The first FEST, under the slogan “A Brave New World” was opened on the 9th of January 1971 in Dom Sindikata, with the screening of Robert Altman’s “Mash”. Envisioned as the annual review of the best films of the season, the Belgrade International Film Festival - FEST - evolved to become one of the most important festivals on the continent and a pillar event of the cultural life in Belgrade, as well as an indispensable element in the coming of age of many generations of film fans.
Today, nearly five decades after its first edition, FEST continues to fulfil its cultural and educational role with the same energy, broadening the horizons of all film fans.
An important feature of FEST all these years has been its openness to films from all parts of the world, as well as to all relevant authors and works that would never have the opportunity to be shown in cinemas. Authors like Theo Angelopoulos, Bob Rafelson, Volker Schlöndorff, David Cronenberg, Ken Russel, Wim Wenders, Kieslowski, Herzog had the opportunity to meet each other for the first time in Belgrade, on FEST.
The first FEST was quite spectacular, featuring “A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick; Dennis Hopper’s “Easy Rider“; the already mentioned “Mash” by Robert Altman; the films by Eric Rohmer, Louis Bunuel, Živojin Pavlović... Although many nostalgically, but rightfully so, consider this first edition of the Festival to be unmatched, the truth is that in the years that followed, FEST presented its audiences with many opportunities to see the films that have later been counted among the best in film history. Many illustrious international actors and directors have been the festival’s guests over the last four decades: Marcello Mastroianni, Harvey Keitel, Liv Ullman, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sophia Loren, Robert de Niro, Antonioni, Johnny Depp, Milos Forman, Catherine Deneuve, Wim Wenders, Abaz Kiarostami, Hanna Schygulla, Monica Bellucci, the above mentioned Rafelson, Schlöndorff, and Russell... a long, honourable and impressive list of names.
Since its inception, the main film programme of FEST has always been enriched with diverse accompanying ones, the quality of which often exceeded their supporting role. One should also mention numerous publications, as well as exhibitions and symposiums held during the Festival.
To date, FEST boasts four million visitors and nearly 4000 relevant international films, which have had their Yugoslav/Serbian and often regional premiere on the Festival.
In 2015 FEST was transformed into an official competition festival with four distinct competition selections: “The main competition programme” - international selection; “Serbian Film” - national selection; “Frontiers” - subversive, controversial and arthouse films that move borders in a thematic and aesthetic sense; and movies from region that compete for “Nebojša Đukelić” Award.