‘Eight and a Half’ (Otto e mezzo) is the name of Fellini's film, which was much easier to identify with during the preparation of this festival than with ‘Amarcord’. The reason for this is not to be found in the character of Guido (played by the legendary Marcello Mastroianni), but in the fact that in it Fellini deals with the process of making the film itself, understanding the creative process and all the pains the filmmaker faces while the film is being born. Fellini gave his film this title, wanting to suggest that it represented a place in his oeuvre from where he looked at all that he had done in filmmaking up to that point and all that he would do in the future. I could not help but remember that Fellini symbolism during the organization of this year's FEST, at which I am in the role of artistic director for the ninth time.
When I said last year at the opening of the festival that the people who had founded FEST during the Cold War could not have even imagined that we would be celebrating the golden jubilee with the real war right around the corner, I did not assume that there would be no end in sight to that war at the time of our 51st edition of the festival. I would like to welcome our old and new audience to the ten-day film feast, and especially WELCOME to all our new fellow citizens and guests who, fleeing the war, chose Belgrade as a safe place to live.
There are many films at FEST you will not have the chance to see on the big screen later if you miss them. That is why it is always good to make the right choice. It is easy to say that you will not go wrong no matter what film you see, but that is only partially true. Just as not every novel is important and dear to all people, not every film can be liked by everyone. Hence the large number of films at film festivals. It is necessary to satisfy both a slightly wider and the most demanding audience, which Belgrade (still) has. When choosing what films to see, you can be guided by the proven criteria of your own taste, but also by intuition, emotion, and sometimes you should take a risk and give something completely unknown a chance. I want FEST to be a fond place where you meet well-known filmmakers, as well as long-time friends and acquaintances, but also an adventure, where there is always the possibility of unexpected encounters.
The competition programme is designed to include a wide range of filmmaker's poetics and approaches to film. Consciously sacrificing the homogeneity of the selection, I thought that the eclectic era we live in was properly reflected by such a diverse programmme, which can reconcile films of different themes, styles, and production conditions. I am glad to be able to point out that a third of the films of this year's FEST selection were directed by women, as well as the fact that quite a number of films come to us from the African continent or by filmmakers of African origin, which is a trend that should be nurtured in the future.
Films may not have the power to radically change the world for the better by themselves, especially when destructive times such as today's occur, yet they have the power to influence change in an evolutionary way, as well as to remind us of the values and reasons which we live for, and one of them is also that endless passion of life that we took as our motto this year.