definitely standouts
when they screened last night during Program #3. As satisfying, self-contained
films with broad popular appeal, they deserve a serious look from other
festival programmers. This year’s Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival continues
tomorrow (5/3) with a full day of films at the Tribeca Cinemas.
Labels: BHFF '14, Bosnian-Herzegovinian Cinema, Documentary, Sevdah music, Short Films, Sports films